How to Effectively Sanitize & Clean Your Restaurant in 8 Steps

How to Effectively Sanitize & Clean Your Restaurant in 8 Steps
Dew Smith

By Dew Smith

Let’s face it—chefs are clean freaks. Who can blame them? There’s nothing better than a tidy workstation and clean range hood before service hour; and the post-shift scrub down of the kitchen can be a form of meditation for stressed out chefs.

Chefs pride themselves on their sparkling kitchens, and during COVID-19, customers need more than ever to be reassured of the cleanliness and safety of ordering from your restaurant. While some restaurants don’t speak out about their restaurant’s cleaning procedures, others have detailed their exact sanitization requirements on social media to help customers feel safe. There’s no right or wrong answer (although we would recommend promoting your sanitization techniques on social media), but ensuring that your restaurant is safe for both your customers and staff is an absolute must—especially as dining areas begin to reopen.

Here are some guidelines to consider implementing before your next shift.

1. Create a sanitization & cleaning checklist 📝

You likely already have a cleaning routine that you have communicated with your team and have some procedure of checking to ensure it has been completed.

Create (or update) your cleaning task list for both FOH and BOH staff to double down on sanitization in your restaurant. Create task items for each high-traffic surface (doors, chairs, etc.), each surface that comes into contact with food, and any supplies or equipment that’s used through the day.

If you’re using a task management app like 7tasks, ensure that each task is assigned to a specific person to enforce accountability—and have your managers check the task list progress throughout the shift.

2. Choose the right cleaning products 🧼

Soap and water, bleach, disinfectant—all of these products have different intended uses and some may not be safe to use in a kitchen environment where food is prepared.

Work with your suppliers to find products that meet EPA disinfection criteria and make sure employees understand the usage requirements, such as:

  • how much of the cleaning solution to dilute with water
  • which cleaning products are safe to use for surfaces that come into contact with raw food
  • how long to leave each cleaning product on the surface

Consider hosting a disinfectant training meeting with your staff so you can field all questions and have your employees feel confident in their sanitization tasks.

3. Understand cleaning vs sanitizing 🤔

During COVID-19, your standard cleaning practices may not be enough to properly disinfect and prevent the spread of the virus. While cleaning removes food and dirt from surfaces, sanitizing removes pathogens and germs and keeps the surface safe for use.

The guideline is that any surface that comes into contact with food should be cleaned and sanitized—and should be cleaned and sanitized again if you are handling a new fruit or vegetable.

Follow this 5-step process to clean and sanitize each surface.

  • Scrape: scrape food or other residue from the surface completely and dispose of it.
  • Wash: Use an approved cleaning solution on the surface to dissolve any smaller residue and food or germ particles.
  • Rinse: Rinse off the surface with water—your sanitization step won’t work if there’s still a cleaning solution on the surface.
  • Sanitize: Use an EPA-approved sanitizing solution. Allow the solution to stay on the surface for the right amount of time (according to the instructions), then properly wipe off.
  • Dry: Allow the surface to dry before the next use.

Employees should also be disinfecting their hands any time they are in contact with customers or other employees before returning to food prep.

4. Cover all your bases 🗑️

Your cleaning checklist should cover the entire restaurant—from FOH to BOH.

Front of house

  • High-touch surfaces such as door knobs and handles, railings, switches, chairs, tables, faucets, toilet flush levers, etc.
  • Guest and employee restrooms.
  • Service station, bar, and counters.
  • Menus and any table condiments or shakers
  • Point-of-sale terminals, touch screens, and other FOH electronics

Back of house

  • Walls and cupboards
  • Grill, griddle, range, flattop, and fryer
  • Equipment such as coffee makers, microwaves, toasters, and meat slicers
  • Prep area surfaces and cutting boards
  • Beverage dispenser heads and soda guns
  • Walk-in refrigerators, freezers, and storage areas
  • Waste disposal area and trash cans

5. Have staff practice good hygiene 🤧

If employees are not practicing safe hygiene, they have no business cleaning! Employees must be safe and conscientious before they can help the restaurant uphold cleanliness standards.

Make sure that extra signage is posted in the restrooms for employees and introduce protocols for how employees wear gloves and masks. For instance, if they remove their masks with their hands and their hands are not clean, then the mask has also been contaminated. Some of this is common sense, but given the confusion and misinformation out there, it’s important to reinforce to your staff what your expectations are.

6. Encourage customer participation 😷

Have your guests contribute to keeping your restaurant clean and safe by following a few safety procedures!

Put signs up outside of or around your restaurant to encourage guests to:

  • Wear masks or face coverings
  • Avoid touching their hands and face as much as possible
  • Notify your team of anything that might need cleaning
  • Use (provided) hand sanitizer
  • Honor the 6-foot rule when it comes to interacting with staff or other guests

7. Ensure clean & safe delivery 🚗

If you have your own delivery drivers and are coming into contact with customers, there are extra steps you should take to complete the delivery.

First, try to take payment in advance so that customers and your staff do not need to handle cash or a credit/debit machine. If you need to take a payment terminal, make sure that your delivery driver is disinfecting it between each stop and does not come into direct contact with the customer. Tap and contactless payments are encouraged!

Upon delivery, have your drivers put the food on a table, the porch, or on the ground rather than handing it directly to the customer. If possible, have the customer specify where they’d like the food delivered (e.g leave at the door, leave in the lobby, etc) when they make the order.

8. Ensure safe customer pickup 🥡

When doing takeout and pickup of orders, avoid the need for customers to physically walk into your restaurants to pickup food. Curb-side pickup is a great option, or try creating a window or pop-up area to accept payment and deliver your food. As with delivery, make sure to sanitize the payment terminal and avoid handling cash.


Whether you’re sticking with off-dining only, or are beginning to reopen your restaurant, keeping your business clean and sanitized is key—both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep these things in mind as you plan your operations:

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Dew Smith
Dew Smith

Hey! I'm Dew, the former Brand Strategist. I cultivated 7shifts' social and content garden, and I looked for ways to grow our network of restaurateurs, local talent, and tech companies.