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The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Sanitation :Keeping Your Business Clean and Safe

In the fast-paced world of running a restaurant, it's crucial to prioritize the cleanliness and safety of your establishment. From ensuring the health of your staff and customers to complying with food safety regulations, proper sanitation practices are essential.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore innovative ways to improve and maintain your restaurant's sanitation practices, market your commitment to cleanliness, and provide tips for creating a safe environment. Let's dive in!

A man wearing a face mask cleaning an outdoor table.

Understanding Health and Safety Guidelines for Restaurants

To operate a successful restaurant, it's crucial to follow health and safety guidelines to keep your customers safe and your doors open for business. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established stringent regulations that restaurants must adhere to, including maintaining clean floors, safe food handling practices, fire safety measures, optimal working conditions, and age limitations. However, going above and beyond these regulations can help you create a clean and healthy environment that instills trust in your customers.

How to Run a Clean Restaurant

To ensure the cleanliness and hygiene of your restaurant, it's essential to establish specific practices and protocols. By implementing the following strategies, you can maintain a safe and clean environment for your staff and customers :

A group of chefs wearing face masks in a restaurant.

1. Create a Safe Environment

Gain your customers' trust by making your restaurant feel like a safe and clean place to dine. Implement restaurant cleanliness guidelines, such as regular disinfection using effective sanitizers and cleaners. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) like disposable gloves, hand sanitizer stations, and hand-washing stations to enhance the safety and cleanliness of your restaurant.

Two people preparing coffee in a coffee shop.

2. Create a Cleaning Schedule

Establish a routine cleaning schedule to ensure that your restaurant is regularly sanitized and disinfected. Divide your cleaning tasks into daily, weekly, and repeated tasks. Regularly clean surfaces that come into direct contact with food, sanitize tables and seats after each visitor, wash and sterilize cooking and dining utensils, and clean high-traffic surfaces like railings and door handles. Don't forget to check and restock bathrooms regularly.

A group of people preparing food in a kitchen.

3. Follow Food Safety Guidelines

Maintaining food safety practices is paramount to running a healthy and clean restaurant. Encourage proper handwashing among your staff, separate utensils and prep surfaces for raw meats, wash produce appropriately, and ensure that foods are cooked to the right temperatures. Regularly check and clean cooking units, dust walls and corners, and sanitize cooking and dining equipment.

A woman wearing a mask and apron is standing outside a restaurant.

4. Reimagine Your Restaurant's Layout

Consider redesigning your restaurant’s kitchen and seating areas to allow for ample distance between diners and increased airflow. This not only promotes cleanliness but also provides customers with a sense of comfort and privacy. Open up your kitchen’s layout to allow for better airflow and more space between workers. Additionally, consider offering touchless dining solutions like mobile pay, digital menus, and contactless pick-up and delivery to minimize person-to-person contact and reduce the spread of germs.

A person is using a machine to clean a floor.

5. Communicate Your Commitment to Health and Safety

Once you have implemented and maintained a clean and safe environment, it’s crucial to communicate these efforts to your customers. Inform them of your rigorous cleaning procedures, touchless dining options, and inspections to instill confidence in your restaurant. Emphasize your commitment to health and safety in your marketing materials, signage, and online presence.

Maintaining Personal Hygiene for Food Safety

Personal hygiene plays a vital role in preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses. Proper handwashing, hygiene practices, and managing staff illnesses are essential aspects of maintaining a safe and clean restaurant environment.

A person washing their hands with soap in a sink.

Handwashing : The First Line of Defense

Handwashing is a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. Proper handwashing involves the following steps:

1.  Wet your hands with clean, running water.
2.  Apply soap and lather your hands, including the backs, between fingers, and under nails.
3.  Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
4.  Rinse your hands thoroughly under clean, running water.
5.  Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Encourage your staff to wash their hands regularly, especially before and after handling food, after using the restroom, and after interacting with high-touch surfaces. Display signage in restrooms and near handwashing sinks to remind employees and customers of the importance of hand hygiene.

Hygiene Practices for Staff

In addition to handwashing, maintaining proper personal hygiene practices among your staff is essential. Implement the following practices to ensure cleanliness:

1.  Hair Restraints: Require food handlers to wear clean hats or hair restraints, including beard restraints, to prevent hair from falling into food.
2.  Clean Work Uniforms: All uniforms and aprons should be laundered regularly, and soiled uniforms should be stored away from food preparation areas.
3.  Jewelry: Remove jewelry before handling food, as it can harbor germs or accidentally fall into food. A plain wedding band is acceptable.
4.  Eating and Drinking: Prohibit employees from eating or drinking near food and food preparation areas. If employees need to consume beverages, ensure they are stored in cups with lids and straws, handled carefully, and kept away from food, utensils, and equipment.

A person cleaning a wooden table with a bottle of water.
A group of people in green aprons working in a restaurant.

Staff Illnesses and Exclusion Policies

Staff illnesses can pose a significant risk to the safety of your customers and employees. It’s crucial to establish policies that address staff illnesses and prevent the spread of pathogens. Educate your staff about common foodborne illness-causing pathogens and the importance of reporting illnesses.

Encourage employees to notify a manager if they experience symptoms or have been diagnosed with an illness caused by pathogens like norovirus, Shigella spp., nontyphoidal Salmonella,
E. coli, hepatitis A, or Salmonella Typhi.

Exclusion policies should be in place to ensure that staff members with symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, or jaundice are not allowed to work until they receive a written release from a doctor.

Disposable Glove Use

Using disposable gloves correctly can further prevent the spread of germs. Train your staff on proper glove usage, including the following guidelines:

1.  Hands must be washed before putting on gloves.
2.  Gloves should be changed at appropriate times, such as after handling raw meat, before touching ready-to-eat food, when gloves become dirty or torn, before starting a new task, or after continuous use for four hours.

Proper glove usage combined with regular handwashing is an effective way to maintain hand hygiene and prevent cross-contamination.

A chef cutting a salad on a plate.

Proper Food Handling Practices

Proper food handling is essential to prevent foodborne illnesses and maintain the quality and safety of your menu items. From receiving and handling to holding and storage, each step of the food handling process requires strict controls and attention to detail.

A group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant.

Receiving and Handling

The proper receiving and handling of food shipments are crucial to maintaining food safety. Follow these guidelines :

1.  Inspect all food shipments: Carefully inspect each food shipment for signs of damage or contamination. Reject any shipments that do not meet temperature requirements or show signs of time-temperature abuse.
2.  Prevent cross-contamination: Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods to prevent the transfer of pathogens. Use color-coded kitchen tools and clean and sanitize equipment after each use.
3.  Cook food to safe temperatures: Properly cook food to the correct internal temperatures to destroy harmful pathogens. Use a reliable thermometer to ensure accurate temperature readings.

Holding and Storage

Holding and storing food properly is crucial to prevent the growth of harmful pathogens. Follow these guidelines:

1.  Food Holding: When holding food for future service, monitor temperatures to ensure they remain within safe ranges. Use appropriate equipment such as hot-holding cabinets or cold storage to maintain safe temperatures.
2.  Proper Cooling: Cool foods properly to prevent them from entering the temperature danger zone. Use a two-step cooling process: cool from 135 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit within 2 hours, then cool from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 41 degrees Fahrenheit within 4 hours.
3.  Food Storage: Practice proper food storage techniques to prevent cross-contamination and ensure the freshness and quality of your ingredients. Follow the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method and store different types of food in the correct order to prevent cross-contamination.

An empty warehouse with shelves full of food.
A woman wearing a face mask cleaning a table in a restaurant.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

Cleaning and sanitizing are crucial steps in maintaining a clean and safe restaurant environment. Proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures ensure that surfaces and equipment are free from harmful bacteria and pathogens.

How to Clean and Sanitize Food Contact Surfaces

To effectively clean and sanitize food contact surfaces, follow these steps:

1.  Remove any food debris: Wipe the surface to remove any crumbs or food particles.

2.  Wash the surface: Use an approved food-safe cleaning solution to wash the surface thoroughly.

3.  Rinse the surface: Rinse the surface with clean water to remove any residue.

4.  Sanitize the surface: Apply an approved sanitizing solution to the surface and let it air dry.

Regularly remind your staff to sanitize surfaces after completing tasks, when interrupted, or after using the same surface for four continuous hours.

A woman cleaning a stainless steel table with a spray bottle.
A large commercial kitchen with stainless steel appliances.

Cleaning and Sanitizing Equipment

Properly cleaning and sanitizing kitchen equipment is essential for preventing cross-contamination and maintaining food safety. Follow these general guidelines:

1.  Disassemble and wash: Disassemble any removable parts of equipment and wash them by hand or run them through a dishwasher.
2.  Clean surfaces: Clean any food debris from equipment surfaces using an approved cleaner.
3.  Sanitize equipment: Apply an approved sanitizing solution to equipment surfaces and let them air dry before reassembling.

Dishwashing Guidelines

Establishing a proper dishwashing program is essential for cleaning and sanitizing cookware, utensils, and tableware. Follow these guidelines:

1.   High-Temperature Dishwashers: Use high-temperature dishwashers that reach a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the final rinse to effectively eliminate germs.
2.  Chemical Dishwashers: Chemical dishwashers rely on approved sanitizers to eliminate pathogens. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.
3.  Three-Compartment Sinks: If using a three-compartment sink, ensure that each sink is properly set up for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing. Refer to our three-compartment sink guide for detailed instructions.

A man is putting dishes into a dish rack.

Pest Control Measures

Pests can pose a significant threat to the cleanliness and safety of your restaurant. Preventing pests from entering your establishment and addressing infestations promptly is crucial to maintaining a clean and safe environment.

A woman is standing at a table in a restaurant.

Deny Access

Prevent pests from entering your restaurant by taking the following measures:

1.  Inspect food shipments: Carefully inspect food shipments to detect any signs of pests or contamination. Reject any shipments with evidence of pest activity.

2.  Seal entry points: Identify and seal any openings or cracks that pests can use to gain access to your building. Install door sweeps and screens on windows and vents to prevent airborne pests.

The interior of a restaurant with wooden tables and chairs.

Deny Food and Shelter

Remove the factors that attract pests to your establishment by implementing the following practices:

1.  Proper waste management: Regularly remove garbage and keep trash containers clean. Ensure that dumpsters are closed securely. Clean up spills, crumbs, and food debris immediately.

2.  Cleaning practices: Thoroughly clean and sanitize food preparation areas, including beneath equipment and in hard-to-reach areas. Clean out crumb-catchers and sweep beneath booths and tables. Regularly clean and maintain dining areas to prevent food residues that attract pests.

A man using a vacuum to clean a kitchen.

Work with Pest Control Professionals

If you encounter a pest infestation, it’s crucial to contact a licensed pest control professional. They have the expertise and knowledge to handle the situation safely and effectively. Prompt action is essential to prevent further infestations and ensure the cleanliness and safety of your restaurant.

Purchasing from Approved Suppliers

Sourcing food from reputable and approved suppliers is essential for maintaining food safety.
When selecting suppliers, consider the following:

A variety of vegetables and fruits on a wooden table.

1. Reputation and Quality: Choose suppliers with a good reputation for providing high-quality and safe food products. Check for certifications and inspections to ensure compliance with food safety standards.

2. Storage and Transportation Practices: Inquire about the supplier's storage and transportation practices to ensure that food products are handled and transported safely.

3. Communication and Transparency: Maintain open communication with suppliers to address any concerns or issues regarding food safety. Regularly review their safety protocols and practices to ensure ongoing compliance.

By purchasing from approved suppliers, you can trust that the food products you receive meet the necessary safety standards and contribute to a clean and safe restaurant environment.


Maintaining a clean and safe environment is essential for the success of your restaurant.

By following health and safety guidelines, implementing proper personal hygiene practices, practicing safe food handling, cleaning and sanitizing regularly, addressing pest control measures, and purchasing from approved suppliers, you can ensure the cleanliness and safety of your establishment.

Prioritize the well-being of your staff and customers, and communicate your commitment to health and safety to instill trust and confidence in your restaurant. Remember, a clean and safe restaurant is a recipe for success!