Making food and drinks is a dirty business full of hot oil, sticky simple syrup, and perishable produce. Restaurants and bars can get really dirty. Dirty enough that civilians unfamiliar with restaurant work might be shocked. It’s important for bars and restaurants to create monthly cleaning schedules to guarantee that every spot from the floor to the ceiling and everything in between is clean. Restaurant staff must work hard to ensure food and drink is served in a clean environment and to earn top grades from health inspectors.
Identify Problem Areas in Kitchens and Bars
1. Cleaning the Kitchen
If you’ve ever seen an episode of Bar Rescue, you know how gross kitchens can get when cleaning is neglected by employees and not enforced by management. Sure, this show highlights nightmare conditions. But restaurant kitchens are the perfect environment for accumulating crud and creating a Proterozoic-like ecosystem of bacteria and fuzzy growth.
The first step in creating a cleaning schedule is to identify problem areas that get dirty but generally aren’t cleaned during employee’s daily routines.
Because restaurant shifts are long and exhausting, it’s not always possible to perform a deep clean after every shift. Creating a monthly cleaning schedule makes sure things don’t fall through the cracks while not tasking employees with impractical expectations.
For kitchens, here are some areas to keep an eye on:
- Behind and underneath cooking stations like stoves and grills
- Produce coolers where food can fall behind racks
- Underneath and on top of stove exhaust hoods
- Grease traps
- Storage racks
- Plumbing on sinks in food prep areas
2. Cleaning the Bar
Bars are also prime areas that will build up grime. Because bars handle liquids like water, sugary juices, wine, and cocktail mixers, it creates damp and unsanitary conditions that are perfect environments for mold and bacteria to grow if not properly cleaned.
It’s important to make sure you have a consistent, daily cleaning checklist for your bartenders to follow. In addition to a monthly cleaning list, you should create a daily opening and closing checklist for bar maintenance.
Even with daily cleaning, there are some areas that might not get touched that should be cleaned monthly or bi-weekly.
Here are some problem areas for bars:
- Floor Drains
- Floor mats
- Interior of glass washing machine
- Plumbing underneath ice wells and sinks
- Interior of storage coolers, especially storage for juices and drink mixers
- Storage areas for glassware and bottles
- Ventilation areas on coolers
- Ice machines
3. Make a priority list of neglected areas
It’s important to record and make a list of the problem areas you’ve identified. Within the list, rate each area as high, medium, and low priority based on how dirty these areas get, how important it is that they be clean*, and how difficult they are to clean.
*For example, dirty grease traps in a kitchen can result in fires that can cause severe damage and injury and would be considered high priority. Plumbing underneath bar sinks would be lower priority than grease traps.
Scheduling a Cleaning Calendar
Once you’ve identified areas in your restaurant or bar that are prone to getting dirty, you can create a cleaning calendar to make sure these areas get the proper attention.
Here’s some helpful ways to approach creating your restaurant cleaning calendar.
Determine how often to schedule cleanings
Once you’ve got your list together of dirty areas to address, you should determine when they were last cleaned. Talk to department heads like the chef or kitchen manager, bar manager, etc., to see if they know how long its been since an area was cleaned. This will help you figure out how quickly grime builds up so you can decide how often to schedule a cleaning.
Find the best days and times schedule cleanings
Once you determine how often an area should be cleaned, you will want to find convenient days and times that they can be cleaned.
In a restaurant, a manager can look at shift reports to see the average number of guest covers during certain days and times. Finding days and times that have consistently low customer traffic will help you find times to block out for cleaning duties.
For bars that don’t count guest covers, managers can look at point-of-sale reports to find shifts with a low volume of transaction to find slower days that would be appropriate to have bar staff spend time cleaning.
Create a Cleaning Job Duty for Employees
If it’s possible, you can also schedule employees to come in outside of service hours to clean. This could be on days where the restaurant is closed or prior to a shift.
If scheduling employees for cleaning shifts, you should create a special log in or job duty that employees can select when clocking in that will provide them a higher hourly compensation for cleaning shifts. It’s also good practice to rotate cleaning shift assignments across employees so the same employees are stuck with cleaning duties each month or week.
Additional compensation is especially important for tipped employees that earn a lower hourly wage. Employees should be compensated appropriately if not performing a tipped job. Even if you’re requiring employees to clean during tipped service shifts, they should be compensated for the additional work that is required of them.
Here’s some things to remember when scheduling cleaning times:
- Determine how often cleaning should occur
- Find days with the least amount of customer covers, particularly for kitchen or other back-of-house cleaning
- Find days where employees can come in early or outside of regularly scheduled hours
- For tipped employees, allow them clock in at a higher wage
Passing Health Inspections for Restaurants
It’s important for restaurants and bars to keep equipment and service areas clean to make sure the best service is offered to guests and to maintain a healthy environment for your employees.
But it’s also against the law for your restaurant to not comply with health codes for your city and state. So make sure you’re in compliance with the law by reviewing your local health codes. You can find health code requirements online if you go to your local department of health website or just google a phrase like “health inspection codes for restaurants” + your city or state.
Prior to an inspection, familiarize yourself with the the most common reasons restaurants receive a “fail” grade from health inspectors.
This list an excerpt is from the City of Chicago’s food service inspection guide:
- Not Ready for inspection
- Physical built-out not complete
- Food equipment not installed/and or not operating properly
- Cooking ventilation system not installed and/or not operating properly
- Lack of three-compartment sink in food preparation areas
- Lack of utility sink
- Lack of plumbing back-flow devices
- Lack of hot water
- Unsealed gaps in walls, joints, and piping
- Inadequate refrigeration (temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit in refrigerators/coolers and above 0 degrees Fahrenheit in freezers)
- Restrooms not operational
Keeping Inventory Organized is Important
Keeping inventory organized and at consistent levels is important for maintaining a clean bar and restaurant.
Cluttered storage areas will hide unsanitary conditions and will make cleaning much more difficult when it comes time for maintenance.
For kitchens, this means keeping produce coolers organized with proper labels and dates on storage containers. A good inventory strategy will also make sure produce, meats, and other perishable ingredients are fresh and aren’t left to spoil.
For bars, having a liquor inventory solution is key for keeping your bar and storage areas organized and neat. Organized bar coolers will help you spot leaks, clogged or blocked air vents, and the dirt and dust that accumulates on back bar displays for bottles.
Key Points for Creating a Restaurant Cleaning Schedule
- Identify problem areas
- Assign priority levels for cleaning
- Find the best times for deep cleaning
- Know the health codes
- Keep inventory organized
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