A fast food restaurant’s reputation is built on great food and great service, as such, ensuring that your takeaway is clean and serves fresh, safe produce to customers is your single greatest responsibility.
Local authority health inspections are carried out to monitor cleanliness and general food safety, protecting customers from ill health. Should a customer suffer illness as a direct result of food they have consumed (for example food poisoning) they could look for compensation from the fast food restaurant, leading to claims under the products liability section of your Takeaway Insurance policy.
Why You Need to Prepare For Health Inspections
In today’s digital world customers will often review standards and feedback before they use a takeaway. While bad customer reviews can seriously impact food sales; worse still is a poor health inspection which will spread through social media and local online news sites like wildfire.
While a poor inspection can kill your business, a great online review or health inspection can turbo charge your sales performance and make your takeaway stand out from the crowd.
When Will I Receive An Inspection?
As the inspector is keen to observe your business when you are running operations normally, they will often make impromptu inspections without any prior notification.
Many inspections are performed during the frenzy of a busy lunchtime or early evening rush so that inspectors can establish an accurate idea of how food is prepared at your takeaway.
How Can I Make Prepare For Inspections?
There are several ways you and your business can effectively prepare and turn a potential negative into a massive positive by winning a glowing endorsement of your food standards and cleanliness.
Being prepared for a health inspection means understanding food law and food safety, both when you are planning the fast food business, and at all times after you have opened.
Your local authority and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website, www.food.gov.uk is often good starting point for advice and support.
Things to do BEFORE the Inspection
Perform regular self-inspections
Put yourself in the inspector’s role. Establish a time-frame in which you will perform these inspections, for example once every week or month.
These are some of the typical areas you should consider:
- How are foods cooked, cooled and reheated?
- How often and in what way are temperatures recorded? Are thermometers functional?
- How are potentially hazardous raw foods prepared and served?
- How do you handle leftovers?
- What is your food labelling process?
- Where and how is food washed and prepped?
- What is your hand washing and glove use policy?
- When, how and by whom is equipment cleaned and sanitised?
- What is the process for training new employees?
TOP TIP: Establish key priorities based on the type of takeaway you run and its problem areas. For example, if you decide to focus on food temperature, instruct employees to take the temperature of products when they arrive, when they are stored and when they are served.
Things to do DURING the Inspection
When undergoing a health inspection, it is important to maintain a cooperative, professional and open attitude. Establishing a good relationship with local health inspectors is fundamental. Try to take the viewpoint that they are here to help your business.
- Give the inspector a warm greeting, but don’t forget to politely ask to see their identification.
- Tour with the health inspector. Think of the inspector as an outside auditor, the inspection is an opportunity to prevent foodborne illness at your fast food restaurant.
- If you are not able to tour with the health inspector, assign a manager or member of staff to take your place.
- Never argue or be defensive with an inspector.
- Never offer favours or food to an inspector.
- If you are written up for any violations, make sure you understand what they are and how to correct them. Ask the health inspector to suggest a way to fix the problem - they are experts in this field.
What to do AFTER the Inspection
The information and feedback gained from your inspection can be extremely valuable.
The ability to maximise the written knowledge and verbal feedback you receive during inspections will be invaluable in raising standards. Relay this to your managers and staff, incorporating improvements as well as positive feedback into your day-to-day activities.
- Hold a 10-minute briefing session with kitchen staff after the inspection, emphasising the importance of maintaining health standards.
- Develop your own management guidelines to ensure consistency of standards.
- If you have any staff for whom English is not their first language, ask a bilingual staff member to interpret for you during briefings to ensure all of your team are on the same page.
- Encourage staff to participate in the conversation. Ask for questions and suggestions, not just on standards but other areas where you could improve.
- Continue to perform regular self-inspections, taking into account the inspector’s advice or feedback. Consider implementing a scoring process to monitor improvements and challenge staff to achieve higher standards.
Much More Than The Law!
Proper food preparation is not only a matter of complying with the law—it also means avoiding disastrous foodborne illness originating at your takeaway restaurant. If you consider health inspectors to be your allies in preventing unsafe practices rather than “the enemy”, you will be will on the road to establishing your business as the stand out fast food restaurant in your local area!
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