How back-of-house dispensers support overall restaurant cleanliness.
By John Goetz
It’s no surprise that a restaurant’s back-of-house (BOH) procedures, or what’s happening in the kitchen, can have a big impact on guest satisfaction in the front-of-house (FOH). For instance, a slow cooking process can increase wait times for hungry patrons while poorly sanitized food preparation surfaces can negatively affect food safety.
Until recently, customers had little visibility into a restaurant’s BOH operations. However, the “open kitchen” trend has brought some of the BOH to the FOH to showcase chef talent and the inner workings of restaurants. If a patron’s negative experience is shared on a review site, social media platform or with family and friends, this can seriously impact a restaurant’s reputation and its bottom line.
Thus, it’s important for restaurants to invest equally in FOH and BOH hygiene. Owners and managers should understand the benefits of the latest cleaning technology, like chemical dispensers, and how they can enhance and simplify everyday cleaning tasks.
Cleanliness is Key
If you were to walk into a restaurant and find dirty dishes, sticky tables, smelly drains or overflowing trash receptacles, would you want to eat there? Probably not, and neither would most Americans. According to a 2016 Harris Poll, 97% of U.S. consumers would be influenced to not return to a restaurant if they experienced some type of issue related to the facility, such as dirty surfaces, bad odors and dirty restrooms. So not only does cleanliness keep patrons happy during their visit, it is crucial to a business’s long term profitability.
Cleanliness also manages the risk of foodborne illness, which can lead to lost revenue and pose a serious health risk to customers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses; 128,000 are hospitalized; and 3,000 die each year. A 2016 survey conducted by TrendSource Inc. found that 56% of respondents were “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to return to a restaurant if someone they know became ill from eating there.
BOH processes, like dishwashing, can also contribute to first impressions of a restaurant. For example, a dirty plate or fork can make a customer question the cleanliness of the entire restaurant. Dishes that are not sanitary can contribute to the spread of disease or foodborne illnesses. There’s no shortage of dining establishments in the world, meaning that dissatisfied customers will simply take their business elsewhere if basic cleanliness expectations are not met.
The Uses and Benefits of Chemical Dispensers
Chemical dispensers are ideal for several applications in a commercial kitchen. For example, drains can quickly clog in restaurant settings, especially those serving foods that are high in oil and fat content, such as Italian restaurants, burger joints, etc. Grease buildup can cause undesirable odors and also often provides breeding grounds for flies. Drain flies can spread disease on food or food surfaces, increasing the risk of foodborne illness in humans. Dispensers easily clean dirty drains and grease traps by moving liquid enzymes or probiotic products through quickly and effectively during pre-programmed times, preventing foul odors and backups from occurring.
Restaurant tables and floors can quickly become sticky and dirty from constant use. Chemical dispensers make it easy, accurate and repeatable to fill spray bottles and buckets for cleaning tasks such as wiping surfaces and mopping spills. Dispensers conveniently fill up all types of containers with accurate dilutions while monitoring water pressure and water levels.
Dispensers can also simplify warewashing. Some dishes require manual washing. In this case, dispensing systems distribute the proper amount of detergents and sanitizer into three-compartment sinks to eliminate dilution guesswork for employees. Dispensers can also be programmed to fit and fulfill the needs of commercial kitchens by hooking up to the dishwashing machine. Some dispensing systems come equipped with technology to provide downloadable reports on chemical usage and cost per rack, which ensure dishware and silverware will emerge sparkling and clean.
In addition to versatility for different applications, chemical dispensers offer numerous benefits, including:
- Ease of use: Within the foodservice industry there is a high turnover among hourly employees, limiting the ability to build expertise through training. Fortunately, dispensers are extremely easy to operate, increasing the chances that employees will learn to use the tools properly to maintain BOH and FOH cleanliness.
- Compliance: Many dispensers have features designed to meet compliance criteria and ensure food safety. For instance, some warewash dispensers can notify personnel if the high-temperature dishwasher does not reach the correct sanitation temperature or if the wash tank water needs changing.
- Accuracy: When employees manually measure chemicals, too much or too little product is often used. Dispensers properly dilute cleaning chemicals, reducing wasted product and water, as well as improving cleaning results.
- Safety: Dispensers reduce employee contact with potentially hazardous or irritating chemicals.
- Productivity: With properly diluted chemicals, there is a much higher probability that cleaning is done right the first time. No longer will residues from too much chemical be left on surfaces, or dirt and grime remain because too little chemical was applied. Automating the warewashing process reduces the need for increasingly costly hourly labor for a dedicated dishwasher and speeds up the process of getting clean and sanitary dishes the first time.
- Cost savings: Better control of chemical use helps reduce spend on these products, while easy-to-use dispensers improve productivity of the cleaning process, leading to cost savings.
Finding the Right Dispenser
Dispensing systems come in multiple shapes and sizes and address a number of different needs. Restaurant owners and managers should assess which types of systems they need for their business. Once the applications have been narrowed down, it’s important to consider dispensers that:
- Have easy locking buttons to save time when filling large sinks or buckets.
- Use technology to enable perfect dilution rates every time.
- Fulfill their chemical needs, as some can dispense multiple chemicals.
- Automatically regulate water flow or pressure.
- Are designed to save space while being easy to install.
- Are easy to maintain.
Serving up Cleanliness
While the FOH buzzes with eager diners and sizzling entrees, the BOH handles cooking, warewashing and preparation of spray bottles and buckets for use in the kitchen, restrooms and dining areas. If the BOH is a mess, odds are the FOH is as well. By utilizing dispensing technology, restaurant owners and managers invest in a clean brand image that keeps guests returning time and time again.
— John Goetz is a global product manager with Hydro Systems, the world’s largest independent manufacturer of chemical injecting, proportioning, dispensing and medicating equipment. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, visit www.Hydrosystemsco.com.