Avoiding the top five front-of-house cleaning mistakes

By David E. Smith, ESP

A clean and inviting environment is essential to a great restaurant experience, which is what brings customers back for repeat visits. But if front-of-house cleaning is so important to business success, why is it often done by staff with no training on how to do it properly?

The answer is simple: too often, we just don’t know what we don’t know. Here’s a look at the top five mistakes in front-of-house restaurant cleaning and how you can avoid them.

Cloud-Based Cleaning

We’ve all seen it. Restaurant staff wiping down tables and chairs with a trigger sprayer of general cleaner and a cloth. What happens? Along with hitting the table, the trigger sprayer creates a cloud of chemical vapour (volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) that ends floating through the air above it as well. It’s breathed in by staff and customers and drifts into open food on occupied tables. That’s galling unto itself, but it can spell catastrophe if a patron with breathing issues happens to be sitting nearby, not to mention the danger to employees from repeated exposure.

The solution is simple: train staff to spray the cloth, not the area to be cleaned. Then, thoroughly wipe the surface to remove soil and bacteria.

Different Surface, Same Cloth

Unless they’re properly trained, most staff use the same side of the cloth throughout the cleaning process. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, if you don’t mind having soil and bacteria spread from surface to surface throughout your dining area.

If the risk of food-borne illness (and the PR nightmare of food poisoning) doesn’t sound appetizing, be sure your staff understands the correct way to use cleaning cloths for the most effective (and hygienic) results:

  1. Colour coordinate microfiber cloths and designate different colours for different surfaces.
  2. Fold each cloth in half, then in half again. This creates eight cleaning surfaces; four on each side of the cloth.
  3. Use one side of the cloth to clean a surface such as a table, then turn the cloth over to clean the chair.
  4. Fold the cloth back so that the two soiled sides are together; continue to clean another chair, table etc. using each of the other two sides.
  5. When all four surfaces of the first side of the cloth have been used, unfold the cloth and refold in half, soiled sides together, and then in half again. This creates four new surfaces with which to clean.
  6. When all eight sides of the cleaning cloth have been used, place it in a container designated for soiled food-surface cleaning cloths.

Uncommonly Cleaned Common Touch Points

Common Touch Points (CTPs) are those areas that receive the highest frequency of contact from staff and patrons’ hands. These typically include menus, garbage bin handles, door handles, Interac key pads and chair backs and arms. Each of these surfaces is contaminated by hundreds of hands (or more) in any given period. They harbour cold and flu viruses to E.coli and other harmful bacteria. CTPs should be thoroughly wiped daily with a general purpose cleaner and microfiber cleaning cloth.

Spill Slip-Ups

Spills may be inevitable, but taking care of them properly isn’t. Often the mop and solution are so dirty they simply spread the soil across a larger area rather than effectively removing it. The resulting wet floor creates a slip and fall hazard, too. Train your team to manage floor care with the following key steps to improve both cleanliness and safety:

  1. Stock the cleaning closet with multiple mop heads so they can be laundered frequently. This ensures that a fresh mop is available for each day’s shift.
  2. Instruct staff to empty cleaning solution frequently and rinse mop buckets before refilling them with fresh water and cleaner.
  3. Consider an auto mop/dry system, especially designed for small areas, to make the job faster and more effective. You can also look at new high-absorbency mop and pad systems to clean spills effectively and leave floors nearly dry, and safer for both patrons and staff.

Same Old, Same Old

Using the same floor cleaner throughout the year can result in damaged floors. While a good neutral cleaner can handle day-to-day grease, grime and spills, the winter months present an entirely different challenge. Salt and calcium can erode floor surfaces and create a permanent white haze. To avoid this, adjust your floor cleaning system to include a salt/calcium neutralizer on bad weather days. Be sure to change entrance matting more frequently as customer volume increases to reduce the amount of water, grime and salt tracked onto floors. You’ll also reduce the risk of slip and fall injuries.

Cleaning Up the Clean Up

If these common cleaning mistakes are happening in your foodservice environment, the time to make a change is right now. Re-think your operation’s front of house cleaning tasks and make them a priority. Invest in training, proper tools and cleaning products. Ask your cleaning and hygiene product supplier about the latest innovations to improve cleaning efficiency and quality while reducing labour and cost. The result will be improved customer experience and perception, more repeat business and a healthier environment for customers and employees.

David E. Smith, Cleaning, Hygiene & Sanitation Director at Bunzl Canada has more than 25 years’ experience in the cleaning and hygiene industry. David is a recognized expert in infection prevention and control and a passionate promoter of cleaner, healthier public spaces. Please direct questions to: David.Smith@Bunzlcanada.ca.

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