Your Restaurant Health Inspection Checklist: 12 Critical Points

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 25, 2024

As a restaurant owner or manager, you know the city’s health inspector does an important job. Still, those unannounced visits make everyone on shift a little nervous. From front to back of house, you count on everything being up to code.

If you haven’t updated your restaurant health inspection checklist, are you sure your operations will pass?

It’s always a good idea to double-check procedures and refresh employees on policies. We can help with our 12-point guide based on our experiences providing restaurant kitchen cleaning services all across Chicago and the suburbs.

A 12-Point Health Inspection Checklist for Your Restaurant Operations

What do health inspectors look for in a restaurant? It’s your job to know what they expect and stay ahead of problems that can hurt your inspection score. Use our guide to review and update your in-house strategies for passing health department inspections.

restaurant health inspection checklist

1. Store Food Properly

Keep stored food 6 inches above the floor in pantries and walk-ins. Label unmarked containers for quick review of contents and delivery dates, and rotate inventory using the FIFO method. Sweep food storage areas several times a day and clean at least once a week.

2. Maintain Safe Storage Temperatures

Every restaurant health inspection checklist stresses the importance of maintaining safe temperatures in walk-ins, refrigerators and freezers. Make sure equipment stays in top working condition. Mount thermometers so that they’re easily seen, and clean interiors and exteriors on a regular basis.

3. Carefully Manage Chemical Products

Store all cleaning and chemical products safely away from food storage and prep. Keep buckets, brooms, mops and other cleaning gear stored in a closed area. Only allow chemicals and cleaning equipment in the kitchen after all food is put away at the end of service.

4. Provide Separate Hand Washing Sinks

The Chicago Health Department checklist for food establishments includes a requirement for dedicated hand washing stations. Designate at least one sink in the kitchen for employee hand washing. Stock all hand sinks with single-service soap dispensers and paper towels.

5. Make Cleaning Routine

Keep your restaurant spotless from front to back of house. Develop a three-tiered schedule for daily, weekly and monthly duties. Post the cleaning checklist next to your health inspection checklist for the kitchen so that staff can easily see what needs to be done.

6. Follow Safe Food Handling Practices

Insist that employees practice safe food handling procedures at all times. This includes stocking inventory, prepping food, cooking and serving. Emphasize the importance of cleanliness, the dangers of cross-contamination and the consequences of failing to monitor food temperatures. Work with produce suppliers that adhere to strict foodsafety practices.

7. Watch for Unexpected Contamination

Watch out for unexpected sources of contamination in storage and around prep and cooking stations. Check plumbing in refrigerated equipment for leaks. Regularly maintain cooking equipment, and keep exterior doors tightly screened.

8. Be Careful With Trash Disposal

Not all questions health inspectors ask pertain to food and prep. They often want to see how safely your restaurant handles trash disposal. Empty garbage and recycling bins before they become too full. Wash both at least once a week.

9. Discourage Pest Infestations

Discourage rodents and insects by cleaning areas around loading docks and dumpsters. Make sure all doors close tightly, and install air curtains on back of house exterior doors. Arrange for professional pest control that specifically handles food service operations.

10. Keep Plumbing in Top Shape

Do more than clean in your restaurant’s bathrooms and kitchen areas. Head off problems by addressing plumbing repairs right away. This minimizes the chance of mold growing around leaky pipes, drains clogging during a busy service or sewage backup in the bathrooms.

11. Regularly Refresh Staff Training

Schedule regular staff meetings for reviewing your health inspection and restaurant cleaning checklists. Ask for employee input, and incorporate staff ideas for improving procedures. Have at least one member of each shift team certified as a Food Service Sanitation Manager.

12. Perform Your Own Health Inspections

Unannounced self-inspections help you pinpoint areas in your restaurant’s operations that need improvement. Designate a different employee or manager as your in-house inspector each month. Schedule the self-inspection routine during a regular service, and review the results with everyone on staff.

We Value Your Input

We offer this health inspection checklist as an extension of our partnership with the food industry that includes our commercial kitchen deep cleaning services. Print out this guide, and share it with staff. Let us know how it helps organize your routine by posting your thoughts through our Comments Section.

Our teams appreciate the hard work that goes into running a restaurant, so we value your input. You can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba to make your job a little easier with the best restaurant kitchen cleaning services in Chicago and the suburbs.