Running a restaurant is a volatile and unpredictable business that is often based on the whims of the marketplace and consumer trends. However, there two things a restaurant owner can control: the food coming out of the kitchen and a clean environment in which to enjoy it. It is the nature of the restaurant business to focus on the former and forget about the latter.
However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or a restaurant owner with 50 years of experience under his belt – to know that either one can make or break a business.
Cleanliness: Top Priority
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) aims to ensure that the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination – to preventing it; this means that restaurant owners have to be proactive about cleanliness – and not simply wait until they receive a failing grade during a health inspection.
It is not unheard of for a customer – already seated at a table and almost ready to order – to walk into a restroom, walk out, and then pick up his things and leave. A restroom is, for better or for worse, a good place to get a sense of a restaurant owner’s priorities. As a restaurateur, you probably got into the food business for a variety of reasons. You may love to cook, and you may love hospitality, but it’s very doubtful that you love to vacuum the carpet or clean the drains. However, according to QSR Magazine, since cleanliness is an important part of the consumer experience, it has a direct impact on the amount of money customers will spend.
The Do-It-Yourself Approach to Cleanliness
Your bottom line might enable you to hire an expert on plumbing, refrigeration, or air-conditioning systems, but few privately owned restaurants can afford to hire daily cleaning crews. This means that most restaurant owners need to come up with a regular game plan for keeping their restaurant clean. That might mean: 1) delegating tasks to a manager or a group of employees; 2) having staff come in half an hour early once a week, or stay half an hour late; or 3) owners must do some of the cleaning themselves. Regardless of the strategy, it has to be mapped out clearly. Falling short on any one of these three criteria can leave a clean restaurant dirty in a hurry.
Your Staff: Part of the Solution
Employees who take ownership of their workspace are always the best resource for a clean restaurant. But it usually takes time to nurture a staff that cares enough to invest time and effort when they are not being directly compensated for it. In the meantime, restaurants must organize checklists that delegate duties for the front-of- and back-of-the-house.
This is typically called side work, and weekly and monthly side work checklists are a great way to make sure no area of your restaurant is being neglected. These lists should include cleaning that typically gets overlooked, such as overhead shelves, drawers, chair backs and legs, etc. These tasks typically use heavy-duty cleaning supplies and the results are immediately apparent. A senior employee can take charge of weekly or monthly cleaning checklists; however, these lists must be followed up by regular managerial supervision.
Cleanliness: A Sign of Your Commitment to Excellence
Ultimately, the cleanliness of a restaurant reflects on you – the operator or general manager. Sad to say, but this can mean that you may wind up in the bathroom, on your hands and knees, with rubber gloves and hot, soapy water. A boss or owner who isn’t scared off by the most menial tasks makes certain they get done. And, at the same time, this sets the tone for the entire staff.
When it Comes to Cleanliness All Restaurant Areas Count
Restaurant managers and owners are responsible for inspecting kitchen areas, eating and dining areas, and restrooms to make sure that their restaurant meets health and sanitation requirements as set forth by the local government.
The kitchen is one of the most important areas in the restaurant to keep clean, as it is exposed to a variety of possible contaminants. Cooks, servers, bussers, and even cashiers have access to the kitchen and could potentially contaminate food products.
To properly clean a restaurant kitchen, employees must sanitize equipment, kitchen utensils, and surfaces that come in contact with food, and they must do so after each task. Each state or local health department establishes the proper types of disinfectants and sanitizers kitchen workers should use when washing dishes, as well as the proper storage techniques for food that might contain blood-borne pathogens. Kitchen items such as cutting boards, blenders, grills and countertops should also be disinfected.
Looking after dining and eating area cleanliness is also necessary for safety reasons, as well as to maintain the overall appearance of the establishment. The dining room is typically the first area customers see when they enter a restaurant, and visitors may decide to leave if the dining room appears unsanitary.
Restaurant workers can properly clean dining areas by thoroughly sanitizing the surface areas customer’s come in contact with, such as bar tops, table tops and chairs. Surface area cleaning should be done with clean towels that have not been used on surfaces in other areas of the restaurant, such as the restroom or kitchen.
Dirty restaurant floors are unsightly and pose a safety risk for restaurant employees and patrons alike. Many establishments place a large floor mat at the entrance of their restaurant to prevent outside dirt from being brought inside. Workers must sweep and mop near the restaurant’s entrances and exits frequently, as well as underneath booths and tables, to keep these areas clean. Regular deep cleaning with soap, water, and liquid bleach helps remove soil buildup in tile grout. If a spill occurs, workers must promptly section off the area, clean up the spill, and allow it to dry to avoid a slip-and-fall incident.
Before cleaning the floors, it is important to ensure that the drains are clear and working well. While most floor-cleaning should be done at the end of the day, if there is a mess or visible dirt on the floor, it is a good idea to sweep or mop it up at once. Ensure that when floors are cleaned, a wet floor hazard sign is always put up and clearly displayed to reduce the risk of slipping.
Restrooms are another area that requires frequent cleaning and maintenance. In most cases, restrooms are shared by employees and visitors. Properly cleaning restrooms helps prevent cross-contamination from employees to food products and eating utensils. To properly clean the restroom, employees must scrub toilet bowls and seats, as well as the floor around the toilets. All door handles and sink faucets must be disinfected. Dispensers for soap, paper towels, and toilet paper should also be fully stocked.
Make sure that all staff members wear clean uniforms. Kitchen staff must not come to work dressed in their work uniform as they may carry germs into the kitchen from outside. Instead, they should change once they have arrived at work.
When staff members arrive, ensure that they wash their hands with an antibacterial soap and dry them with clean paper towels. Long hair must be tied up, and in some cases, hair nets and hats should also be worn. Nail polish should not be worn when handling food, unless the staff member is wearing gloves.
Surfaces should be cleaned throughout the day with an antibacterial cleansing spray. Raw meat and fish should be prepared in a separate area and kept away from cooked food.
Once customers leave, and the plates have been cleared, table surfaces should be wiped with an antibacterial spray. Cleaning cloths should be washed or replaced each day to ensure that bacteria and germs are not spread around the restaurant.
Food scraps left on plates should be scraped into a food-only waste bin; the plates should then be rinsed by hand in hot, soapy water. Once rinsed, plates should be placed in a commercial dishwasher. It is vital that all plates be disinfected in the dishwasher and not just washed by hand, as hand washing may not kill all bacteria.
Purchase equipment that has been approved by an accredited third party, and follow manufacturer’s instructions for equipment installation, use, care, and cleaning. Every piece of equipment needs to be cleaned, for example:
- Clean can openers daily. Replace nicked or dull cutting blades.
- Clean dishwashers daily. Remove, wash, and rinse tubes, making sure that openings are not clogged. De-lime machines as needed.
- Keep microwave ovens clean. Deep fat fryers, ovens, stove, ranges, mixers, peelers, and similar equipment should be cleaned daily.
- Keep air temperature in all parts of the refrigerator at 41◦F or below. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and sanitizing soft ice cream or milk shake machines.
Cleanliness: Good Business Sense
Restaurants must maintain a clean and hygienic environment for the health and safety of employees and patrons. Every aspect of the facility must be properly cleaned to ensure safe food preparation and handling. Good cleaning habits can break the chain of infection from the source of the disease, to customers and employees. To successfully execute food safety measures, your entire team must diligently participate. In this way, your restaurant will be clean and customers will be safe from disease and contamination, thus creating a better and healthier dining environment.