When it comes to your restaurant’s cleanliness, expectations are higher than ever. It’s time to take a closer look on how to keep things clean and disinfected – so you can keep your customers safe and fed.
Of all the areas affected by COVID-19, the food industry has probably been hit the hardest. As a business that hinges on cleanliness, sanitation and safety, alongside interacting with the public, a health crisis of this magnitude was bound to change things – particularly the way we keep things clean.
It’s likely you’ve already taken steps to follow all regulations and increase cleaning procedures, but in such rapidly changing circumstances it’s important to regularly review these practices as the situation develops. Let’s take a closer look at how to keep things clean – for now and for the future.
While cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation have always been important to the food industry, the current situation has made it clear just how crucial these efforts are to the health and safety of our communities. And while there’s no evidence that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through food, establishments involved with food and food preparation should take extra precautions to protect themselves and the general public, just in case.
It all begins with your staff. Your employees are in an incredibly vulnerable position. By coming to work, they’re putting themselves and others at risk to provide an essential service – and their health and safety should be at the top of your list. To that end, ensure every member of your team understands and follows the CDC’s preventive guidelines at work and at home, including:
Keeping a restaurant clean during normal times can be challenging, and the COVID-19 pandemic makes it that much more of a minefield. However, by staying up to date on regulations, regularly reviewing and revising practices and upping our game, we can navigate this challenging situation together.
Several health and safety organizations – including the CDC, FDA, WHO and OSHA – have issued guidance specifically for workplaces to help prevent the virus’ spread and limit exposure. It’s highly recommended that all “high-touch” spots, like doorknobs, handrails and counters, are cleaned and disinfected frequently with EPA-registered disinfectants approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. You’ve probably already ramped up cleaning, but since many restaurants are operating through takeout and delivery exclusively, it can be easy to overlook at risk areas. Making a map of “touch zones,” in the front and back of house, restrooms and everywhere in between, along with an expanded cleaning schedule can make sure nothing gets missed.
In terms of food prep, WHO reports that temperatures between 140° and 150°F and higher are enough to kill most viruses – which means cooking and dishwashing will take care of most potential risks. But cleaning food prep surfaces presents a different challenge. Disinfectants generally aren’t food safe and may require long dwell times before rinsing. In these circumstances, food contact surfaces should be regularly cleaned and sanitized – to remove pathogens to a safe level – and then fully disinfected whenever possible.
In addition, these circumstances could present a bittersweet opportunity to tackle difficult, unpleasant jobs that have fallen by the wayside during busier times, such as defrosting and disinfecting freezers, deep cleaning ranges, ovens, and other large equipment, dealing with the hood and ventilation system, or repairing and replacing out of date appliances. In addition to checking items off your to-do list, taking care of these projects now can help set your restaurant up for a clean slate when it comes time to reopen. Odds are guests and authorities will have high expectations when it comes to restaurant cleanliness once the pandemic has passed – but by making an effort and building strong cleaning strategies now, we can lay a foundation for the future of the food industry.
While cleaning is vital to maintaining your business during this turbulent time, so is staying organized. With so much changing so quickly, it’s easy for important details to fall through the cracks and out of your control. From staffing needs and scheduling, to supply orders and takeout and delivery procedures, you’ve probably had to rethink many of your internal structures over the past few weeks – but you should also regularly review your processes and be prepared to change. The faster you can respond, the more likely you and your restaurant are to maneuver through each challenge gracefully. And don’t forget to look over past organizational structures and see what could be improved or adapted in the future – the restaurant industry is likely to change post-COVID and you should be ready.
Now is also the time to reinforce and build your web presence – and ramp up your posting schedule. Even though they can’t stop in for dinner, your customers still want to support and hear from their favorite eateries. Make sure your website is updated and working, and puts the most vital information front and center, e.g. who you are, your hours, how to place an order, and what cleanliness and safety precautions you’re taking.
And don’t forget to make use of social media to engage with your customers, answer questions and let them know what you’re up to. Beyond keeping your customers informed, expanding your web presence now can only help your business down the line.
There’s no doubt about it, the novel coronavirus has already had a deep impact on many different areas of the food industry. And while we don’t yet know the full ramifications of the pandemic, what we do know is that changing our behaviors to keep things clean and sanitary makes a difference. By adhering to the regulations, ramping up cleaning frequency and rigor, and being prepared for things to change quickly, we can weather this storm – and come out the other side together.
Read more commercial kitchen cleaning articles from 3M.
When the pandemic has passed, restaurants will return to business, but it might not be “as usual.” Let’s take a look at how your customers might change their behavior – and how to be prepared.
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