Foodservice Equipment Reports

Chicago Reforms Restaurant Inspection Laws

The failure rate for Chicago restaurants—both in inspections and in business success—should be shrinking, thanks to long-awaited reforms in city inspection laws.

Not only do a third of all new restaurants close within their first year of operation, two-thirds of the city’s restaurants fail at least one initial inspection. The latter statistic is not surprising when one understands that new restaurants have often endured up to 20 separate inspections even before opening for business. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reforms honed in on these redundant city inspections of restaurants.

The inspection reforms kicked in immediately for new restaurants and expand to existing eateries in the fall. They are designed to reduce the number of inspection visits, modernize inspection scheduling and ensure that individual inspectors are “more consistent.”

The application process for new restaurants will be dramatically altered with zoning and location reviews up-front. The change is designed to reduce the need for costly “course corrections,” officials said.

The number of inspections for new restaurants will be cut in half by using a coordinated team-based approach. Start-up restaurants will be provided with pre-inspection consultations and a start-up-guide. The city will also post online information about the most common violations and make inspector checklists available to restaurant owners.

The mayor also plans to scrap the city’s antiquated system of scheduling inspections in favor of a centralized, automated system that allows operators to schedule inspections by phone or online, receive immediate confirmation and review inspection results online.

The inspection reforms are separate from a self-certification program approved earlier this year for recently inspected restaurants with no history of food-borne illnesses and retailers that sell pre-packaged foods.

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