Perhaps the most important area of your establishment to clean frequently and thoroughly is your kitchen. Not only is cleanliness important for complying with and preparing for surprise visits from restaurant health inspectors, but it’s also paramount for ensuring a top-notch dining experience for customers.
You probably already have some idea of what it takes to keep your restaurant kitchen clean, but in this checklist, we’ll cover all of the items you may not have considered to keep your kitchen sanitary on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This will help you stay organized as you determine what needs to be cleaned immediately, and what you can postpone for later attention.
Clean Dishes, Pots, Pans, & Utensils
Let’s start with the obvious: stay on top of regularly cleaning plates, utensils, and kitchen pots and pans. To make life easier at the end of each shift, these should be cleaned immediately after use, if at all possible (and/or as plates and silverware are bused from tables). Clean each thoroughly with an effective dishwashing soap.
For lack of a better word, kitchen sinks can get pretty gnarly by the end of the day. It’s especially important that you don’t attempt to clean your kitchen tools in a dirty sink, so do try to reduce the accumulation of food scraps, grease, etc. in your sink throughout the day. Before closing, scrub thoroughly with a sponge and an effective dishwashing liquid.
Disinfect work counters
Counters where food is prepared can be breeding grounds for bacteria, especially after handling raw meat or fish. Since counters are regularly used throughout the food prep process, clean regularly throughout the day with a disinfectant spray and clean dish towel. Spray approximately 8-12″ from the surface, and let the disinfectant settle before wiping as the most effective practice.
Wipe tray return/surrounding area
As food is transported throughout the day through the tray return window, there are bound to be a few spills in this area. Keep it clean throughout each shift, especially as crumbs, grease, or other messes begin to accumulate. This will ensure that customers’ plates are clean and attractive as they arrive at each table.
Dishtowels are one of the most essential, “quick-fix” items in any restaurant’s kitchen. As such, there’s bound to be a pile-up of towels by the end of the day that need to be washed. Ensure this is handled on a daily basis. The worst thing would be to start a new shift without any clean linens to wipe down tables or spills. If your establishment doesn’t have a washing machine, bring towels home, and wash normally. Return the following morning, or at the beginning of the next shift.
Keeping the kitchen floor clean is absolutely essential throughout the day, especially since spills and slippery spots can lead to bad accidents. Begin by sweeping, and plan to thoroughly mop the kitchen floor upon closing. Spot-clean all other spills throughout each shift to avoid accidents and slips.
Clean ice machine exterior
Wipe down the ice machine exterior if sticky spills occur, and once at the end of each day. Spray with an effective disinfectant, and wait for spray to settle before wiping.
Clean beverage dispensers/nozzles
Few things look more unsightly than a bunch of built-up gunk surrounding a beverage dispenser or nozzle. Plan to tackle this task at the end of the day, when all customers have left. Start by emptying out leftover liquid, and then rinse out the dispenser with hot water (through the nozzle). To keep customers’ drinks safe and sanitary, clean nozzles as needed throughout the day with regular soap and water.
Vacuum floor mats
At the end of the day, vacuum all kitchen floor mats to keep a tidy, clean kitchen.
Wipe spills/splatters from walls
You should ideally wipe stains and splatters from kitchen walls as they occur, to avoid having to scrub them away later. At a minimum, spray with disinfectant at the end of each shift and wipe away to keep kitchen clean and well-maintained.
Disinfect griddles, stovetops, etc
If your kitchen has an electric stovetop, disinfect — along with griddles and other flat cooking surfaces — at the end of each day with an effective cleaning solution, and wipe clean. For gas stoves, remove cast-iron grates and soak them in hot water for up to 30 minutes, or as long as it takes for food chunks/stickiness to loosen or resolve.
Boil out/clean deep fryers
It’s important to regularly clean kitchen deep fryers each day to protect the taste of your food. Boil out, or remove, old oil, and then add water and cleaning solution. Next, boil water to effectively clean the interior. Perform at the end of each shift to prepare for a new day of cooking and food prep.
Polish all stainless steel surfaces
On a weekly basis, polish all stainless steel around your kitchen, including work tables, fridge doors, oven hoods, etc. While you’re (hopefully) cleaning and disinfecting these surfaces on a regular basis, polishing with a soft cloth and a few drops of vinegar or oil will really keep your kitchen sparkling!
Ensure that your cupboards and pantries hold properly-stored goods — for example, all crackers, seasonings, etc. should be sealed to discourage pests, and will also keep ingredients fresher for longer. Once a week, empty all pantries and wipe with a damp cloth (and disinfectant spray, if needed) to prevent spillage build-up, stickiness, or other unsanitary conditions.
Clean all freezers and refrigerators
On a weekly basis, check your refrigerators and freezers for spills resulting in messes and spills, and clean accordingly. In addition, it’s also important to thaw any ice build-ups once ice becomes more than a quarter of an inch thick. You can do this by unplugging your freezer and waiting for ice to loosen, or by targeting with a hair dryer or a heated, stainless steel spatula.
Check for lime build-up in your dishwasher on a weekly basis to prevent from getting out of hand. Lime is typically found where high mineral content causes hard water, which may be applicable to several areas of your kitchen. You can remove lime with commercial products that specifically target it, or you can opt for a natural remedy, such as vinegar, baking soda, or Borax, which may work but may be a bit more time-consuming than a more powerful product.
Delime floor under sinks, coffee machine, ice machine
Delime other applicable areas of your kitchen, such as the area around your sinks, coffee machines, and ice machine, to name a few possible problem spots. Follow the process outlined in the step above.
Clean the refrigerator condenser coil
For easy monthly cleaning of your fridge’s condenser coils, a soft-bristled brush and a vacuum will do the trick. Begin by unplugging your fridge and moving it out from the wall, then remove the panel at the very bottom of the back of your fridge to access coils. Using your brush and vacuum, scrape away as much dirt or dust as possible, vacuuming as you go.
Clean fridge drain pans
Monthly maintenance of your fridge also includes cleaning the drain pan, which catches condensation and is located at the bottom of your appliance. First, unplug your fridge, then remove the lower back panel with a screwdriver or other tool and take the drain pan out. Spray with 1 part bleach to 2 parts warm water, and let pan sit and soak for best results.
Thoroughly wash walk-in fridge interior
More than just casually wiping and washing spills, leaks, etc., it’s important to really get inside your walk-in refrigeration units and deep-clean by mopping, removing all food, and spraying all shelves with an effective disinfectant. Perform deep-cleaning approximately once per month.
Empty grease traps
On a monthly basis (or more often, if necessary), manage your grease traps, typically located outside of your establishment along the wall of your kitchen’s dishwashing station. After closing for the day, remove the lid of the grease trap, remove any built-up water, and begin scooping out grease. You can place it in a bucket, and shovel it out with a scooper or spade. Scrub traps, flush screens out, and replace lid.
Wipe your baseboards with a soft cloth and cleaning oil to eliminate dust, or disinfecting spray to remove dirt. Carefully wipe between all layers, as well as the floor underneath the baseboard to thoroughly clean. Perform monthly, or as dirt accumulates.
Thoroughly clean exhaust vents
Over time, grease will splatter and build up on your exhaust vents. To effectively clean them on a monthly basis, remove the hood filters, and scrub with dishwashing soap and hot water before replacing.
Clean drain covers
It’s also necessary to clean drain covers in your kitchen sink(s). Despite the fact that you’ll be regularly disinfecting your kitchen sinks, drain covers should especially be thoroughly cleaned at least once per month, as food particles and other waste tends to accumulate in the cover and leave sticky residue behind. For quick and easy cleaning, disinfect with 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of white vinegar solution, and let sit for several minutes before rinsing and replacing.