Restaurants and diners are quite familiar with the ubiquitous Health Department’s letter grading signage and are now more than ever concerned with the sanitary conditions of establishments. When opening your restaurant, you are faced with a tough decision. Do you opt in for a pre-operational inspection or wait for an inspection after you open?
NYC Business Acceleration conducts pre-operational inspections, which according to NYC.gov, formally confirms that a restaurant complies with health laws and should allow you to open your business faster than if you were to forgo the inspection. Any violations found do not result in fines. The Health Department conducts a regular, unannounced inspection for restaurants that are already operating and assigns letter grades.
In order to qualify for a pre-opening Health Inspection (also called a Pre-Permit Inspection, or PPO/A), all construction needs to be finished. The restaurant needs to be sparkling clean with no food, alcohol or even ice on premise at the time of inspection. Additionally, both cooking gas and water hookups need to be operational.
At first glance, it may seem that choosing to have a pre-operational inspection is a simple decision, but there are many factors to consider. Austin Publicover of Bulletproof! Food Safety recognizes some of the advantages. “One of pros of scheduling a pre-permit inspection is that the inspector can take her time in reviewing your establishment and find any facility issues that would prevent you from getting an ‘A’ grade on your first operational/graded inspection,” says Austin. It is a common misconception that a letter grade is issued during a pre-operational inspection, but the grades are only issued after food is on-site and your establishment is open to the public. “ The pre-permit inspection makes the next inspector’s job a little easier,” says Austin. “There is less information to gather which makes for a shorter, happier graded inspection in the future.” Additionally, there are no fines nor tribunal hearings for these inspections.
On the other hand, pre-operational inspections can slow down the opening of your restaurant. These preconditions can create a pinch-point for scheduling an opening to the public, especially as it relates to team training, construction, stocking the bar, test cooking, or media events. Your refrigeration needs to be ready and turned on—inspectors will look at the temperature of your walk-in. Restaurants cannot have samples of their food or beverages on hand, which can impede final menu development and delay deliveries. “Even if you have bottled beer on premise, an inspector can cancel the inspection forcing you to reschedule once you remedy the inspector’s objection” says Austin. If the inspector finds major points of violations, the only recourse is to have another pre-permit inspection with the issues remedied to get the points removed. Rescheduling can create costly delays and potential profit loss inherent to losing an entire operating day to an inspection.
The biggest risk is goes beyond delays. “This is not a practice inspection” says Austin. “Whatever the inspector finds goes on your permanent record under ungraded inspections. This can be seen online by anyone for the entire history of the restaurant.” A poor pre-operational inspection can haunt a restaurant for years.
To avoid major delays and costs, AllDay recommends engaging with an expert to conduct a review of your buildout so you are not surprised with costly renovations like moving a wall, relocating a sink, or installing doors after the DOH has visited. You can hire an expert to do mock inspections of your establishment and create best practices for your staff to be ready for an inspection.
AllDay Industry has the experience and the network to help you develop your concept from any stage of development. From finding the perfect space, hiring the right executive chef, or preparing for health inspections, our team will act as your primary consultant to connect you to some of the best talent in the hospitality industry. Contact us at 212.346.0606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Austin Publicover and Bulletproof! Food Safety, check out www.bulletprooffoodnyc.com.