How To Clean Your Restaurant Hardware
Among other things, the pandemic emphasized sanitation practices in public faces businesses like the restaurant industry. With so much coverage of cleanliness and hygiene standards, patrons are more aware than ever. Guests want a hygienic restaurant environment, which can lead to your operations’ long-term success well beyond the pandemic. Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces are both a regular function of most restaurants and codified into law around the world. An often overlooked aspect of your hygiene efforts, do you know how to clean and sanitize your restaurant hardware?
What is ServeSafe?
In years past, the cleanliness of a restaurant fell on overworked health inspectors to monitor and ensure throughout the year. Now, with so much information out there about how to clean what to clean and how often to clean, restaurants are held to higher standards by every customer who dines with them. Restaurants in North America and other parts of the world often rely on ServSafe as their one-stop-shop for advice on cleaning and sanitizing standards.
ServSafe training is often a requirement of health departments, who typically stipulate that at least one manager and several other team members go through training to best ensure that standards are consistent and well understood. Right now, ServSave is even offering free COVID resources in partnership with the National Restaurant Association.
Cleaning Vs. Sanitation
There is a difference between “cleaning” and “sanitizing.” Cleaning is the removal of visible soil from a surface while sanitizing reduces the number of pathogens on that clean surface to safe levels. Everything in the restaurant must be clean and all food contact surfaces must be sanitized. Under new COVID guidelines, there are additional sanitation measures required to help keep customers and team members safe.
Common Cleaning Tips
Any area that comes in contact with food will require cleaning and sanitizing multiple times a day with products that are safe for use on food contact surfaces. Remember that many commercial cleaning products require proper dilution to work properly. In most cases, the products supply testing strips to ensure you get the dilution/concentration formula correct. Likewise, you need to allow for resting time, which is the amount of time needed to allow the disinfectants to work. In doing so, you ensure that the surfaces are properly sanitized after cleaned without inadvertently adding chemicals to the food itself on accident.
Areas that are non-food contacts such as the counters, lobbies, and restroom areas should be cleaned and sanitized frequently with an approved product that includes the appropriate dilution and resting time to ensure proper disinfection. High touch areas you may need to monitor more than normal include door handles, counters, rails, chairs, restroom soap, and paper dispensers along with other areas of the dining rooms.
Proper training on the use of chemicals is very important to their effectiveness. Remember: always refer to your product’s packaging for instructions to ensure safe use.
Cleaning Your Restaurant Hardware
One area of the operation that you may not be used to cleaning is your restaurant hardware. Registers, kitchen display systems (KDS), tablets, credit card machines, and receipt printers. Often these tools are touched by multiple people throughout the shift and rarely get cleaned, let alone sanitized.
Restaurant hardware is designed to be durable and withstand daily use, temperatures, and harsh working environments. Many pieces of technology are designed to limit contact from patrons, which mitigates the transmission of germs. These devices are such a part of the lives of the restaurant staff that they are often overlooked in how frequently they are touched and how dirty they may be.
Point of Sale Scrubbing
You might use a terminal point-of-sale (POS) that sits on a counter and has buttons or a touch screen to ring in orders. These are touched multiple times per hour and can become dirtier than you realize. In general, the non-touchscreen parts of the terminal can be cleaned very similarly to your lobby areas. Use an all-purpose cleaner sprayed onto a cloth then wipe the device down. If necessary, lightly scrub any excessively dirty areas with a scrubbing pad then wipe clean with a cloth.
For the touch screen or keyboard portion, most manufacturers recommend turning off the device and using alcohol wipes to clean and sanitize the surfaces. Because you should allow surfaces to air dry before the next use of such an important part of your operation, you need to plan ahead. If you have multiple cashier stations, switch between them when cleaning to allow time. If not, wait until the end of a shift to clean.
With restaurant technology investments a high priority throughout the pandemic, screens are an increasingly common example of restaurant hardware. That includes (but is not limited to) every screen from the KDS in your back-of-house (BOH) to your order-ready displays for order pickup, your touch screens, and everything in between. These stations require cleaning too!
As with your POS, most manufacturers state that turning off the device and even unplugging it is the safest way to clean them. This may require cleaning after hours to avoid any break in your service. Use premoistened wipes to ensure there isn’t excessive liquid being used on the screen. If those wipes aren’t available, spray glass cleaner on a soft cloth and clean your device. Allow your screens to air dry before turning back on.
Sanitizing Your Tablets
A multi-functional piece of restaurant hardware technology, tablets may serve as mobile ordering stations for waitstaff, a means of taking payments, a guest management tool for your front-of-house (FOH) staff, and more. Many of the screens on these devices have a special coating on them that can be ruined by using any cleaning chemicals. While you should review the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific device, many ask that you use a dry soft cloth to remove smudges. If necessary, use a hydrogen-peroxide solution with a soft cloth to remove any buildup.
Cleaning Your Computer
Your computers and keyboards are behind your various screens and bump bars, as an essential component of your restaurant hardware stack. Again, most manufacturers recommend turning these devices off to properly clean them of dust and grime. Keyboards can be turned upside down tapped to remove particles that have become stuck. Use a brush to get in between keys and/or compressed air cans to blow out dust and dirt.
As a rule of thumb, do not spray cleaner directly onto or into devices. Avoid getting any liquid inside your devices or their screens. Use alcohol wipes when cleaning sensitive tech, which includes your computer and screen. If needed use a soft cloth with a common spray cleaner to remove buildup. Allow the device to air dry then plug it back in and turn it on.
The Future of Sanitizing Your Restaurant Hardware
For thirty years, I’ve worked in the restaurant industry, including as a ServSafe instructor, so I understand the struggle. When possible look for restaurant management platforms and technology that are durable and as easy to clean as they are to use. We all understand that cleaning and sanitizing are important and necessary to keep ourselves and our customers safe, and that includes your restaurant hardware as much as your surfaces and common areas. Fortunately, the pandemic encouraged innovation in cleaning. Likewise, there are technologies out there now to help streamline cleaning processes.
Do you have any cleaning tips that work in your operation? Let us know in the comments section below.
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About the Author
Shari McCauley is the Product Training Specialist at QSR Automations, where she focuses on educating employees and customers on the benefits and uses of QSR technology. You can reach Shari at firstname.lastname@example.org.