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Cleaning Food Service Areas

Food is big business. According to the National Restaurant Association in Washington DC, there are over 730,000 food service establishments, serving over 50 billion meals and doing 290 billion dollars in business each year. Over nine million people work in the industry, earning over 70 billion dollars annually in wages and benefits.

To protect public health, cleaning duties in food service areas are done according to written procedures and are regulated by federal, state and local laws, with regular inspections required to assure compliance. Food service cleaning is a life and death matter for individuals, families, groups and businesses.

No Two Locations Are Alike

Cleaning duties, who does the work, when it’s done and exactly what and how things get cleaned are generally determined by the restaurant, dining room or kitchen manager. In most locations, you have front and back of the facility and specific duties for each. Front areas include the parking lot, entrance, lobby, dining room, rest rooms and offices. Back areas include the kitchen, prep, storage, dishwashing and refuse areas. In most locations some day support will be provided to mop up spills, dump trash and spot clean the rest rooms.

Heavy cleaning of food service areas is generally done during off hours after the kitchen or restaurant closes. This becomes more difficult in facilities that are open 24 hours. In these locations cleaning is done by closing off sections or areas or during slow periods such as after 3:00 am and before 5:30 am.

Why We Clean Food Service Areas

  1. Health and Sanitation
    Improper cleaning procedures, personal hygiene and/or food handling can result in contamination of food and surfaces by soil, foreign objects, hazardous materials, toxins or micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
  2. Safety
    Hazardous conditions often exist due to the presence of wet/greasy floors and surfaces, sharp objects, crowded spaces, time pressures, hot surfaces and fluids, plus gas, steam or electrical energy and fire.
  3. Appearance
    First impressions are critical in the food service business. Parking lots, entrances, lobbies and rest rooms must be spotless and odor free.
  4. Cost Control
    Regular maintenance is a sound management practice that controls and reduces costs.
  5. Prolong the Useful Life of Surfaces
    Money should not be wasted on premature remodeling, repairs and restoration.

Supplies And Equipment Needed

The items needed to clean offices, entrances, dining rooms and rest rooms are the same as any other building. But when it comes to cleaning food preparation and cooking areas, some specialized equipment and chemicals are needed, such as mops, pails and wringers. You will also need a deck brush, floor squeegee, wet vacuum, putty knife, white and green scrubbing pads, rags and wet floor signs. Other specialized items may include a floor machine or autoscrubber and a high pressure washer. As for chemicals, all products must be properly labeled, stored and approved for use in food service facilities and accompanied by an MSDS report. For worker safety, do not store chemicals on high shelves. Common chemicals include degreaser, disinfectant detergent, glass cleaner, sanitizer, metal polish, and abrasive cleanser. If you also clean the stoves and ovens, other specialized products such as carbon remover, delimer and oven cleaner will be required.

How To Clean Food Service Areas

The highest cleaning priority is food contact surfaces and preparation areas. Next we concentrate on high priority non-food contact areas such as dining areas, lobbies, entrances, rest rooms and parking lots. In addition we must not overlook such areas as hoods and ducts, dishwashing, refuse and food storage areas.

There are a wide variety of surfaces in a food service area. The most common are stainless steel, wood, plastic, iron, paint and glass, in addition to floor coverings such as VCT, ceramic or quarry tile, vinyl sheet goods, concrete, rubber mats and carpet.

The lowest level of cleaning is for appearance and to reduce the possibility of contamination. This level of cleaning is appropriate for non-food contact areas and surfaces such as parking lots, entrances, lobbies, floors, carpets, ceilings, walls, vents and signage. A higher and more common level of cleanliness in food service areas is sanitization. Here the purpose is to reduce or maintain germ counts at acceptable level. This is common for food preparation surfaces, tables, counters, dishware, cooking utensils and equipment.

The highest level of cleanliness is sterilization. This means to kill all living organisms. This may be needed in certain health care facilities and in some high tech food processing plants, but is seldom needed or even possible in restaurants and kitchens today.

It is important to stress the need to use cleaning methods that limit the redistribution or spreading of soil by airborne, transfer or other methods. Modern day cleaning procedures, to be effective, must be based on a four step closed cycle process:

  1. Identify the soil to be removed.
  2. Remove it from the surface (without spreading it).
  3. Package and hold it.
  4. Dispose/remove soil from the facility.

Food Preparation Areas

Kitchens get dirty with grease and trash collecting quickly. It is important that all surfaces and equipment be cleaned and the trash removed on a regular schedule to prevent unsafe or unsanitary conditions from developing.

For ease of cleaning it is best to view the kitchen as sections that have specific duties and frequencies. As an example a common grouping would be hot areas and cold areas. Cold areas include salad preparation, pantry, walk-ins, freezers, storage and other areas that are in or near the kitchen, but where no actual cooking takes place. Hot areas include stoves, grills, fryers, ovens and nearby work surfaces such as counters and tables.

Another grouping is by cleaning the task being done. As an example, all sweeping, mopping, trash dumping, counter wiping, or equipment cleaning would be done on separate passes through each section or throughout the entire kitchen if possible. Grouping like tasks (all trash dumping) together is more efficient than stopping and starting several different tasks in rapid succession in one area.

One last consideration is frequency, or how often will the different tasks be done. The basic duties such as sweeping, mopping, trash removal, sanitizing and equipment cleaning, etc. must be done daily. Other tasks may done on a less frequent or periodic schedule such as once a week, once a month, once a quarter, or once or twice yearly.

Gather Equipment and Supplies (Daily)

Stock cart with required supplies & equipment. Take all needed items with you to avoid trips back to the closet or storage area. Proceed to assigned work area

Clean Floors

Sweep daily. Move all portable items, clean under, around and behind. Sweep under equipment that can’t be moved. Remove soil adhered to floor & under equipment. Use a putty knife, razor blade scraper, scrubbing pad or brush. Pay special attention to corners, edges, baseboards, wheels and legs. Damp mop daily. Place wet signs by entrances and work areas. Use hot water, measure chemical accurately. Change water when visibly soiled. Remove adhered material. Move portable items as you proceed, clean under, around and behind stationary items. Reposition portable equipment, mats & cans. Scrub daily, wkly or monthly. Place wet sign by entrances and work areas. Move all portable items, clean wall to wall. Under stationary item flush with water & squeegee dry. Use deck brush, floor machine or autoscrubber.

Clean Floor Mats (Daily or Wkly)

Remove to cleaning area. Hose mats clean, both sides. Return to proper locations

Dispose of Trash, Clean Cans, Lids & Reline (Daily)

Dump all trash cans. Clean exterior, lid & interior if soiled. Replace liner. Place extra liner in bottom of can. Double line if extra heavy or liquids. Scrub clean interior and rinse (Weekly).

Clean Hand Sinks, Test/Refill Dispensers, (Daily)

Clean and disinfect all surfaces. Clean, refill and test all dispensers. Polish chrome and stainless to a shine. Clean below sink & spot nearby walls (Wkly).

Clean/Flush Floor Drains (Wkly or Monthly)

Remove drain cover & debris. Scrub with green pad or brush, use putty knife on adhered material. Flush with 1 gal. of water. Inspect for cleanliness (no visible soil) and replace cover.

Cleaning Food Prep And Work Surfaces (Daily)

Always start with the highest surface you will be cleaning. This way if soil, dust or crumbs are knocked loose and fall to the next lower surface, they will be removed as you clean the lower surface.

Failure to maintain at least the minimum schedule outlined above will result in unsanitary conditions, which will lead to food contamination as well as insect and rodent infestation. The standard and guide should be: if you can see soil, it needs to be cleaned.

Cleaning And Sanitizing Food Prep Surfaces (Daily)

First Pass
Using a clean white towel moistened with an approved detergent and hot water, wipe food particles and soil to the floor or onto a rag or into a trash can, box or trash bag. Use a putty knife and/or a white scrubbing pad to loosen adhered material as you proceed over the surface and around the area in a circle. Be careful not scratch or mar surfaces. Do not allow surfaces to dry before the second pass.

If the surface is heavily soiled, apply solution liberally and allow it to soak for ten to twenty minutes before scrubbing. Several wash/scrub/rinse cycles may be needed on extremely heavily soiled surfaces.

Second Pass
Rinse/wipe clean all surfaces with hot water using a clean white towel. Visually inspect all surfaces as you proceed to see that no soil, food residue or grease remains. You cannot sanitize a surface that is dirty or contaminated with any soil, food or other foreign matter.

Third Pass
Wipe/sanitize all food contact surfaces with a clean white towel liberally wet with an approvedsanitizing solution. Do not rinse; allow to air dry.

NOTE: Sanitizing food equipment and preparation surfaces should be the last step in cleaning the kitchen. Kitchen cleaning is a multi-step process.The proper sequence is as follows:

  • 1. Pick up mats and remove trash
  • 2. First pass, wipe clean food contact surfaces
  • 3. Sweep/scrub floors
  • 4. Rinse and sanitize food contact surfaces
  • 5. Inspect your work
  • 6. Return equipment and supplies to storage
  • 7. Turn off lights and secure the area.

Food prep surfaces and equipment that are used with potentially hazardous foods such as raw poultry, seafood, and meats must be cleaned throughout the day at least every four hours and more frequently under specific use conditions. This is usually a cooking staff responsibility.

Cleaning Cooking Equipment The Hot Side

Stoves, ovens, grills and fryers get heavy use and can become heavily soiled. To prevent a fire hazard or a sanitation issue from developing they must be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each work shift or at least once in each twenty-four hour period. Like other areas, the most efficient approach is to clean all hot equipment at one time in the entire kitchen or in each section. You’ll need a lot of hot water, a strong degreaser, a putty knife, a wire brush plus green scrubbing pads and rags.

  1. Turn off heat/power, let the surfaces cool slightly (10 min.).
  2. While surfaces are still warm, wire brush and/or scrape to remove food residue (Grills, ovens and griddles).
  3. Apply detergent/degreaser solution with a spray bottle, allow to soak for two to five minutes.
  4. Removable grills, grates, and stove top sections can be placed in a deep sink or tank of hot detergent/degreaser solution for soaking; allow 10 to twenty minutes while you attend to other tasks.
  5. After soaking, scrub with a wire brush, stainless steel sponge or black/green scrubbing pad to remove food residue from all surfaces, grooves and crevices. Inspect parts for cleanliness, reclean if visibly soiled.
  6. Rinse parts with hot clean water and allow to air dry.
  7. Before reinstallation, use a small wire brush to remove food residue from surrounding stove surfaces and groves, wipe clean and inspect.
  8. Wipe dry and reassemble.
  9. Hazards exist related to power sources; water control is important. Electrical power should be shut off at the circuit breaker. Gas pilot lights may need to be re-lit. These issues should be discussed with your supervisor before cleaning begins.
  10. Perform Final Inspection, Turn Off Lights, Secure Area
  11. Return Supplies & Equipment to Storage, Clean Cart & Closet

A commitment to excellence in all aspects of food service is required for long-term growth and success. Professional cleaners play a key role in achieving that success in the food service environment.