The New Year is a perfect time to see your restaurant through a fresh set of eyes. When you are in your operation day after day, little things sometimes go unnoticed. In these days of consumers' food safety concerns, you cannot afford to have customers think that a lack of attention to your dining area or restrooms is a reflection of your kitchen's cleanliness. Clean bathrooms might be the most important marketing job in your restaurant. Consumers consistently site dirty bathrooms as the primary reason for not returning to restaurants.
Here is a suggestion for reviewing your operation's cleanliness. Get a clipboard and list all the elements of your operation; hallway or entryway, host station or carry out area, dining room, bathrooms, kitchen door, tables and chairs, salt and pepper shakers, coat racks etc. Make a chart, walk around and rate their condition. Do items need cleaning? Fresh paint or even replacement? Are your floor splashboards free of mop stains? Do your carpets need professional cleaning? You will be amazed at all the little items you have not seen because of your big picture focus.
From this list, prioritize what needs improvement. Clean the simple items first. If your staff is too busy, hire an outside cleaning crew. Next, list each item that needs an upgrade and assign an estimated cost. It may take some time to get everything done. You may not be able to pay for everything at once, so next rank them by cost and priority. Spend the money first where it is most visible to your customers. A little paint can go a long way to improve your image and project a sense of consumer safety. Look outside at your parking lot and signage. Does your building need a paint job, parking lot re-stripped to show spaces, light bulbs replaced on your signs? Some of these items you might be able to negotiate with your landlord.
Finally, run your hand under the tabletops and under the chairs. Kids do funny things and other kids will probably find out! Nothing turns off families like finding gum, food and other materials stuck underneath the furniture.
Great food paired with great service is not always enough to win great restaurant reviews. You must offer those items in a clean, safe environment where consumers feel comfortable. In these days of consumer safety and YELP, you cannot afford to be less than clean. Start the New Year off right with a sparkling focus, your customers and your staff will notice that you care.
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.