Now that COVID-19 has invaded our lives and taken over nearly every activity we engage in, cleaning is at the forefront of everybody’s mind. Industries all over the world have come to a screeching halt with restaurants being near the top of that list. As for the virus, this too shall pass, but it will leave behind an ongoing post-traumatic ordeal that many people will continue to struggle with. The lingering question of “what is really clean?” will be ever-present. This is where commercial cleaning becomes a very important aspect of every business – especially restaurants.
Historically, commercial cleaning has been treated as a cost that many companies tried to minimize as much as possible. Covid-19 has created a shift in mindset, so business owners aren’t looking for the cheapest cleaning anymore, but cleaning done by a reputable brand using EPA and CDC approved disinfectants, performed by highly trained cleaners with documented and duplicatable procedures. Proper cleaning is the first line of defense when it comes to customer and employee health and will most likely be a key factor in the future success of your restaurant.
The good news is that people are resilient, strong, and love to dine out with friends and family. I believe the restaurant industry will rebound sooner rather than later. Restaurants will likely change the layout and capacity restrictions to accommodate new social distancing rules, but nonetheless, they will be filled with people wanting a return to normalcy, a return to shared meals with family and friends, a return to good conversation over a great meal. As restaurateurs, you will return to greeting guests, return to working with your staff, but in addition to great food and spirits, you will be required to offer a safe, clean dining experience like never before.
As you start to think about re-opening, hiring a commercial cleaning company or re-thinking your current cleaning contracts will be top of your list. It is important to start this process about one month before re-opening your dining spaces. You will need this time to create a new plan that includes varying levels of cleaning, frequency of cleaning, and to fully understand how that cleaning regimen affects your customers and employees. You will want to build out a plan for both front and back of house operations, which require very different approaches and separate action plans. Furthermore, you will want time to advertise to your customers the lengths you have gone through to provide a clean, safe dining experience. Remember that you are facing two challenges: instituting and maintaining new standards of cleanliness and making sure your customers feel safe and satisfied with the new cleaning regimen. Their perception of clean will be just as important as the cleaning itself.
Here is some advice on preparing your restaurant to re-open once the new normal takes shape across America and a list of questions to ask when you meet with a commercial cleaning company.
First, there are cleaning and disinfection recommendations by the CDC that are important to review. These chemicals can help when cleaning surfaces areas and commonly touched places including dining tables, chairs, doorknobs, handles, light switches, bar tops, toilets, faucets, sinks, and many more places.
Second, understanding surface dwell times is extremely important. This is the amount of time solvents need to stay on the surface to properly kill germs, viruses, and bacteria. Spraying and immediately wiping is NOT an acceptable cleaning practice and does very little, if anything, to protect against the spread of diseases.
Lastly, know and understand the difference between “cleaning,” “sanitizing,” and “disinfecting” and what is the proper process to kill bacteria, germs, and potential virus strains. Let’s take a moment to look the differences:
Cleaning removes dirt, impurities, and many germs from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by reducing or removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements (though this may change in the coming months/years). This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirt from surfaces, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. Keep in mind, proper cleaning must be performed before attempting to disinfect.
The following is a list of topics you will want to highlight when speaking with your commercial cleaning company (or when looking to hire one) and building out a new cleaning plan:
- Ask if they use an electrostatic sprayer, a pump/battery sprayer, or a manual spray of disinfectants – this will give you an idea of the process and how long it takes to properly disinfect.
- Make sure they are using hospital grade, EPA-approved disinfectants. Ask for the list of solvents/solutions they plan to use for each level of cleaning (they should be able to provide product sheets from OSHA).
- Ask them to define what deep cleaning disinfection entails and ask about surface dwell times. Make sure you are satisfied with their answers.
- Ask about nightly disinfection of high-frequency touch areas such as light switches, handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs, fridge handles, etc.
- Ask if they provide posters to put up once your restaurant has been disinfected so that customers and employees are well aware of your cleaning regimen.
- Ask about a cleaning solvent that can be safely used multiple times throughout the restaurant shift to keep high-touch areas as clean as possible.
Finally, we want everybody to be safe once America starts to re-open businesses. We want to return to our favorite restaurants and are rooting for all businesses to re-open successfully. Remember, take the necessary steps to protect yourself, your customers and your staff. Come up with a plan and give yourself ample time to initiate that plan before re-opening. Be mindful of your surroundings, wash your hands frequently, and use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.