restaurant cleanliness

Boost customer satisfaction and loyalty through restaurant cleanliness

By Roy Getz, Chairman, Ohio Restaurant Association and P&G Professional Advisory Council Member

Customer satisfaction is a key factor in the success of any restaurant and cleanliness plays a big role in that. Happy customers will spread the word about a great restaurant experience, become ambassadors for your brand and loyal patrons. For all of these reasons, it’s important for management and staff to view the cleanliness and hygiene of a restaurant from a customer’s perspective and the impact it can have on their decision to return.

Did you know that customer complaints and dissatisfaction could potentially cost your business more than $88,000 a year? If you’re doing $1 million in sales, that’s more than an eight per cent decrease. Here’s the simple math:

(2 Dissatisfied customers per day) X (350 Days of operation)                                      = 700 customers

(700 Customers) X (3 Typically, one dissatisfied customer will tell three friends)         = 2,100 customers

(2,100 Customers) X (6 Average number of visits per year)                                        = 12,600 Visits

(12,600 Visits) X ($7 Average check in a fast-casual restaurant)                                 = $88,200

That’s just an example of how quickly dissatisfied customers can potentially impact your bottom line in one year. Of course, the number will vary restaurant to restaurant, but the point remains the same. Customers are vital to a profitable business, and cleanliness helps shape a customer’s view and perception of your restaurant.

From the outside

From the moment a customer pulls onto the parking lot of your restaurant, they are seeing, hearing and smelling the messages you are sending about your establishment. Purposely or not, there are dozens of signals that customers get from your business from the outside of your building alone.

As a customer approaches the entrance door, even the least observant will notice sidewalk cleanliness, overflowing trash containers near the entrance, a dirty entrance floor as well as sticky, smudged doors, windows and door handles.

Consider these best practices to keep outside areas in check:

  • Soiled sidewalks: Sidewalks serve as customer walkways but are often used by employees and vendors to bring product into the building or remove trash. Therefore, these heavy traffic areas can become heavily soiled, sending a negative message to your customers. To keep this area clean, use a very short bristle deck brush to remove dirt daily, and prevent build-up.
  • Dirty dumpsters: Most dumpster areas are visible to customers in the parking lot and can be seen as they approach your restaurant. To promote a positive impression, make sure the outside corral and fence are in good repair and free of dirt, grease and handprints. It’s also critical to keep the inside of the dumpsters clean and odor-free. Operators may have a false sense of comfort knowing that things will look neat and tidy when the doors to the dumpsters are closed. But, many times, the doors remain open and customers are able to see the level of sanitation inside the dumpster area. As a rule of thumb, nothing should be stored in this area other than the dumpster, which should be scrubbed regularly. The dumpster pad should be swept and cleaned to remove any grease as well.
  • Lush landscaping: Landscaping around your restaurant should be attractive and well-groomed. Using colourful flowers can help make your location visible and increase curb appeal to help drive traffic into your restaurant. A lack of proper irrigation, pruning or removal of trash from the mulch beds will quickly nullify your landscaping investment. Be sure to properly care for this outdoor area to keep it neat and clean.
  • Outside windows and doors: Smudges, fingerprints, dirt, cobwebs, bugs, decals or promotional materials in poor repair on windows and doors can leave a negative impression on customers. Windows can be seen from the parking lot as customers exit their car and make their way to your restaurant. Assign staff to clean windows and doors, about every 15 minutes, to rid of any smudges and marks. Another helpful tip: use multipurpose products, from a trusted brand, that are designed to clean glass and other surfaces to help employees get the job done right the first time with one product in-hand.

From the inside

Now that your customer has made their way through the front door, there are many signals inside the restaurant that can contribute to a wonderful first impression or a bad experience.

Following are best practices to promote cleanliness at customer touch points:

  • Sparkling floors: A dirty, sticky floor can send a message of an unclean restaurant. Floors should not be “generally” clean, but should be sparkling clean. Teach staff proper techniques to sweep and mop the floor daily, using a high quality floor cleaner that removes dirt and grime. Remember to clean all the corners and door thresholds too, and rotate deep cleaning sections of the floor every night to prevent build-up.
  • Consistently clean restrooms: In a recent P&G Professional Cleaning Industry Insights Survey, cleaning managers ranked the bathroom as the most important area to keep clean for customers as well as the most difficult area to keep clean. A dirty bathroom can be cause for customer complaints, and may leave customers wondering if the back of the house is as dirty as the restroom. Operators should have bathrooms that sparkle AND smell good. To do this, assign staff to routinely clean this area and have a daily checklist to follow. Utilize a multipurpose product to keep counters, windows, faucets and toilets clean. Employees should always restock toilet paper, paper towels and other paper products upon each restroom check. Additionally, floors should be mopped several times a day, depending on foot traffic, to rid of germs and grime. Plus, deep clean restroom floors each night.


  • Sticky tables and chairs: You may not realize that a sticky table can stay sticky even after it’s been cleaned, and this is a clear sign to customers that something’s off. If your tables are sticky, it means the soil has not really been removed. Cleaning with a sanitizing solution is not always the most effective way to remove soil and can cause build-up, leading to the stickiness. The most efficient way to clean tables and chairs is with a multipurpose cleaner that cleans and disinfects in one step. This can help ensure that you are truly removing the soil as well as disinfecting the surface.
  • Clean cash registers and countertops: The area where customers place orders or where food is delivered should be in tip-top shape. When a customer is ordering, they are also noticing the condition of the register and the entire counter, whether it’s clean and tidy or dirty and sticky. This area and all the equipment in it must be free of dirt, grime and smudges. Remember to make this a part of employee training and responsibility to increase customer satisfaction.

Cleanliness and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. According to our recent P&G Professional Cleaning Industry Insights Survey, keeping customers satisfied ranks as the top business priority for cleaning managers polled in the foodservice industry. Also in the survey, cleaning managers in the foodservice industry noted that their two biggest worries when it comes to cleaning and disinfection are food sanitation and customer dissatisfaction.

Be sure to partner with a cleaning supplier who can help your restaurant address these and other important cleaning and food safety needs throughout your operation. By considering a customer’s point of view and making every experience count through cleanliness, operators can increase customer satisfaction, which in turn may help boost customer loyalty and company profits.

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