Restaurant operators and health inspectors aren’t adversaries. Think of a health inspector as a partner you work with to achieve shared goals of preventing foodborne illness and protecting guests’ health.

Here are seven tips for building productive relationships with health inspectors:

  • Be polite and professional. Encourage managers to ask the inspector questions. They should feel free to dispute any violations they feel are inaccurate, but they should raise disputes in a professional, nonconfrontational way. When you disagree with an inspector’s assessment, ask how he or she arrived at that decision, and offer your interpretation of the regulations. The discussion often can help you arrive at a solution.
  • Correct mistakes as soon as possible. Repeated violations may give inspectors a negative impression of your food safety commitment, which could lead to low scores. Bring violations to managers' attention so they can correct them.
  • Demonstrate progress. In the event your restaurant has a less-than-satisfactory inspection, it’s important to exhibit your willingness to promptly address the issues. Show the inspector your corrective action plan and ask him or her to add it to your restaurant’s file.
  • Be proactive. Seek opportunities to work with inspectors outside the confines of routine inspections. For example, if your state or county has a new food safety regulation or recently updated its food code, consider contacting your inspector to ask about the changes and how they will impact your restaurant.
  • Get involved. Serving on state and local task forces or advisory committees can provide you with opportunities to work with inspectors and gain a greater understanding of their work. Developing relationships can help build trust.
  • Share your food safety plans. Inspectors often are interested in the steps you’re taking to comply with new food safety rules and regulations. What they learn will help them advise other restaurants. Share your plans with them, and seek feedback.
  • Seek inspectors’ advice. Are you launching a new product or testing a new process? Ask your health inspector how it will be impacted by the food code. They might have suggestions that will help you improve your business.

Be prepared for your inspection, learn what to do when a health inspector visits and ensure appropriate follow-up.