Clean Your Restaurant or Shut It Down!

Reading Time: 3 minutes Food/Ice Safety, Small Business Resources

How many times have you heard me say “clean this restaurant up” on Restaurant:Impossible? I’ve said words like this so many times, I’ve lost count. I have zero tolerance for a dirty restaurant! It doesn’t cost much to keep a restaurant clean, yet I’ve heard every excuse in the book around why someone’s eatery is filthy: 
“I don’t have the time”. “I don’t have the money”. “My employees don’t listen to me”. And my all time favorite, “I didn’t even notice it wasn’t clean”.

How can anyone say with a straight face that they didn’t notice the build up of grim and filth? I’ve stepped into restaurants with visible rodent droppings, dust covered window blinds and floors so dirty my shoes stuck to the carpet. But they didn’t notice?

If you can’t keep your restaurant clean, you may as well just shut it down! Front of house filth will immediately turn your customers off. Back of house dirt, unsanitary equipment and improper food handling practices can be a serious health hazard. There is no valid excuse for not keeping your restaurant clean!

You remember the Snooty Fox episode, don’t you? They literally had a stuffed fox covered with years of dust in the dining room. But that was just the beginning of their sanitation problems. The fryer was disgusting. Grease covered their kitchen and mold was growing on the folds of rubber in the refrigerator. I told those guys to shut it down immediately until we could deep clean the entire restaurant.

This is what your restaurant kitchen should look like at the end of every day!

This is what your restaurant kitchen should look like at the end of every day!

In the Anna Maria’s episode, I actually threw up when I saw (and smelled) decomposing, fermented food on the kitchen floor. This is avoidable! Snooty Fox and Anna Maria’s are just two of many examples of what not to do.

You can check out a recent Restaurant:Impossible episode where I highlight the grossest restaurants I’ve come across.  It’s your responsibility as a restaurant owner to keep your place clean! It’s really not that hard. You just need organization, scheduling, consistency and a bit of elbow grease.

Keeping Back of House Clean

Daily Cleaning Checklist:

  • Clean fryers
  • Sanitize all surfaces (don’t forget the cutting boards!)
  • Brush/scour grills Empty sanitizing bins
  • All rags directly to laundry
  • Launder all aprons and chef’s coats
  • Sanitize meat/cheese slicers
  • All food needs to be air-tight covered and labeled before going into refrigerator
  • Sweep and mop all floors (including the walk-ins)
  • Wipe down outside surfaces of ice machine
  • Clean grease traps
  • Clean hood filters in dishwasher
  • Replace tin foil liners of grill and range
  • Empty all trash and recyclables
  • Wash floor mats
  • Empty and clean steam tables
  • Sanitize sinks, faucets, soda guns
  • Dispose of grease and oil correctly

Weekly Cleaning Checklist:

  • Clean ovens (per manufacturers instructions)
  • Empty, clean and sanitize reach in coolers, refrigerators
  • Clean coffee machines
  • Flush floor drains with drain cleaner
  • Wash walls

Monthly Cleaning Checklist:

  • Deal with grease build up: wash behind fryers, flat tops, stove and oven. Remember, built up grease is not only unsanitary, but also a fire hazard.
  • Empty and clean freezers
  • Empty the ice bin, clean and sanitize
  • Wash ceilings
  • Check your equipment: are knives sharp? are oven & thermometers calibrated?
  • Check for pest/rodent droppings. If you see any, call pest control immediately!

Keeping Front of House Clean

Daily Cleaning Checklist:

  • Wash every surface with clean, sanitized rags (bar, tabletops, chairs, booths)
  • Clean and sanitize restrooms (check them multiple times per shift and clean as necessary)
  • Sweep and mop floors
  • Wipe down condiment dispensers
  • Check menus for cleanliness

Weekly Cleaning Checklist:

  • Dust (blinds, ceiling fans, anything on the walls – picture frames, etc…)
  • Clean table and chair legs
  • Wipe down baseboards

So, you see, it’s not that hard to keep your restaurant clean!  Divvy up the tasks and stay on schedule.  If you can’t take responsibility for your restaurant’s cleanliness and make sanitation a priority, get out of the restaurant business!

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