One quarter of diners would not complain to a manager if they felt the restaurant they were eating in was unhygienic. They would, however, feel free to pass their negative review on to others, either by word of mouth, or social media.
This is according to a report, Healthy People, Healthy Planet, by cleaning and paper product company Tork, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and conducted by Harris International.
“Word of mouth is a powerful tool. With consumers using social media as a way to share their everyday experiences, negative reviews can be posted on Twitter or Yelp within a matter of seconds, but have long-term effects on a restaurant’s performance,” says Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University, authority on hygiene and disease prevention and a member of the Tork Green Hygiene Council.
Until recently there’s been a common misperception among the American public that food prepared in restaurants is safer than that prepared at home, adds Duberg, but that is obviously not the case any more.
She recommends, therefore:
- Keeping your restaurant as clean as possible, both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house.
- Letting your customers know about your hygiene methods so your restaurant is known for cleanliness.
Be sure not to neglect the back-of-house areas.
According to the report, 88 percent of people believe that restroom cleanliness reflects the hygiene standards of an entire restaurant so this is an important area to focus on.
It’s essential to ensure your staff are responsible and to train them in cleanliness from day one, then follow up with continual training, Duberg says. Proper hand-washing techniques should be drilled into employees and signs emphasizing this in bathrooms should regularly be changed, maybe to feature fun graphics, to make them stand out.
And in the bathroom, look at the little things: does your soap lather enough to keep employees scrubbing their hands? Is there a wastebasket by the door for used paper towels?
Also consider how people—employees and guests—dry their hands. It may be best to use paper towels instead of hot air hand dryers.
Research shows that consumers don’t use the dryers for long enough to dry their hands, so damp hands then attract more bacteria, which is spread through your restaurant. Also, paper towels can be used to turn off faucets and open the bathroom door, both of which prevent the spreading of bacteria.
To clean your restaurant’s many different areas, use different colored wipes, Duberg advises. Red could be used for raw meat; white for floors, etc., to prevent cross contamination.
Servers who use the same cloth to clean tables and chair seats are simply moving bacteria around and guests who see it will question the cleanliness of the entire facility.
And of course foodborne illness is one of the biggest concerns for a restaurant.
“More attention needs to be placed on how food is brought in,” Duberg says. “The food needs to get cleaner and cleaner as it gets to the food production area.
She advises that the receiving area be kept as spotless as possible and that all wrappings are thrown away before the food is moved to the production area.
If there’s time, soak all vegetables for 10 to 30 minutes in a mixture of 10 percent white vinegar and 90 percent water. Some foodborne illnesses that were previously only found in meat—such as listeria— have been detected in vegetables. This bath can remove up to 99 percent of bacteria.
Carefully wash vegetables that are oiled for appearance, and brush those that are rougher like cantaloupes. Oils can trap bacteria, Duberg warns.
And finally, take care of your employees to take care of your business. If workers are sick, they should not be working, Duberg says. Make it easy for them to take a sick day.
By Amanda Baltazar