Diners are in the driver’s seat when it comes to identifying restaurant issues, thanks to review sites like Yelp. These user-contributed reviews frequently identify issues with poor service, food quality, or cleanliness.
“Before dining at a new restaurant, many patrons now go online to read reviews about the restaurant, discover popular dishes or identify hours of operation,” said Ann Nickolas, senior director of foodservice for Cintas Corporation. “Reviews citing poor cleanliness in a restaurant can be an instant turn-off for prospective diners and lead to lost business before the patron even steps in the door.
What could a reviewer say about your facility? Keep your online reputation positive by learning from others’ reviews, which reveal that the top five dirtiest areas in a restaurant typically include:
1. Floors. One of the first things patrons see when they walk into a restaurant is the floor. A recent consumer poll revealed that a dirty floor could lead 68% of respondents to exit the facility immediately and never return. Look beyond dirt and debris and ensure discolored grout lines and carpet stains aren’t tainting guests’ perception of your restaurant.
One reviewer of a major restaurant chain located in Chicago reported: “[This restaurant] has the appearance of being clean due to style, but is actually pretty dirty. The floor has crumbs and dirt all over it, for example.”
To combat dirt and stains, implement a floor care program that focuses on deep cleaning, protecting, and maintaining floor surfaces. Add mats that contain dirt to keep surfaces clean longer and ensure that you’re presenting a clean appearance.
2. Restrooms. Dirt, debris, unflushed toilets, unstocked paper goods, and general bad odors are common topics in online restaurant reviews. In fact, some users avoid restrooms – or the restaurant – altogether after witnessing a poorly maintained restroom.
Avoid this by implementing a restroom care program that includes regular deep cleanings in addition to restocking restroom products. On top of daily maintenance, schedule a deep cleaning program to remove organic soils that can cause odors, but can’t be removed with regular mops and brushes.
3. Tables. Leftovers, crumpled napkins, and general dirt left on and around tables can make guests feel unwelcome or leave them with a negative impression of the restaurant. This prevented a reviewer of a Miami-based fast food Mexican restaurant from giving the restaurant a better rating. He noted, “I would have given four stars, but I noticed a few tables were dirty and the little bar at which we sat I had to clean myself prior to sitting down.”
Designate a porter to handle front of the house cleaning issues like dirty tables or spilled drinks. This person’s primary responsibility should be to keep the dining room clean and ready for guests.
4. Staff. Unkempt staff can create an immediate turn-off for restaurant patrons. Employees’ appearance is a visible indicator of the restaurant’s overall commitment to cleanliness.
In addition to enforcing good personal hygiene, ensure that staff members are dressed in an apparel program that reflects the brand standard of the restaurant. When a new employee begins work, fit them for correct sizing and immediately remove stained or worn uniforms from operation.
5. Kitchen. Regardless of whether you open the kitchen to guest viewing or operate behind closed doors, kitchen cleanliness is imperative in any foodservice operation. Reviewers will be the first to applaud kitchen cleanliness or highlight issues. A reviewer of a Chinese restaurant in Seattle noted, “I took off one star for this place because I sat near the entry to their kitchen once… I saw how dirty it was.”
Keep kitchen surfaces clean and odor-free by sanitizing regularly and deep cleaning on a regular basis. Also consider a drain line maintenance program, which can help reduce odors from restaurant drains and limit food sources for insects such as fruit flies, the presence of which can indicate a lack of attention to cleanliness.