August 6, 2023



reading time


Restaurants should Remember These Key Points to Secure an A Grade from Health Department Inspections

When you're eagerly heading to your favorite restaurant for a meal, have you ever encountered the unfortunate situation where the restaurant is temporarily closed?

Often, this closure is due to the restaurant failing an unannounced inspection by the health department and being required to make improvements.

 In the United States, maintaining hygiene and safety in restaurants is of paramount importance. The regulations governing restaurant hygiene in the U.S. are known to be very stringent!

So, what are the hygiene standards and inspections for restaurants in the U.S.? And what are the consequences for restaurants that violate these standards?

In the U.S., each state has its own health department responsible for overseeing the hygiene and food safety of restaurants and other food service establishments. These health departments conduct regular inspections to ensure that restaurants comply with hygiene standards. The results of these inspections are often made public on the health department's website for the public to review. If a restaurant fails an inspection or is found to be in violation, this information is recorded and publicly displayed.

Health departments also conduct surprise inspections, known as health inspections, which are conducted without prior notice. These inspections ensure that restaurants maintain a high level of hygiene and food safety during their regular operations. The inspection checklist is very detailed and covers multiple aspects.

Image Starting from July 2010, health departments in the U.S. require restaurants to display letter-grade results of their health inspections. Restaurants that score between 0 and 13 points receive an A grade, those scoring between 14 and 27 points receive a B grade, and those scoring 28 points or more receive a C grade.

The score a restaurant receives depends on the food safety requirements set by the state it is located in. Inspectors examine food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance, and pest control. Each violation incurs a certain number of points. The inspector adds up the points at the end of the inspection, and this number becomes the restaurant's inspection score; the lower the score, the better.

Each restaurant has two chances to receive an A grade within an inspection cycle. If a restaurant doesn't earn an A grade the first time, the health department gives a "not graded" status and revisits for reevaluation after a certain period.

To ensure your restaurant passes health inspections, here are several key points restaurant owners shouldn't overlook!

  • 1.Food Storage

Check if food is stored at the appropriate temperatures to prevent cross-contamination. Proper ventilation is crucial, especially during hot weather, to prevent ingredients from spoiling due to high temperatures.

Image The refrigerator temperature for perishable foods also needs to be within the specified range. Inspectors use thermometers to measure food temperatures. Failing to store food at the correct temperature results in a deduction of at least 7 points and is classified as a "public health hazard."

  • 2.Ingredient Quality

In addition to proper storage, ingredient quality must be ensured. Restaurants need to guarantee that ingredients are within their shelf life. Food must be stored separately and away from chemicals.

Special attention is needed for restaurants serving raw food items, such as salads and sashimi. Not properly washing salads incurs at least 5 points and is considered a "critical violation."

  • 3  Ingredient Ordering

Restaurants need to understand their ingredient usage cycle and plan appropriate restocking periods. This often requires experience to determine how often ingredients need to be ordered, which ingredients are consumed the most, daily ingredient consumption, and differences in customer traffic on weekends and weekdays. Ordering the right amount of ingredients not only reduces waste but also ensures freshness and hygiene.

MenuSifu POS provides comprehensive inventory data reports from multiple angles and dimensions, helping you better understand your restaurant's stock cycle and avoid overstocking that leads to waste. Restaurant owners can monitor backend reports at any time and schedule restocking to ensure ingredient freshness.

  • 4 Overall Restaurant Hygiene

Regularly inspect the cleanliness and maintenance of kitchen equipment to ensure compliance with hygiene standards. Washing should include three steps: washing, rinsing, and sanitizing. All utensils must be cleaned promptly after use; failing to do so results in a 2-point deduction and is considered a "general violation." Clean utensils need to be covered promptly, and storage areas should be kept dust-free and contamination-free.

Restaurant kitchens must never have mice or cockroaches! This is a point that health departments take very seriously.

Restroom and toilet cleanliness is often overlooked by owners, but their cleanliness is also crucial. So, in addition to kitchen equipment, restaurant owners need to regularly clean other areas for hygiene.

  • 5 Employee Hygiene and Awareness

Surprise inspections also check if employees follow proper hand hygiene procedures and wear appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and masks. Chefs need to ensure proper usage of knives, cutting boards, and other utensils, separating utensils for raw and cooked foods, and heating food to the correct temperature to prevent bacteria.

Additionally, employee personal hygiene and awareness are equally important. Do chefs wear chef hats? Is hair properly contained within the chef's hat? Have employees received necessary food safety training? These are all items that the health department inspects."