Jun 20, 2022
A Guide to Cleaning and Sanitizing in Restaurants
“Cleanliness is next to godliness” 

This statement holds true, especially when we think about the food industry. The United States reports a whopping 48 million cases of foodborne illness yearly, making cleaning and sanitizing in restaurants and any food facility a non-negotiable. The bacteria and viruses that commonly contaminate food and water lead to life-threatening illnesses and some cases, deaths are:

  • Escherichia Coli 
  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella can lead to Salmonellosis and Enteric fever
  • Campylobacter
  • Listeria
  • Hepatitis A virus

So what can you do as a restaurant owner to avoid such mishaps? The key is a robust training program for your staff on cleaning and sanitation in a restaurant.

Having well-defined restaurant cleaning procedures, restaurant cleaning checklists, and restaurant equipment maintenance checklists can go a long way in helping you stay on top of the cleaning and sanitization game.

This blog has put together the core processes of cleaning and sanitizing restaurants to ensure you serve safe and healthy food. So let’s get cracking! 

But first things first. Cleaning and sanitizing are two different processes, and the two must not be confused to be the same thing.

Difference Between Cleaning and Sanitizing

Cleaning: Removing dirt from surfaces using a water and soap solution.

Sanitizing: Process by which surfaces are cleaned using chemicals or heat to kill germs, viruses, and bacteria.

  • Even surfaces that appear clean to the eye may have germs on them if they are not appropriately sanitized. 
  • Food contact surfaces must be washed, rinsed, and sanitized after every use to kill germs that may lead to foodborne illness.
  • Soap and chemical sanitizers should never be mixed.
  • Chemical sanitizers should be mixed and used strictly per the instructions given on the package label.
  • Always use test strips to check the potency of sanitizers.
  • The sanitization solution must be changed frequently. Dirt, food particles, grease, and germs are ineffective after using them several times.
  • Store wiping cloth in a clean sanitizer solution.
  • When washing dishes by hand, all food contact surfaces and dishes must be washed, rinsed, and sanitized between uses.

Restaurant Cleaning And Sanitizing Processes

Any surface that comes in contact with food must be cleaned before sanitizing. These include:

  • Any stationery equipment 
  • Cutting boards
  • Work tables
  • Large utensils, cookware
  • Service equipment
  • Flatware, silverware
  • Floors
  • Dining tables, chairs
  • Door handles

Washing dishes by hand v/s using a commercial dishwasher

Steps to wash dishes by hand:

The three sink method is highly recommended for washing and sanitizing utensils by hand in a commercial kitchen clean process.

  • Clean and sanitize the sink.
  • Scrape leftover food in the sink and dispose of it in the garbage bin.
  • Wash the utensils in a hot soapy water solution in the first sink.
  • Then rinse and clean them with hot water in the second sink.
  • To sanitize, soak the dishes in the third sink filled with a solution of warm water and sanitizer. (approved sanitizer)
  • Most important, air dries the dishes. Wiping them with a towel is like inviting germs to breed.

An alternative is to use a commercial dishwasher to wash, rinse, and sanitize utensils. Many of the same practices we use for home dishwashers also apply to commercial dishwashers. However, the following must be kept in mind:

  • Ensure that the temperature for sanitization is correct.
  • The machine's temperature gauges and sanitizer levels must be monitored.

Steps to wash dishes using a commercial dishwasher:

  • First, scrape any leftover food from the utensils into the garbage bin.
  • Rinse them with water and stack them in the dishwasher tray in the designated place. 
  • Plates should not be stacked on top of each other as this will disrupt proper water circulation. Plates and other flatware (trays, platters) should be placed upright and edgewise.
  • Glasses, cups, and bowls should be placed upside down.
  • Once the cleaning is complete, dishes should be allowed to air-dry and not be wiped with a cloth before removing them from the racks.
  • Carefully examine every utensil from the dishwasher for any spots or stains, soap residue, food particles on plates and flatware, and any chipping or cracking of any utensil.

Storing clean utensils

Now that all utensils are clean, dried, and sanitized, the next step is segregating and storing them properly to avoid cross-contamination and ease of use.

  • Make sure not to touch any part of the utensils that touch the mouth, such as the rim of a glass, the rim of the plate, the head of the spoon and fork, etc. Any silverware must always be touched by the neck or handle only.
  • Cups, bowls, glasses, pans, and pots must always be stored upside down.
  • Store utensils 6 inches above the floor in a clean and dry area.

Cleaning and sanitizing the beverage dispenser

  • Wash your hands and wear disposable gloves before you start cleaning the beverage dispensers.
  • Remove the nozzles and diffusers from the dispensing machine and place them in a sanitizer solution.
  • Clean the underside of the diffuser, valve areas, and inside lower valve bodies with the help of a beverage tower brush.
  • Do not forget to rinse and dip the brush in a sanitizer solution before and after each valve cleaning.
  • Use a clean sanitizer-soaked towel to wipe the diffuser and valve areas.
  • Now remove the nozzles soaked in the sanitizer solution and gently brush them inside with a beverage tower brush.
  • Rinse them and again soak in the sanitizer solution for a minute or two.
  • The nozzles and diffusers can now be reinstalled in the beverage dispenser machine.
  • Rinse the beverage tower brush thoroughly after use.

Cleaning and sanitizing kitchen work surfaces and countertops

A restaurant kitchen’s worktop is never idle. There is always some activity making it an ideal place for germs, bacteria, and viruses to thrive if not cleaned and sanitized after every use. So, how do you make sure that these elements are at bay?

The countertops must be cleaned and sanitized before and after every use. What all will you need:

  • 2 buckets (one for cleaning solution and the other for sanitizer solution)
  • All-purpose cleaner to make the cleaning solution
  • Sanitizer tablets
  • Test strips
  • Kitchen towels
  • Spray bottle
  •  Gloves

Wear gloves to clean the surface using a water and soap (recommended soap/cleaner) solution. The water must be clean and warm (recommended temperature for cleaning is about 110 degrees Fahrenheit). Take a clean kitchen towel, dip it in the cleaning solution, squeeze it, and thoroughly wipe the countertop. Rinse the cloth in between uses. Next, prepare your sanitizing solution and test it for potency. Fill it in a bottle sprayer, spray generously over kitchen countertops once cleaned, and wipe it with a clean cloth.

Other key points with regards to cleaning and sanitization

  • All staff should thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water before and after food preparation, handling raw food, whether it breaks or after handling waste, stock taking, etc.
  • Minimize personal physical contact between your staff.
  • Disinfect and maintain all kitchen equipment.
  • Maintain daily, weekly, and monthly checklists.

Ensure a safe and healthy dining experience, and stay on top of all health and safety compliances by training your staff in cleaning and sanitization.

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