Keeping your restaurant clean and up to national health standards will keep your plate full most days. However, creating a detailed cleaning and maintenance plan can help streamline the process and ensure you comply with standard protocols. A comprehensive maintenance plan will have different levels that designate the frequency of cleaning tasks and the equipment that should be used. While a floor-to-ceiling daily sanitization routine is neither necessary nor feasible in a busy restaurant, maintaining good practices on an outlined schedule helps prevent the build-up of dirt and bacteria that can lead to health code violations in the future. Use this guide to help identify your restaurant’s maintenance needs, the frequency of tasks and the equipment needed to efficiently complete the tasks, so you can get back to serving guests.
Identifying the Needs and Frequency of Cleans
Organizing your tasks using a daily, weekly, and monthly delegation design is beneficial in a restaurant setting. This will help ensure that all tasks are completed when needed and help prevent waste from repetitive tasks. Within this system, separating expected tasks and materials between your Front and Back of House teams will help streamline the process and avoid cross-contamination.
Front of House
The main points of contention for the front-of-house staff will be the dining room, bar, and areas between the dining room and dish pit. You want to ensure that all dirty plates and utensils are removed promptly from the dining area and only returned to guest areas once clean. This is especially important for high-touch places such as bars, where multiple customers come and go simultaneously. Below are some example tasks that can be delegated to the front-of-house team.
- Wipe tables, chairs and booths with sanitizer and cloths after each guest;
- Also, sanitize items that remain on tables (i.e. condiments, menu cards, etc.)
- Sweep and mop floors after each lunch and dinner service and as needed throughout the shift;
- Sanitize menus after each use;
- Sanitize high-touch surfaces in the washrooms every hour and deep clean toilets and sinks at the end of each day;
- Sanitize door handles and Point-of-Sale/payment systems throughout the day;
- Polish glassware after washing it and before giving it to guests.
- Wiping down high-touch walls;
- Dusting and sanitizing shelving and storage units;
- Removing stuck gum from under tables;
- Cleaning tables bases and chair legs;
- Dusting light fixtures;
- Changing out and cleaning permanent table settings/decorations.
- Clean windows and doors;
- Cleaning the upholstery of benches and booths (if applicable);
- Outdoor maintenance of the patio and waste disposal areas;
- Remove, sanitize, and reorganize products behind the bar;
- Run descaling agents through necessary appliance lines (i.e., coffee machines, beer taps)
Back of House
Ensuring food preparation areas and utensils are constantly cleaned in the kitchen and surrounding back-of-house areas will be vital for avoiding cross-contamination and maintaining compliance. The specific tasks will vary based on the restaurant size and the equipment used, but below is a general guide for keeping up to code and ensuring your kitchen operates efficiently.
- Wipe down all food preparation surfaces throughout the day;
- Continuously switch out washcloths and aprons;
- Sweep and mop floors as needed (at least once before and after service rushes);
- Empty trash bins and food disposal as needed;
- Sanitize all surfaces in the dish pit
- Wipe fridge and freezer shelving;
- Clean the inside of appliances such as the dishwasher, oven, and deep fryer;
- Clear drains and sink garbage disposal;
- Empty any grease traps and clean drain lines;
- Clean vent hoods;
- Run chemicals through necessary appliance lines (i.e., dishwashers)
Tip: Have multiple copies of your checklist available for staff to consult while on the floor. Designate a manager to ensure the daily/weekly/monthly tasks are completed at specified times. Additionally, keep a record of this for health inspectors.
Implementing the Right Cleaning Tools
Having the right equipment on hand to complete your cleaning and sanitization routines will save you time, energy and labor hours. Look to invest in quality machinery that is suitable for the size of your restaurant to get the most out of your equipment. Here are some of the essentials worth investing in.
Steam cleaner: A high-temperature and high-pressure steam cleaner for large hard surface areas will be ideal for quickly sanitizing. When used correctly, a steam cleaner that can produce pressurized steam of at least 212 degrees Fahrenheit will kill 99.9% of bacteria and mold. In the kitchen, surfaces such as industrial ovens, fridges, and stove hoods can be cleaned regularly with a steam cleaner. Using the right attachments will make your equipment even more versatile. For example, a grout brush can help you reach small divots prone to collecting dirt, while a towel can be attached to a larger grout brush to turn your steam cleaner into a steam mop for the floors.
Pressure washer: A pressure washer will be ideal for exterior and seasonal maintenance of the restaurant. The high-pressure water levels can quickly clean the sides of buildings, windows, patio concrete, and patio furniture. Be sure to follow all safety precautions and never use a pressure washer inside the restaurant, as water can easily ricochet in enclosed spaces.
Carpet extractor: A carpet and upholstery extractor will drastically improve the cleanliness and efficiency of any carpet and upholstery cleaning that needs to be done in the restaurant. If your business has a lot of booths and benches, investing in quality upholstery equipment will allow you to clean it more often and increase the longevity of the furniture. In the long run, investing in pricier equipment that suits your restaurant’s needs can be more cost-effective than outsourcing to a cleaning company once a month.
Everyday Cleaning Essentials
Brooms: Keep multiple brooms and dustpans around the restaurant for easy access to clean debris off the floor. Use different brooms for front-of-house, back-of-house, and patio cleaning to help limit tracking waste throughout the restaurant.
Mops and/or vacuums: Mopping up spills is another one in the restaurant. Due to the restaurant’s fast-paced environment, mops are often misused and can quickly become saturated and soiled. Be sure to properly clean mop heads and use sanitizing products when deep cleaning the floors. A vacuum cleaner will also be essential for a restaurant with carpet.
Microfibre cloths: Lastly, microfibre cloths are multi-use cloths that can be used for polishing silverware and glass and also for wiping surfaces after spraying sanitizer. Be sure to keep polishing cloths separate from sanitizing cloths to avoid bacteria being transmitted to clean utensils and glassware.
Tip: Switch out washcloths regularly to avoid cross-contamination between people, food-borne bacteria, and allergens during mid-service cleans. Bacteria can easily be transferred from surface to surface, even with the presence of chemical sanitizers.
Cleaning chemicals are of particular concern in restaurants as they are necessary yet dangerous contaminants to food if mishandled. Health and safety for handling chemicals around food should be a priority in your restaurant. For restaurants in America, the FDA Food Code helps to outline guidelines for maintaining compliance with health and safety standards around chemicals. The most recent edition, updated in 2022, is used by state and local governments to ensure all restaurants in their jurisdiction comply with national standards. There are a few keys to success in maintaining compliance with the FDAs regulations for chemicals and other toxic substances in restaurants:
- The stock of poisonous or toxic materials must wear the manufacturer label intact, whereas working labels should have the common name clearly identified and legible.
- All chemicals and poisonous materials should be stored where they cannot contaminate food. While this may seem obvious, working containers can easily be mishandled when regular operations pick up.
- Ensure your disinfectants are EPA-registered antimicrobial products that are proven to kill harmful pathogens, bacteria and viruses. Potent disinfectants are crucial for stopping the viral spread of common pathogens via high-touch areas in high-volume places such as restaurants.
Tip: Do not over-dilute disinfectants with water, as it decreases the efficiency of the product to kill common pathogens. Read the manufacturer’s label to know the optimal dilution ratio for your disinfectant.
Once you discern the needs and frequency of specific cleaning and maintenance tasks for your restaurant, you will be better suited to invest in the right equipment and chemicals to do the job. Ensure you keep good records of all cleaning and maintenance activities to have them readily available for the health inspector, and consider investing in suitable equipment for your restaurant to help streamline cleaning for your staff.
Matthew Baratta is vice president of operations at Daimer Industries, a leader in innovative, technologically advanced commercial and industrial cleaning equipment for major commercial and industrial cleaning and restoration applications. Baratta has extensive cleaning industry knowledge and earned a master’s degree in Public Health.