The kitchen is the heart and soul of a restaurant. But anyone who’s ever worked back of house (BOH) can tell you that during a big rush, the kitchen can feel a lot more like a pressure cooker.
The art of keeping a kitchen clean is a key element of making the back of house function smoothly. Cleanliness can make the difference in your kitchen, from how fast you can clear tickets to the quality of the food you put out. And, of course, it’s crucial for passing the all-important health inspection.
These tips will help you banish common kitchen problems like overflowing trash bags and end-of-shift disaster areas. Nurture them into the habits and policies that will make your kitchen a lean, clean machine.
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- Make sure everyone is cleaning as they go.
Cleaning as you go is a kitchen habit that every BOH employee needs to learn as soon as possible. It helps everyone work more efficiently, and it’s common courtesy to coworkers behind the line.
During a rush, cleaning everything as you go won’t always be realistic. But you can make sure that everyone is committed to getting the line cleaned up and restocked at the first available opportunity. Leaving cleaning until the end of the night means more people staying late, more hours on the clock, and more finger-pointing about whose mess it is.
- Keep a list of every-shift, daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly cleaning tasks.
Routines and clear expectations are two of the major keys to a cleaner restaurant kitchen. One effective way to implement this is through checklists of regular cleaning tasks, arranged in tiers by how often they need to be done. Some might need to be done every shift, while others might only need to be done once every few months or even once a year.
In most kitchens, everyone on the line is responsible for keeping their own station clean and doing any required tasks. However, bigger cleaning projects might need to be delegated to a group of kitchen employees who can come in and clean during off hours.
- Don’t put off deep cleanings.
Restaurant kitchens accumulate dirt and grime in all kinds of places that a normal cleaning won’t reach. That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular deep cleanings of areas like the freezer, vent hood and the space behind the stove and other hot line equipment.
In some cases, particularly with vent hoods and ductwork, you might need to call professionals to perform a deep cleaning. Remember that deep cleaning a kitchen often involves working with harsh chemicals like oven cleaner and degreaser, so make sure anyone involved in the cleaning project knows the safety ground rules and has the right cleaning PPE.
- Clean trash cans regularly.
Trash cans need to be cleaned regularly, not just have their garbage bags changed. Kitchen staff should regularly wipe down and hose out trash cans to remove any residue or food scraps stuck to the inside. Another option is to use a proper can liner, like a 95-gallon size, that will make cleaning not necessary as the can will remain clean. In the event a trash bag tears, it won’t ruin the can but spill on the liner instead.
Some kitchens line up every can outside at closing time and hose them down. This is a great way to ensure that trash cans get cleaned without kitchen staff having to do it when they’re busy with more immediate needs. As an added bonus, you’ll notice if any cans are starting to develop leaks.
- Use high quality trash bags.
A burst garbage bag in the middle of the dinner rush is a kitchen nightmare in the truest sense. More often than not, this happens in kitchens that use cheap, low-quality trash bags. So, for everyone’s sanity in your kitchen, buy some trash bags that are made with thick plastic.
When shopping for trash bags, look for kitchen-grade bags that are made for the trash can sizes you use. The 55-gallon trash bags are a common choice for the dish area, but trash cans on the line often use 13-gallon trash bags instead. Remember that if your kitchen uses a trash compactor, you’ll need special trash compactor bags that are built to withstand the compactor’s force.
- Use wall space to keep tools and cleaning supplies organized and accessible.
Mounting tools and cleaning supplies on your kitchen’s walls is an excellent way to make sure everything is in view and easy to access. Many kitchens have pegboards or magnetic strip mounts for knives and other cooking tools. It’s also common to see wall-mounted cleaning stations with supplies like cleaning spray and towels for on-the-fly cleanup.
Wall mounting reduces the footprint you need to store your supplies, which is especially important in planning the kitchen layout of a small workspace. It also makes your supplies easy to access during a hectic shift. Rather than rooting through drawers or cabinets, chefs can simply grab what they need, when they need it.
- Secure trash bags to the cans with rubber bands.
Ever had the terrible experience of a trash bag slipping down inside the can and getting trash all over it? It’s a surefire way to make a big, unpleasant mess, but using trash can rubber bands is a genius kitchen hack that can help you avoid this problem.
These oversized rubber bands stretch around the lip of a trash can and secure the trash bag to the can. When you need to change the bag, just remove the band and then put it back on once you’ve put the replacement bag in. It’s the kind of trade secret that you’ll wish you had known about sooner!
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Every chef worth their salt (or any other spice) knows that a clean kitchen is a prerequisite for great food and great service. That’s why it’s so important for all back of house staff, including chefs, line cooks and dishwashers, to pull together in keeping the workspace clean and safe for everybody.
Peter has been a keen blogger and amateur food critic for over 20 years. When eating and drink Peter loves spending time with his family and friends.