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Commercial Kitchen, Commercial Refrigeration

Restaurant Health Inspection: How Neglected Refrigeration Fails You

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Last Updated on December 27, 2019


chef passing restaurant health inspection

Your restaurant’s “A” grade is something to be proud of. It’s a sign for all your customers (literally, right there in your front window) that you have passed your restaurant health inspection with flying colors, and proof of the superior quality of your food preparation. Diners are confident of getting a great meal prepared safely when they see top NYC health department restaurant grades.

Because that “A” is so critical to the success of your business, we’re betting you go to great lengths to make sure you maintain it through every restaurant health inspection. That means training and reminding your staff about proper food handling techniques to prevent contamination, being vigilant about cleaning and preventing pests, and constantly checking the temperature of cooked food.

Yet there is one critical task that you might be overlooking: maintaining your refrigeration equipment.

How refrigeration maintenance affects your restaurant health inspection

Reliable refrigerators and freezers are essential to everything you do. To keep your food safe and make sure you keep earning that “A” grade with every restaurant health inspection, yet it’s not enough to place thermometers in your equipment and check periodically to make sure they are at the correct temperature.

For one thing, conditions can change quickly and you can’t be there to check those thermometers all day long. And without regular refrigeration maintenance and calibration of those thermometers, you can’t even be sure the readings are accurate.

Just think about what happens when a piece of essential equipment breaks down in the middle of a busy dinner shift. Or just prior to your restaurant health inspection! Having your all-important refrigeration equipment regularly cleaned, inspected and tuned up can eliminate those headaches completely and help you keep your health grade at the top of the class.

6 refrigeration maintenance tasks that ensure food safety

To keep your refrigeration equipment performing reliably, don’t neglect these maintenance tasks.

Here’s one task you can do yourself to prepare for your restaurant health inspection. Remove any obstacles that impede air flow around your refrigeration equipment. Air around the coils is essential to help the unit remove heat from the inside. That means moving boxes of supplies, furniture, décor or other equipment so that air can flow freely.

For the other tasks on this list, call in the experts who can provide the level of care that’s needed to keep your equipment running safely and reliably. They can also help you determine the necessary service interval based on the usage of your equipment.

Have you been regularly cleaning and servicing your ice machine? If not, you’re not only putting your restaurant health inspection in jeopardy, you’re putting your customers at risk for illness due to bacteria in your ice. That means not just dumping the ice and wiping it down, but hiring professionals to take apart and methodically clean all parts that touch ice and water using special tools and chemicals.

Read this related article to learn more about the dangers of dirty ice machines: Bacteria in Ice: Think Your Restaurant’s Ice Is Safe?

The coils are some of the most important components of your refrigeration equipment. Their job is to absorb heat and release it outside the unit to cool the box to the set temperature. The condenser coils in particular require attention since they are located on the outside of the unit where they get coated with grease and grime from the kitchen. Keeping them clean helps the refrigerator to do its job reliably and efficiently. When the coils are dirty, the unit may not reach set temperature, which puts your food safety and your health grade at risk.

To clean the coils, professional cleaners and brushes are used to carefully remove buildup without damaging the fins, fan motor or compressor.

Worn gaskets or broken hinges can cause improper closing of your refrigeration equipment and air leaks. Warm air gets in, and cooled air gets out. It doesn’t take long before the unit is not at set temperature. This is a very common problem that can impact your restaurant health inspection. Luckily, it’s easy to fix by inspecting the hardware and door seals, and replacing parts when needed.

It’s easy to ignore or miss a small water leak either inside or outside a refrigeration unit, yet this issue is a major concern for a number of reasons. Water leaks on the inside can contaminate food and cause illness, so of course the health inspector will notice and reduce your “A” grade if this issue is found. But water leaks on the outside are also dangerous because it can be a sign of an impending breakdown. During a regular maintenance call, your technician is trained to spot and fix these problems before it’s a disaster for you.

The amount of refrigerant in a refrigerator or freezer’s coils must be kept to the correct levels to ensure proper operation, keep your food and your reputation safe. Tiny leaks can occur that cause the level to decline over time. Refrigerant levels are tested as part of a refrigeration maintenance plan; if a low level is detected, the technician will repair the leak and recharge the refrigerant.

Even More Benefits of Refrigeration Maintenance

Beyond protecting your restaurant’s health grade and your diners’ health, regular refrigeration maintenance has even more benefits for the health of your business:

Preventing breakdowns. When your equipment is regularly inspected and tuned up, your technician can spot problems like worn parts and loose electrical connections and fix them before they cause more damage and ultimately failure of the unit.

Related article: One Simple Way to Avoid Industrial Refrigeration System Downtime

Extending the life of equipment. When parts are consistently cleaned, filters changed and worn parts replaced, your refrigeration equipment can last years longer than unmaintained units.

Lowering your electric bills. That’s right, refrigeration equipment runs more efficiently and uses less electricity. And that savings can add up to more than the cost of the maintenance.

Investing in a maintenance contract with a reputable and experienced refrigeration service company keeps your equipment in top shape, so you can be sure the food you serve is safe and meets quality standards. And so you can stop worrying about failing your restaurant health inspection. Don’t neglect your refrigeration equipment for one more day!

To learn more about refrigeration preventative maintenance, grab our free guide to Refrigeration Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your Food Service Operation.

Refrigeration Preventative Maintenance Contracts