Recently, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) along with Vigilance officials conducted surprise raids on various restaurants and ghee manufacturing units in Vijayawada. It was learnt that the ghee manufacturing units are supplying low quality products to their customers, and the restaurants are also using banned chemicals to enhance the taste of the food.
Whether it is a small restaurant or a major restaurant chain, health code violations can pose a significant threat to the life of the business and its consumers. Without consistent internal audits and inspection checks, it can be challenging for restaurants to ensure they will be prepared when the inspector arrives.
Many of the cleaning tasks done on a regular basis don’t even scratch the surface of what restaurant auditors will be paying close attention to. This is why weekly or even monthly inspections should be carried out internally. And while ticking off the checklist, many overlook the very basic yet imperative factors that stop them by acing a restaurant inspection.
Especially post-pandemic, owners now have to get lean and focus on minor detailing along with the need to quickly analyse a problem and fix it. Raj Sadvilkar, Partner and Co-Founder of Angrezi Dhaba believe that restaurant inspections will be a key consideration for how foods offered at the restaurant should be safely handled and delivered to the customers. “Also key practices for employee health, cleaning and sanitizing and following all the SOP’s for receiving customer, defining high standard for cleaning and housekeeping will be crucial so that team and guests can feel safe in the environment and serve better,” he commented.
Beforehand training for impromptu visits
The proper strategy for a successful health inspection is to be ready at all times. As Ritesh Saini, Director of Local Gurugram stated, “If you are an owner, manager or a restaurateur, health inspection is enough to keep you up at night.” To ace, one should follow the proper strategy that is to be ready for your health inspection and to act like every day is a health inspection day.
It is crucial to train the employees before the food inspection. Teach them how to behave and instruct them to proactively correct any error before the food inspector enters the restaurant. Familiarize them with the rules, regulations, and guidelines to follow during a food inspection. The restaurant staff should be competent enough in following all the safety and hygiene norms in front of the food inspector as this directly affects the scoring of the restaurant.
Proper documents in place
According to Nikhil Mittal, Co-founder of Infinity, many owners are missing out on Food Handler Certificate which is certified by the Indian Health Service (IHS). “Ensure a food handler certificate for every employee,” he commented. Keeping up with food safety guidelines as they change can be a challenge for restaurant owners, especially when one expands and open more locations in other provinces, states and cities. Staying directly in contact with the local health department to stay on top of food safety guidelines can be the key.
Ensuring proper food storage
Places and shelves where the food is stored need to be adequate, clean, and hygienic enough to avoid contamination. Cooked and ready-to-eat food should be kept above raw food. Ensure proper wrapping of food products so that they do not spill or drip on the shelves.
Saini recommends avoiding uncovered stored food and inappropriate containers. “No labels on your food for ‘use-by dates, no gloves on your employees and storing cleaning products near the pantry. Lack of temperature control should not be practiced. Covid appropriate maintenance schedule can’t be skipped. To ensure distinction one should conduct an impromptu inspection for their own restaurant,” he further added.
Additionally, chemicals and detergents should be stored in separate areas and not with the raw materials and ingredients. Proper stock rotation should be practiced so that the quality of raw materials does not deteriorate with time.
Having an immediate exit plan
Although there are ample points one needs to consider while firming up a restaurant’s safety and hygiene standards, one must also have an effective exit plan ready. “You and your staff need to be aware of an immediate exit plan so that everyone is safe if at all something goes wrong in the restaurant,” shared Shyam Thakur of Momo King by adding that setting up a daily maintenance schedule can help the last moment mishaps.
While no one enters the restaurant business out of a love for food safety, owners and managers must take it seriously. By protecting customers from foodborne illnesses, one is protecting his/her restaurant’s reputation.