As Kiwis all over the country prepare for a return to normalcy after the strict COVID-19 lockdown levels, a lot of businesses — particularly those in the hospitality industry who got hit the most — are gearing up for reopening. Restaurants are already dealing with how they’ll make and deliver food in a contactless manner. On top of everything else, they are putting emphasis on abiding by strict health and safety standards.

Among the most crucial elements of restaurant operations in a post-COVID-19 world are cleanliness and hygiene. It doesn’t matter if you have a small mom-and-pop store or a huge five-star establishment. Restaurants need to be clean, not just for ambience but also for the health and safety of both your staff and the customers.

The problem is that cleaning a restaurant is more than about sweeping the floors and wiping down the counters. There’s so much more going on in a restaurant compared to a home or office. Indeed, the level of cleanliness and hygiene expected from dining establishments is higher. This is why the services of professional cleaning crews are critical to meet these high expectations. They have the necessary experience and equipment to ensure that every corner is spotless and germ-free.

On your end, you and your staff should be able to handle day-to-day maintenance. You can’t afford to wait for a cleaning crew to come at the end of the day. Make sure that your staff knows what’s expected of them in terms of cleanliness. There’s no prior cleaning industry experience necessary, but they should know how to do basic cleaning procedures. More importantly, you and your staff should know mistakes that should be avoided when cleaning restaurants. These include the following:

Not Having a Checklist

There are plenty of things you need to clean in a restaurant. The kitchen alone is filled with nooks and crannies that need careful attention to prevent contamination. The dining area needs particular care to ensure a pleasant experience for the customers. If your restaurant has a bathroom, then it needs to be checked for necessary clean-ups throughout the day. Moreover, there are things that need to be cleaned on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

In short, it’s easy to forget a cleaning detail. Having a checklist will let your employees know what needs to be taken care of. A comprehensive checklist will also help guide professional cleaning crews around their tasks. They know what to do, obviously, but each restaurant is different. Providing the cleaning company with a checklist will help them do a more thorough job the way you need.

Cleaning in Front of Customers

Unless absolutely necessary, avoid cleaning in front of your customers. It’s not hygienic and it can also signal that you haven’t done your job properly. The only time you should clean in front of customers is when there’s been an accident. For example, spilled liquids quickly become tripping hazards if you don’t mop them up immediately. In such a case, it’s perfectly fine to clean things up as business goes on in the restaurant. Make sure to train your staff to do this job quickly, efficiently, and as unobtrusively as possible.

Not Wiping the Menus

Anything that you hand to your customers should be clean and presentable. These include menus, salt shakers, ketchup bottles, and the like. No one likes to hold sticky menus or greasy condiment bottles. What’s more, these items are touched by hundreds of people each day. Who knew where your customers have been before dining in your restaurant? Who knew what they touched before they handled the menu? Remember that while it’s expected, not everyone truly practices hand hygiene. Make it a point to wipe menus, salt shakers, and similar items for a quick disinfection throughout the day.

Focusing Only on What’s Immediately Visible

As the adage goes, out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t see it, you’re likely to forget about it. This is why checklists are important when cleaning a restaurant: so you don’t forget critical spaces that aren’t immediately visible. These include the tops of shelves and tall furniture, behind kitchen equipment, and under the tables. If dirt and food debris accumulate, it’s very easy for pests to take over and this is something that you definitely don’t want to happen. Make sure to remind your staff about cleaning these “hidden” spaces. (Professional crews are less likely to forget this detail. In fact, these out-of-sight areas are some of the first places they’ll inspect and take care of.)

You should also pay attention to the way your restaurant smells. Odours are not something you can see which means you should be doubly careful about them. For example, a blend of spices wafting from the kitchn might be quite fragrant to your cooks but could be overwhelming to customers. You should also remember to inspect how the bathroom smells. If need be, invest in an odour eliminator or air purifier. Exhaust fans may also help eliminate unpleasant smells by aiding in air circulation.

Not Using the Right Products

Cleaning a restaurant is not the same as cleaning a home or a flat. For one, you’re going to be dealing with a lot more grease and food spills. For another, you’ll have several customers coming and going every hour. You’re going to need heavy-duty, specialty products and equipment for cleaning and disinfecting. If you don’t use the right products, your staff will have a more difficult time in cleaning. In addition, you may not also get the level of cleanliness necessary for a dining establishment.

Not Disinfecting Mops and Cleaning Cloths

If you don’t disinfect your mops and cleaning cloths, you’re only re-spreading the dirt and grime that you’ve already cleaned up. This not only doubles (or even triples) your cleaning time. You’re also risking contamination. To prevent this from happening, make sure to disinfect the rags you use to wipe tables and countertops after every use. The same goes for mops, floor and toilet brushes, and similar cleaning tools.

When it comes to cleaning, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what needs to be done. This leads to forgetting about the things that you need to avoid. Keep this list in mind to make sure that your restaurant is clean from top to bottom.