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Frequent waiter health inspection infractions

Few things will get you in trouble with your GM quicker than if you are responsible for getting points subtracted from your health department inspection.

Some managers even go so far as to ban their service staff from the kitchen during an inspection, even if there are tables in the restaurant.

Obviously, health inspections vary from locale to locale. but there are some common infractions that you see the service staff busted for over and over.

The most obvious one is eating in the kitchen. This includes gum chewing because the health inspector doesn’t know that you are chewing gum – he or she simply sees your jaws masticatin’. And that’s all it takes. Obviously, when the health inspector is spotted in the restaurant, stay away from any perception by the inspector that you are eating.

A variation on this is personal food in areas that can cross-contaminate food. This means no open cups or glasses anywhere in the kitchen. This means no personal food on plates or in coolers, except in specially designated areas. Any drinks in styrofoam cups must have tops and straws and not be in any area that could bring it in contact with food.

Another is not washing your hands after touching your face, glasses, hair, etc. You also have to wash your hands each time you bring dirty plates back to the kitchen from the floor. Every time.

One thing that gets overlooked a lot is silverwear not stored handle side up. We get lazy sometimes and put serving surfaces in contact with handles (tines of forks, bowls of spoons, blades of knives). This is a no-no.

Hands preparing food have to be gloved. So, technically, if you’re cutting lemons by hand for iced tea, the hand touching the lemons is supposed to have a latex glove. Also, cuts on hands must have a bandaid.

Grab an unwrapped straw for a table? Not while the health inspector is in the building.

Some locales have a requirement to have bleach/sanitizer buckets at each station. If this is the case in your area, you should make sure that you have one in plain sight.

Bread baskets, butter bowls and any other food product shouldn’t be recycled from the table. So, when the inspector is in the building, make sure that you’re obviously dumping such items in the trash.

If you need to have a napkin for wiping or running food, don’t hang it from your belt as a lot of waiters do. At least when the health department is around.

Keep an eye on your ice bin. You’re looking for the dreaded “pink slime”. This forms along margins of the bin over time. If you see it starting to form, you need to do a thorough cleaning. Yeah, I know it’s more work and it sucks to be the one to bring it to someone’s attention because, a lot of the time, you’ve just volunteered yourself for the duty. But worse is the restaurant failing its health inspection. This can adversely affect your earning ability.

All sinks have to have soap and paper towels. Keep your eye on this stuff.

If you are responsible for soda machines and tea urns, make sure that you are soaking the nozzles every night. That’s every night, sport.

When the inspector is in the building, everything needs to be super obvious. Make a big deal about washing your hands each time you come in the kitchen. Stay away from food unless you’re running it to a table. If you can avoid going in the kitchen, do so.

I obviously haven’t listed every single possiblity. If you have a favorite violation, feel free to add it in the comments section. Keep your fellow waiters safe from management scorn.

Don’t be “that guy”. It’s not pretty.

Here’s a happy restauranteur:

health department


5 responses to “Frequent waiter health inspection infractions

  1. PurpleGirl October 6, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I often wonder about the straw thing. We used to have totally unwrapped straws we’d jam in the glasses; then we got straws in wrappers. At my old franchise location I’d take straws to the customers and let them unwrap them–seems obviously more sanitary to me. When I transferred to this location, I was told I had to peel the wrapper for the customer, except for the top part. Seems counterintuitive.

  2. teleburst October 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    If you put it in the drink, the idea is to let your guest know that you never directly touched the straw, right? Or at least let them think that you didn’t. Because, when you tear off the large part of the wrapper, you don’t actually have to touch the straw itself, right? You just insert using the little paper “handle”.

    Our restaurant doesn’t care. We used to have wrapped straws and we just unwrapped them and put them in the glasses and brought out the glasses with the straws already in them (and we didn’t leave the end on). Now we have unwrapped straws. Go figure. Maybe paper is expensive.

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