The importance of cleaning in a food establishment was never made clearer to me than a recent visit to a popular, trendy restaurant in the heart of a big city. Upon entering the door, the place dazzled—gleaming floors, sparkling tableware, spotless equipment in the antipasto station and bar in the front of the house. And before taking one step in the kitchen to complete my audit, my impression was set—this restaurant is a clean, sanitary operation that cares about their customers. The kitchen inspection did not disappoint.
Contaminated food contact surfaces and utensils is one of the top 10 violations of restaurants, according to the FDA, and cleaning doesn't always get the emphasis it deserves in a restaurant operation. A conscientious cleaning program is critical not only to protect foods from contamination due to soiled surfaces and for safety reasons, but also for the quality of the dining experience itself.
Food contact surfaces such as cutting boards, work surfaces and utensils should be cleaned after every use, then sanitized to destroy microorganisms to safe levels. In preparation and service areas, wiping cloths may be a source of contamination themselves if used continuously—they should be stored in sanitizer buckets in between uses, to keep them cleaned and sanitized. Also, staff should test the concentration of these solutions at least hourly, and solutions should be changed when concentration drops below acceptable levels.
A master cleaning schedule will help keep staff on task with cleaning equipment surfaces, slicers, refrigerators, walls, floors, windows and restrooms to remove soils, grease buildup, foul odors and debris. Also, equip your facility with mops, brushes, towels and appropriate cleaning supplies do get the job done.
From the kitchen to the dining room and everything in between, your cleaning protocols will help make your restaurant shine, and ensure the safety and satisfaction of your customers.
I'll never forget the image of the dishwasher using a tiny brush to scrub a thin line of dirt behind a pipe as I was leaving the kitchen. Now that's dedication.