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 objects clean and disinfected in order to keep your customers safe. 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, according to 3M Foodservice.
It’s likely you have 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. This article take a closer look at how to keep things clean – for now and for the future.
Handwashing, gloves and hand hygiene
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 is 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 starts with your staff. Your employees are in an incredibly vulnerable position. By coming to work, they are 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:

  • Washing hands frequently and properly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow for coughs or sneezes
  • Avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Practicing social distancing by avoiding large gatherings and staying at least 1,8 metres apart
  • Staying home if sick

Cleaning, disinfection and sanitation
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.
Several health and safety organisations – 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 registered disinfectants approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. You have probably already ramped up cleaning, but it can be easy to overlook at risk areas. Creating a map of “touch zones,” in the front and back of house, washrooms and everywhere in between, along with an expanded cleaning schedule can ensure nothing gets missed.
In terms of food preparation, the WHO reports that temperatures between 60° and 65°C 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 are not food safe and may require long dwell times before rinsing. In these circumstances, food contact surfaces should be regularly cleaned and sanitised – 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 we return to the ‘new normal’. 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.
Organisation
While cleaning is vital to maintaining your business during this turbulent time, so is staying organised. 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 have 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 manoeuvre through each challenge gracefully. And don’t forget to look over past organisational 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.
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 behaviours 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 emerge the other side together.