While cleanliness is not the most glamorous part of foodservice operations, it is closely tied to profit. To assist quick service restaurant owners and operators in driving repeat business in lean economic times, Cintas Corporation released its top tips for maintaining a clean restaurant.
"Cleanliness is an essential key to maintaining customer satisfaction," says Brian Garry, senior foodservice director at Cintas. "If the food is great but the restaurant is dirty, customers will not return. From the front to the back of the house, there are several easy steps restaurant operators can take to improve cleanliness and increase profit."
To keep a foodservice operation or restaurant clean, owners and operators should consider the following:
1. Stop Dirt at the Door. Floors are one of the first things customers see when they walk into a building and according to CDI research, its what 42 percent of people look at first when judging the cleanliness of a business. Approximately 80 percent of dirt enters a building from the outside, so a proper floor mat program at building entrances will capture exterior dirt and water to keep floors clean. This can be particularly helpful in inclement weather when risks of slips and falls increase. Also, regularly deep cleaning floor surfaces and grout lines will remove soil buildup, making them easier to keep clean.
2. Establish a Restroom Maintenance Program. For many patrons, restaurant restroom cleanliness is an indicator of kitchen cleanliness, so it is important to keep them well-maintained. In a recent poll, more than 84 percent of respondents equated empty toilet paper dispensers with restroom dissatisfaction and more than 76 percent of respondents were dissatisfied if the soap dispensers were empty. Additionally, more than 83 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with wet surfaces.
While staff may be doing a great job of cleaning restrooms daily (morning or night), keeping surfaces dry and supplies stocked is something that needs to be maintained consistently throughout the day. The key to this is ensuring restrooms are checked approximately every 30 minutes and with increased frequency during rush periods. To maintain the restroom during these periods, dedicate one or two employees to the task of regular monitoring.
Further, deep cleaning surfaces on a weekly basis will also assist in the removal of organic soils. This will help eliminate odors at the source and keep surfaces looking like new.
3. Keep the Kitchen Clean. It may seem like an obvious step, but up to 40 percent of food poisoning cases are attributed to poor hand washing and cross contamination in the kitchen. Two ways to prevent this are ensuring hand washing supplies are in stock and properly cleaning and sanitizing equipment and surfaces between tasks. Using properly diluted sanitizers and disinfectants will assist in keeping food preparation surfaces clean and free of foodborne bacteria such as salmonella. Also, designating color-coded cleaning tools and kitchen supplies such as cutting boards for specific tasks will help to reduce the opportunity for cross contamination.
Like many cooking surfaces, kitchen drains can also harbor harmful bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes. To limit opportunities for bacteria growth, establish a regular drain line maintenance program to keep drains free of debris and odors. Further, a maintenance program will help to prevent buildup that can cause drain backups and provide breeding grounds for drain flies.
4. Spot Clean in Eating Areas While it is important to keep surfaces clean in the kitchen, it is equally important to keep surfaces in the dining area clean and sanitized to ensure customer safety and satisfaction. Specific cleaning tools should be assigned to each cleaning task. For example, use only orange tools in the restrooms to avoid cross contamination with tools used in the back of the house. Cleaning tools such as microfiber towels can help effectively remove food soil and bacteria, limiting causes of foodborne illness and further improving the appearance of the dining area. Dedicate one staff member to keeping all surfaces in the dining area cleaned and sanitized. In addition to table tops, it is important to make sure menus, salt and pepper shakers, and table pedestals are also wiped clean on a regular basis.
5. Provide Ongoing Employee Training. With high turnover, it is a challenge to ensure that all restaurant staff members understand the importance of using proper cleaning techniques and how to properly clean and disinfect hard surfaces. Therefore, color-coded cleaning chemicals and tools and cleaning procedure wall charts and manuals that are readily available and easy to understand can help limit training challenges or language barriers. Employees are at the front line of defense against dirt, so a little knowledge can go a long way when it comes to restaurant cleanliness.
It is also critical to have an ongoing training program in place that includes food safety training and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) procedures. The FDA recently released results of a 10-year study of retail food risk factors which noted that the presence of a certified food protection manager on-site was correlated with significantly higher compliance levels with food safety practices. Full-service restaurants with certified food protection managers had a 70 percent compliance rate with food safety practices, compared with a 58 percent compliance rate at restaurants without one.
6. Find a Good Partner. Running a restaurant can be a difficult and time-consuming business. Cleaning is often a peripheral responsibility for many restaurant managers and employees, so it is important to find a vendor who is knowledgeable about sanitation and food safety to assist in the development and management of a proper restaurant cleaning program.