Operations

Spic and span—on a schedule

Cleaning may not be the most exciting part of foodservice, but it’s a vital one. Having a plan signals to staff the standards you expect them to uphold. “Cleaning should be part of your culture,” says Zia Ahmed, senior director of dining services at Ohio State University

At OSU, cleaning is routine. “It’s not the deep clean, but continuous cleaning, that is the most important thing,” Ahmed says. “The more you practice that, the better off you are in terms of maintaining a facility in tip-top shape.” He believes most tasks—from sanitizing counters to cleaning out the oven cavity—should be done every day. Meanwhile, areas like the oven fan can be cleaned less frequently as preventive maintenance.

Other operations do practice a deep-cleaning schedule. Susan Roberson, director of nutrition services for Richmond Public Schools, says her kitchen managers use common sense to schedule cleaning. “I can’t say there’s a science of deciding that, but we just know,” she says. Daily cleaning tasks at the Virginia district include counters, equipment, floors and student-facing points like the tray line. Weekly, the department changes out mop heads and cleans the refrigerator and milk coolers; monthly, they might take a closer look at the walk-in or the windowsills.

Ahmed suggests operators keep in mind what’s getting dirty during everyday work, like spills from the fryer to the floor. “You want to think about the process of how cleaning is impacting another area, and follow that logic,” he says. Seeking input from staff helps with efficiency since they have real-time experience.

Roberson agrees. “You could have the best schedule there is and still not have a clean area because the staff has a lack of training and a lack of supplies.” She trains staff annually and conducts inspections to ensure cleaning products are used properly. Ultimately, she says, “There’s a team approach to cleaning, just like the other tasks going on inside of the building.” 

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