Food & Drink

16 Ways Restaurant Health Inspectors Are Huge Jerks

Published On 06/16/2015 Published On 06/16/2015
Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in the restaurant industry there's no other person with the power to absolutely screw you over quite like a health inspector. Some are legitimately out to help, and no restaurant owner worth their sea salt is purposefully dodging regulations -- since that's, well, pretty gross -- but all too often, the inspector is like a frenzied shark in a bloody sea full of temperatures and sanitization practices and can't wait to eat you alive.

Also like sharks, health inspectors can be total dicks. Which is why we surveyed restaurant owners -- anonymously, naturally -- about their experiences playing Pat Riley to a Joey Crawford-esque inspector. Read on to get real angry and stuff.

Flickr/Jeremy Osterhouse

1. The main concern is catching you, not helping you

"There was one guy that used to say: 'I’m Joey Crawford and you’re Pat Riley, let’s do this.'”

2. They decide your score, then make the points work

“Sometimes they cite things they aren't required to, then there are things that they absolutely are supposed to cite but don't. It's more like, 'This looks like a 93, three points off here, four there, done.'"

3. If they're having a bad day, you're screwed

“On the chance that you catch a health inspector on a bad day, you could be in for a world of hurt. It's just about the most power you can witness someone holding over someone else.”

4. Every one has different standards

“Some will swear up and down that A, B, and C are the most important things to stay on top of, and on the next inspection, the inspector doesn't even look at A, B, or C. Instead they swear it's all about X, Y, and Z, and you're back to square one.”

Flickr/Caitlin Childs

5. Paperwork is a big deal

“We got points knocked off because we didn't have employees sign documentation that they knew how to use hand sanitizer.”

6. They require insane levels of proof

“I once had a health inspector make me empty and unplug a fully stocked fridge during service, open it to bring the inside to room temperature, turn the fridge back on, and wait for the fridge to get down to temp. Mind you that the thermometer showed the fridge as operating at the correct temperature. She just wasn't convinced.”

7. There's no leniency for honest mistakes

“If it's a small thing that we didn't know about, why don't they give us 36 hours to get all up to date?”

8. Codes change like the weather

“If all of the sudden they change the parts per million of bleach and I didn't happen to be at that city council meeting, it's not fair to get dinged for it.”

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

9. They make their own rules

“Technically you're not supposed to cross contaminate different types of proteins, but at a sushi bar it's unavoidable. So, a health inspector tells me that they'd like to see the chef change gloves or wash hands between each fish, but I don't have to do it. If I'm making a roll with 10 different pieces of fish, that's five minutes of hand-washing or 10 thrown away gloves.”

10. They don't account for good intentions

“A few years back a dishwasher had a burn on his neck. It wasn't bad, but he had a little Band-Aid over it. The health inspector said he couldn't work because of the Band-Aid, but he was just doing his best to cover it up.”

11. It's all about the Benjamins

“Almost everything is economically driven. They ding you so they can charge you for things. If you get anything lower than an A, you know, people get really paranoid about going in. You have to wait six months for them to come back, or you pay them to come in two weeks. That's a pretty dick move.”

12. A perfect score is impossible

“You can't get 100%. No matter how anal you are, they have to find something to ding you on.”

Flickr/Matt Biddulph

13. They almost always come in at peak service time

“Once during lunch, they came in and called my entire kitchen out and had them line up and display all their hands. If there's gunk under one fingernail, you get dinged.”

14. The points system doesn't make sense

“Having your walk-in cooler at the wrong temperature, say that's five points off, which is pretty severe out of 100. I'm just making numbers up here, but say there aren't enough napkins next to your hand-washing sink, that could be four points.”

15. They use stopwatches in the most annoying ways

“I once got points deducted because the health inspector saw one of my employees wash his hands for 29 seconds instead of 30. True story.”

16. They don't account for how food is served

“We had these garlic noodles that are served at room temperature. The inspector insisted that we store them on ice. I said I couldn't because they'd taste shitty. So he sticks a thermometer in there, takes the temperature, and tells me I have to throw it all away. All 40 servings of it.”

Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. Last time he had his health inspected he had a minor cough, but otherwise all good. Follow him to rescue inhalers at @Dannosphere.



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