How to Keep Your Restaurant Clean

The wisest person I know in this business once told me that there is very little an operator can control about his restaurant beyond the food coming out of his kitchen and a clean, friendly environment in which to enjoy it. It is the nature of this business to obsess about the former and forget about the latter. It doesnít take a lifelong restaurant manager to recognize that either. Walk into any neighborhood casual dining establishment and step into a bathroom stall to get a sense of an operatorís priorities. As managers and operators, we get into this business for a variety of reasons. Some of us love to cook, some of us love hospitality. Very few among us love to dust the blinds.

Unfortunately, operating a restaurant tends to be much more about the latter. Your bottom line might afford you the chance to hire an expert on plumbing, refrigeration or HVAC. But few privately owned restaurants can afford to hire cleaning crews. That means most restaurant operators need to come up with a specific and regular gameplan for keeping their restaurant clean. That might mean delegating to a manager or a group of employees. It might mean having staff come in a half hour early once a week, or stay a half hour late. It might also mean that the operator has to do it him or herself. Regardless of the strategy, it has to be clearly mapped out, regular and thorough. Falling short on any one of these three criteria can leave a clean restaurant dirty in a hurry.

Employees who take ownership of their workspace are always the best resource for a clean restaurant. But it usually takes years to develop a staff that cares enough to invest time and effort when they are not being directly compensated for it. Many restaurants enjoy great success without ever developing a base of employees who take ownership of their workspace. Instead, they must organize clearly stated checklists that delegate duties for the front- and back-of-the-house.

In a daily form, this is typically called sidework, and it is standard operating procedure in most restaurants. However, weekly and monthly sidework checklists are a great way to make sure no area of your restaurant is being neglected. These lists should include cleaning that typically gets overlooked: overhead shelves, drawers, reach-in refrigerators, low-boy and drawer rails, chair backs and legs, and (of course) the blinds. They must incorporate extensive cleaning supplies and the results should be clear. A senior or lead employee can take charge of weekly or monthly cleaning checklists. However, these lists must be followed up by regular managerial supervision.

Ultimately, the cleanliness of a restaurant reflects on the operator or general manager. Sad to say it, but that tends to mean the person in charge may wind up in the bathroom on his or her hands and knees with rubber gloves hot, soapy water. It may also mean standing on tip-toes from ladder steps to dust and replace light fixtures. A head honcho who isnít afraid of the most menial tasks makes certain they get done. At the same time, this sets the tone for the entire staff.

This probably isnít why you got into the restaurant business. However, it is inescapable fact of the business we are in. The cleaner a restaurant is, the more likely it is headed for success.

Here’s a list of our cleaning tips for a restaurant.