Proper restaurant cleaning practices are crucial for food safety and restaurant business, in general. And it’s not just because you’ll get bad reviews on Yelp due to funky tasting food. Poor reputation will be the least of your worries. If you don’t place importance on health and hygiene, the probability of people getting sick in your restaurant is high. And foodborne illnesses are no joke. It can endanger the lives of your customers, causing your restaurant to get shut down permanently.
What’s a foodborne illness, you ask? Well, most of us consider it food poisoning. However, these two terms aren’t interchangeable. Food poisoning is just one type of foodborne illness. Foodborne illness is defined as any illness or disease caused by eating contaminated food. You may get sick within minutes of eating the food. Or, it may take several weeks until you start feeling the symptoms which include nausea, fever, headaches, cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Most foodborne illnesses are caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites in food. In fact, according to the CDC, around 48 million Americans have foodborne infections each year. Moreover, 3,000 deaths occur from those illnesses every year. The last thing you want to happen in your restaurant is for your customers to stop coming back permanently. Fortunately, following strict guidelines of restaurant cleaning can greatly lower the risk of foodborne illnesses in your place.
What are Personal Hygiene Requirements of Food Handlers
Food safety starts with personal hygiene in the kitchen. The people who will be handling the food needs to follow the clean rule. Below are the requirements for ensuring cleanliness for your food handlers.
Wear a Clean Kitchen Uniform
All your employees that handle food, from the cooks to the servers, need to wear a clean work uniform every day. They should only put it on in the workplace to avoid it from getting dirty. Aprons are also a must-have, especially inside the kitchen. Different aprons must be worn at different prep stations in the kitchen. For example, those stationed at the seafood station should wear different aprons if they start handling vegetables or other kinds of meat to avoid cross-contamination.
A clean restaurant starts with clean hands. Your hands have the highest risk of cross-contamination which means clean hands are a must at all times. The one sure way to do that is to always wash hands between tasks. And we’re not talking splashing a little water on your hands. Clean hands involve at least 20 seconds of washing using antibacterial soap and hot water. Moreover, you need to thoroughly dry your hands before moving on to the next task.
Hats to Cover the Hair
To maintain a clean and sanitary environment, all food handlers must wear food service hair nets as stated in the FDA Food Code. This effectively keeps hair from getting in contact with clean equipment and exposed food. Take note that if you have kitchen staff with beards, they will also need to cover them using beard nets or beard covers. This can help prevent any guests from getting a surprise on their plate.
How to Achieve Restaurant Cleanliness Standards
Aside from practicing personal hygiene, your restaurant should also be a hygienic environment. That means employing restaurant cleanliness standards in and out of the kitchen. Whether it’s the height of dinner hour or hours before opening, cleanliness should always be a priority.
Clean Bathrooms Regularly
As we’ve already mentioned, restaurants must maintain a hygienic environment to ensure the safety and good health of their customers and staff. This means all aspects of your facility. The restaurant cleaning procedures must include sanitizing your restrooms. In most places, both patrons and employees share the restrooms which means that cross-contamination is a risk, especially for those employees that handle food products and kitchen equipment. Proper cleaning of your restrooms includes scrubbing toilet bowls and sinks, disinfecting them, and ensuring that the facilities are always well-stocked with soap, toilet paper, and paper towels.
Make Sure you have Clean Equipment
The most important cleaning procedure in a restaurant is the regular sanitation of the kitchen equipment. Bacteria can easily build up on surfaces that are exposed to direct contact with food. This includes prep areas, cutting boards, utensils, trash cans, storage areas, etc. Create sanitation procedures for your staff to follow on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
All Tables should Be Clean
Another aspect of restaurant cleanliness is to ensure that all tables are cleared promptly. This is important not just because clean tables are more attractive to customers. Dirty dishes and residue should be removed immediately to avoid contact with customers and newly cooked food which could lead to foodborne illnesses. Your staff should also thoroughly sanitize other surfaces that customers come into contact with such as bar tops, chairs, and even menus as well as condiment bottles.
Choose the Right Cleaning Materials
Frequent cleaning and sanitizing all aspects of your facility is necessary to maintain a hygienic restaurant. And that is only truly accomplished using the right restaurant cleaning equipment such as soft cloths, disinfectants, brushes, a vacuum, mops, etc. We describe some of the most important below.
Using disinfectant wipes in your cleaning procedures is best when you want to quickly and effectively clean any surface such as tables, bar tops, chairs, etc. They’re ready to use and can disinfect surfaces in minutes. This means that you can effectively kill bacteria and viruses without compromising on the speed of your table turnover rate. You also prevent cross-contamination with disinfectant wipes because you don’t reuse the same cloth to wipe down your tables.
Foot traffic, food, and spills all contribute to the dirt that accumulates on your restaurant floors. This means that your restaurant cleaning equipment must include mops. After the floor has been swept and vacuumed, you’ll need to ensure that the floor is sanitized as well. This means mopping the floor with a high-level disinfecting solution and warm water. A mop is ideal because it allows you to clean hard-to-reach places such as underneath prep stations in the kitchen.
If you look at restaurant health inspection scores, you’ll notice that one of the most common health code violations is poor kitchen sanitation. This means that employees were not able to properly clean and sanitize the equipment. One way to ensure that your equipment is free from any dirt or residue is to use a utility brush, preferably one that features high heat plastic bristles. This way, you can clean hot vats and other kitchen equipment right away, no cooldown necessary.
Cleanliness is key when you’re running a restaurant. According to the CDC, over half of the foodborne illnesses in the US are connected to restaurants. You definitely don’t want to be part of that statistic. Maintaining food safety and proper hygiene will ensure that you, your staff, and your customers remain happy and healthy for a good long while. And you can only achieve that by investing time, effort, and money in creating and employing the proper cleaning procedures we’ve noted above.