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What Happens When a Restaurant Fails Inspection Test?

Note that if you have failed a health inspection, your operating costs will more or less increase because of compulsory repairs, new equipment, and other improvements required by the health department. If you fail to correct all the violations (especially critical violations) found by the health inspector, it could also lead to stiff fines or they could revoke your license and close your restaurant permanently.

However, depending on where your restaurant is located, and the severity of the violations, they could give you a 5 – day re-inspection notice (for critical violations that couldn’t be corrected during the inspection) or a 45 – day correction notice (for non – critical violations).

What is a Restaurant Health Inspection?

A restaurant health inspection is an examination of your restaurant, staff and food products for potentially hazardous or unsafe materials.

This can be during storage, production, processing or even packaging. A health inspector will pay meticulous attention to how you store, thaw and cook food. He or she will also note the cleanliness of your kitchen, storage areas and freezers.

What to Do When You Fail a Health Inspection?

The first thing you must do after failing a health inspection is to correct all those violations. This may include not only cleaning and repairing, but also making sure it won’t happen again by talking to your employees and have them take responsibility for complying with health code regulations.

After correcting the violations, it’s time to do your own self – inspection. This is very crucial because it allows you to guarantee that the critical (and non – critical) violations that made you fail the health inspection are fully corrected. It will also help you identify possible health code violations you weren’t aware of.

Also note that it will help ensure your restaurant is in complete compliance with current regulations and guidelines – all this before the health inspector shows up again for your scheduled (or surprise) re-inspection. Keep in mind that, during the inspection, the health inspector will ask several questions, and your food manager has to answer appropriately.

If your certified food manager fumbles while answering, or does not know the answer, that is a primary violation to the health code, and chances are that you will fail the health inspection again. If you have failed a health inspection before, the health inspector will ask the same questions during the re-inspection, so your food manager should already have the right answers.

The Most Common Reasons Restaurants Fail Health Inspections

In the U.S. there are several regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and state and local health departments that create and enforce food codes that foodservice establishments must follow. However, there are a few mistakes and health code violations that many restaurants make. Keep an eye out for these mistakes to keep your health inspection score high:

  1. Employee Hygiene

Indeed this can be difficult to track sometimes, but employee hygiene can have a visible effect on not only the quality of your food, but whether your restaurant passes its health inspection or not. No doubt, working in a restaurant can be messy, but so can daily life.

Your employees bring dirt, debris, and germs into work with them from their homes. That is why it’s pertinent to always make sure that they maintain high levels of personal hygiene while they’re at work. For instance, your cooks should always be in clean clothing every time.

In an ideal situation, they’ll have a set of clothing that is stored at the restaurant that they can change into when they start their shift. This limits the number of outside contaminants they bring in with them. In addition, encouraging your employees to wash their hands thoroughly is another way to limit the spread of disease and germs in your workspace.

Have it in mind that a quick splash of water and soap is sometimes not enough, so make sure to remind your employees to wash their hands up to their elbows for a full 20 seconds before returning to work. They should get in the habit of washing hands after trips to the bathroom, after breaks, and before switching to food prep related tasks.

  1. Work Surfaces

Aside your head chefs, perhaps the hardest working part of your restaurant is your work surfaces. This involves contact surfaces like cutting boards and grills to non – contact surfaces like storage areas, these surfaces are always being used. With time, these surfaces can accumulate debris and contaminants if they are not cleaned regularly.

And this can lead to the accumulation of germs and bacteria, which can be passed on to your patrons. Therefore, to ensure that your work surfaces stay clean, make sure that all areas that come into contact with food are cleaned and sanitized regularly.

In addition, ensure that any cleaning agents are removed from these surfaces after you have finished using them, as these can contaminate the food as well. It’s also pertinent to ensure that surfaces like floors are kept clean.

  1. Pests and Infestations

No one likes the idea of creepy crawlies scrambling around in the kitchen, be it at home, or at a restaurant. However, you need to understand that your restaurant naturally attracts pests like bugs and rodents. It offers the major resources they’re all searching for – food, water, warmth and shelter.

A population of pests is a sure – fire way to fail a health inspection. Pests like bugs, rodents, or other animals, can spread dirt, debris, and even disease across your workspace, which means your food can become contaminated. Nonetheless, keeping your restaurant free of pests is easier said than done. This is because prevention is the best course of action in this case.

You should start by completing a thorough examination of the interior and exterior of your restaurant. Search for cracks in the foundation or walls, gaps around the pipes and fittings that run in and out of the building, and make sure that your screens and windows are fitted soundly in their frames. This helps to keep pests out.

Also take a look at your food management and storage practices. Always inspect every delivery of food before storing it to make sure you’re not letting anything in on accident.

Also ensure you don’t store food on the floor and don’t let food sit in open containers on shelves and counters. When there’s a spill, make sure to clean it up right away. Take out the garbage throughout the day. Have it in mind that a clean and well – organized restaurant is a pest – free restaurant.

  1. Equipment Issues

Have it in mind that once your restaurant is free of pests, has clean workspaces, and fresh employees, it’s time to examine your equipment.

Note that issues with food preparation and storage equipment plague restaurants of all kinds. Your equipment, from whisks to meat slicers, are expected to be well – maintained, kept clean, and should be free from damage. Keeping your equipment in tip – top shape not only makes for better food but keeps your employees safer too.

This sort of inspections is quite easy to complete. First, make sure your equipment is NSF compliant. While the cooking materials available in normal commercial spaces might work for you, they aren’t often up to the rigors of restaurant use, meaning they cannot be kept clean appropriately. Also ensure your equipment is being used properly.

It might be challenging to imagine a heat lamp being used for anything other than keeping a dish warm, but you’d be surprised how creative your employees can get. By using equipment properly, it ensures that it’s not being subjected to undue wear-and-tear and keeps them functional longer. Plus, it mitigates the chances of employees getting injured.


Now that you’re aware of the common reasons why restaurants fail their health inspections, you can take the appropriate steps in your own business to ensure it does not happen to you. Some operators approach health inspections with anxiety or frustration, but health inspections are potential learning opportunities with the intention to reduce the spread of food – borne illnesses and ensure the safety of your customers.

There are many steps you can take to prepare your establishment for your restaurant health inspection, such as training employees to avoid health code violations, knowing your local food codes, becoming ServSafe certified, and conducting self – inspections.