Protect your business with a clean and well-maintained foodservice establishment

Cleaning solutions: Protect your business with a clean and well-maintained establishment
By Sean Moon
February 28, 2014
Cleaning solutions: Protect your business with a clean and well-maintained establishment

There is no question that great food and attentive service are two of the best ways to keep customers coming back to your establishment. It may be surprising, however, to learn that it can be the cleanliness of tableware, restrooms, food prep areas and interiors that will often be the deciding factor in whether or not a diner chooses your restaurant for their next meal.

According to a consumer brand metrics study by Technomic Inc., consumers consistently rate issues such as cleanliness of equipment and facilities among the top 10 of 60 attributes when picking a restaurant. Not only is proper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment, utensils and work spaces of utmost importance when it comes to food safety, the appearance and maintenance of the building and facilities is a critical issue in the minds of many customers, say two of the leading suppliers of cleaning products and services to the Canadian restaurant industry.

High expectations

“A restaurant is only as good as its last meal and guests have high expectations of cleanliness in their chosen dining environments,” says David Coulter, key account manager (food service Canada) for commercial sanitation product company Diversey, Inc. “Focusing on the two elements of food safety and the restaurant’s appearance not only protects the brand, but has a direct impact on top line sales.”

Mike Brown, senior marketing manager (Institutional Canada) for Ecolab, agrees, adding that some restaurants could be even more vigilant when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

“The most critical issue for restaurants is the proper cleaning and sanitizing surfaces of equipment, utensils and work spaces that come into contact with food,” says Brown. “Restaurants most commonly violate this criterion when food-contact surfaces are found to be soiled or when the chemical concentration, temperature, pH and hardness of warewashing (dishwashing) water are improperly set. Warewashing equipment must be correctly calibrated to provide effective cleaning and sanitizing.

“Also, maintaining and cleaning the physical building is a critical issue. It requires a steady, disciplined approach: Keep facilities in good repair; use dustless methods such as mopping to clean floors; store maintenance tools properly; and remove litter and unnecessary items from the premises.”

Create lasting impressions

Two of the most overlooked areas, yet ones that can leave a lasting impression on diners, are public restrooms and the front entrance. If an owner neglects either of these areas, it can ultimately have an effect on the company’s reputation as well as the fiscal bottom line.

“Research indicates that customers assume that if there is a lack of cleanliness in the bathroom, then there must be a lack of cleanliness in the kitchen, too,” says Brown. “Whether or not this is true is irrelevant. The risk of not properly cleaning and maintaining the bathroom can damage the brand’s reputation.”

Coulter says that while restrooms typically account for less than five per cent of the restaurant space, they can be the cause of 20 per cent of the soil and complaints. Still, Coulter believes other parts of the restaurant deserve an equal amount of attention.

“Don’t forget about the front entrance, inside and out,” says Coulter. “The customer’s experience begins the moment they arrive in the parking lot. First impressions are important and affect dining decisions.”

It’s a team effort

Of course, keeping a restaurant looking spic and span requires a team effort – from diligent kitchen staff ensuring proper cleaning of utensils and equipment to front-of-house workers pitching in with dining room maintenance. However, keeping staff engaged and well trained can be a significant challenge: High employee turnover, on-going training and how to better work with cleaning suppliers are all big considerations.

“For many young individuals, the restaurant industry provides them with their first place of employment,” says Coulter. “Restaurateurs have a responsibility to educate young industry staff about the importance of a clean facility and how it relates directly to increased food and beverage revenues. This training needs to continue far beyond the first orientation meeting as employees come and go through their facility to ensure a consistent level of cleaning.”

Training is key

Brown adds that not only is it important for operators to adequately train employees and commit to regular inspections with staff members, but workers need to be given clear direction when it comes to keeping the premises and equipment in tip-top shape.

“Create checklists for staff that include daily, weekly and monthly cleaning tasks,” suggests Brown. “Assign tasks to individuals so that there is accountability and responsibility for what needs to be accomplished. Create an expectation that inspections will be held, so that staff members remain diligent about completing their assigned cleaning duties. Talk to staff about the importance of training when it comes to cleaning procedures and routines.”

Coulter says that in addition to staff training, owners should encourage an atmosphere of collaboration between suppliers and employees.

“Staff training is critical to maintaining a clean, hygienic and efficient operation,” says Coulter. “Reputable chemical suppliers work with their customers to provide a variety of training solutions that not only help manage cleaning costs, but contribute to protecting the brand. Over-dosing of chemicals is a common issue and proper training reinforces the fact that more is not necessarily better.”

Keeping a foodservice establishment clean and well-maintained not only goes a long way to ensuring customer health and safety, it can also help form the kind of positive impression that will keep your customers coming back and passing along their good word to others.

“A safe, simple and sustainable cleaning program has a direct impact on guest experience and increased revenues,” says Coulter. “When designing your cleaning program at your facility, work with a company that understands your operation and can provide solutions that contribute to the profitability of your business. The guy with the cheapest pail of soap is not usually the right provider.”

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