Have you ever heard someone say, "If you could see what goes on in most restaurant kitchens, you wouldn't eat there"? That phrase might be a tad dramatic but probably contains a grain of truth. I've heard horror stories about a few restaurant kitchens in Billings (from people I trust) and for that reason, I refuse to eat at those places.

We as customers put a lot of faith in restaurants, trusting that they follow best practices for cleanliness and food handling safety. Most restaurants in Billings do a great job because a) they're responsible business owners who don't want to make their customers sick, and b) health code violations can be costly, can ruin their reputation, and in extreme cases can result in them losing their licenses.

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Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Credit Michael Foth, TSM

Did you know you can check any restaurant's food safety record for violations?

In Yellowstone County, Riverstone Health handles the licensing and inspection of all food trucks, restaurants, food-centric cottage industries (e.g. a bakery out of your house), and other industries.

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The information is public record and you can search any restaurant in the county by name or address for their latest Inspection Report. These inspections occur annually (at minimum), but if a restaurant has violations or public reports of illness, they may be audited more frequently.


The Top Five food safety violations in Yellowstone County:

1. Cold foods not held at the proper temperature.

2. Sinks for handwashing are unavailable for use.

3. The manager or person in charge does not meet educational requirements.

4. Foods are not date-marked.

5. Food contact surfaces are not cleaned and sanitized.


Do health inspection reports sway your dining decisions?

I randomly selected a half dozen restaurants in Billings and was somewhat surprised to learn that most had at least one violation at their last inspection. Some infractions seemed relatively minor, while others made me think twice about eating at the establishment.

Riverstone typically allows restaurants to correct the issues. When they return for a follow-up visit, most of the restaurants with violations have corrected the problems.

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