How to Prepare for Your Restaurant’s Next Food Safety Audit  

What is a Food Safety Audit?

A food safety audit is an independent and documented activity where evidence is gathered and assessed to determine if a restaurant’s food safety system is effective. Food safety audits evaluate against criteria called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). HACCP is a food safety system that identifies and controls hazards that may occur in the food production process. The HACCP approach focuses on preventing potential problems that are critical to food safety known as ‘critical control points’ (CCP) through monitoring each step of the process. Are you ready for the next food safety audit at your restaurant? We’ve outlined key steps below to help you prepare.  

Step 1: Review Food Safety Standards & Develop a Safety Plan

Anticipating an upcoming restaurant audit can be nerve-racking, but it doesn’t need to be. You will be well-positioned for your next audit when you familiarize yourself and your team with the following steps:

  • Build knowledge by revisiting the HACCP Principles & Application Guidelines
  • Document your facility’s safety process by developing your own food safety management system using HACCP principles
  • Establish “critical control points” that address safety issues (e.g. “Cooking” is a control measure which can be used to eliminate foodborne illness outbreaks from undercooked ground beef). When it comes to cooking foods at safe temperatures and temperature logging, here is what inspectors want to see.
Step 2: Train Restaurant Teams on Food Safety

A food safety system will only be successful if restaurant employees and management understand their roles in producing safe foods. For example, when your restaurant hires new employees, ensure they receive training on the control of foodborne hazards related to all stages of the food chain. Secondly, train each employee on their individual role in guaranteeing food safety. For example:

  •  When receiving shipments: is the package clearly labeled “Keep Refrigerated” if this is required for safety? If not, add a label for clarity.
  •  When preparing food: does the food contain any sensitive ingredients that may present microbiological hazards (e.g., salmonella, staphylococcus aureus); chemical hazards (e.g., aflatoxin, antibiotic or pesticide residues); or physical hazards (stones, glass, metal)? Dispose of food if hazards are present. 
  • When serving food: are potential allergens in the ingredients included in the list of ingredients on the takeout label? If not, include a label for customers.

Specific training activities should include instructions that outline the tasks of employees monitoring each CCP. Since paper task lists can be time-consuming or inaccurate, consider using  digital checklists to train and prepare employees for future safety audits. Digital checklists will even prompt corrective actions if food or equipment reach unsafe temperatures. 

Step 3: Schedule a “Test” Food Safety Audit at Your Restaurant

Before inspectors conduct the actual food safety audit, consider scheduling a “test-run” at your restaurant, so that your team is familiar with the process before the big day. Designate an employee to take on the role of inspector, and ask remaining employees to prepare for questions, such as:

  • Is it possible to provide sanitary conditions consistently and adequately to assure safe foods?
    • Tip: if your team uses digital shift management, they could point to historical, digital data, showcasing high completion rates of sanitation tasks, such as cleaning countertops and sanitizing cutting boards.
  • Can the equipment be sufficiently controlled so that the variation in performance will be within the tolerances required to produce safe food?
    • Tip: use a remote temperature monitoring system for fridges and freezers. You’ll know the instant your equipment reaches unsafe temperatures, preventing food spoilage or potential foodborne illness outbreaks.
  • Do employees understand the process and the hygiene factors they must control to assure the preparation of safe foods?
Make your Next Food Safety Audit a Success

Food safety regulations and standards can be difficult to manage alongside all of the other tasks required to run a successful restaurant. From ensuring a clean and welcoming dining area, to capturing accurate orders, and preparing food on-time, it can be easy to overlook the importance of food safety – but with such high stakes, you must protect the safety of your employees and customers by prioritizing food safety. 

It’s important to schedule training sessions, test-runs, and informational meetings throughout the year to make sure you and your colleagues are confident heading into the next restaurant audit. This preparation will help make the next audit go smoothly, and could even result in an increased audit score! In the meantime, find additional resources here that your team can leverage for audit prep – from opening/closing checklist templates to food allergy guidance, food safety posters, and more.