From Hot Mess To Spotless: Ultimate Restaurant Cleaning Checklist

Keeping an entire restaurant clean can seem like an endless task. But with the health of your customers and staff at stake—and food inspectors making surprise appearances—your restaurant’s success hinges on your ability to maintain hygiene standards. The best way to do that? A restaurant cleaning checklist that outlines exactly what needs to be cleaned, when, and who’s responsible. 

Now, if you don’t have one yet, don’t panic. We’ve created a comprehensive checklist with industry-leading procedures and processes to help you keep your restaurant in tip-top shape.

Why every restaurant needs a cleaning list.

Whether you’re dishing out street side eats from a food truck or managing a bustling urban bistro, a restaurant cleaning checklist is an absolute must-have. Here’s why it’s essential to the health and safety of your customers, your team, and the long-term success of your business.

1. Health and safety compliance.

Staying on top of health and safety regulations is absolutely crucial when it comes to handling food. It’s so important that health inspectors routinely conduct surprise visits to ensure restaurants are complying with local standards, even when they aren’t expecting an inspection.

Kitchen restaurant cleaning is more stringent than cleaning a personal kitchen. A restaurant cleaning list ensures your team stays on top of their cleaning duties, so regardless of when an inspector pops by, you’ll pass with flying colors. 

2. Prevent foodborne illnesses.

No restaurant wants to be the reason someone ends up in the hospital, but according to the CDC, restaurants cause 60% of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States. How does that happen? Most often, it’s due to cross-contamination and unsanitary conditions. Pretty gross, right?

A cleaning checklist maintains a safe environment for your guests by keeping your team on top of their daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning duties. 

3. Boost productivity and organization.

If you’ve ever attempted to cook a meal in an unfamiliar kitchen, you know just how much time can be wasted looking for something as simple as a spatula. Cooking the same meal in your own kitchen is quicker because you know where everything is located. The same principle applies to commercial kitchens.

When everything is in its place and surfaces are clean, it saves time and reduces the risk of accidents. But with multiple cooks in the kitchen, you need consistent standards to ensure nothing is missed—and a restaurant cleaning checklist is one of the best ways to do that.

4. Enhance customer experience.

When choosing a restaurant, 44% of Americans prioritize cleanliness above all else, even more than cost and customer service. Not only that but keeping your restaurant consistently clean can turn 52% of customers into repeat patrons. So, in addition to making your restaurant look good, maintaining cleanliness also ensures customer satisfaction and encourages loyalty, making it a crucial factor for the long-term success of your restaurant.

5. Maintain equipment.

Let’s be real, commercial kitchens take a beating. Without regular cleaning, grease and food residue can build up quickly, which can cause equipment to malfunction and leave you on the hook for costly repairs. A cleaning checklist ensures that your ovens, fryers, and grills are kept in top condition—helping you avoid costly repairs and extend the life of your equipment. 

6. Avoid legal troubles.

Whether unintentional or not, failing to comply with food safety laws can result in lawsuits, fines, and even the loss of your business license. Maintaining cleanliness with a cleaning checklist keeps everyone safe and helps you avoid the legal hangover of an unintentional foodborne illness outbreak.

7. Promote employee health and morale.

Poor sanitation doesn’t just affect your customers, it can also harm the health of your hardworking team. A clean workplace boosts morale, reduces sick days, and creates a happier, more productive team.

What is the procedure for cleaning a restaurant?

While every restaurant may have its own cleaning protocol, there are several essential guidelines that all should adhere to. Here are a few of the most important ones:

1. Wash those hands.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that proper hand hygiene is the first line of defense against spreading germs. To keep your patrons healthy, ensure all employees wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling food, using the restroom, or touching surfaces that could be contaminated—like doorknobs and POS systems. 

2. Follow state laws.

Each state has specific laws regarding cleanliness and sanitation in food establishments. Get familiar with the local regulations in your area and stay up-to-date on any changes to ensure your restaurant remains compliant and avoids penalties.

3. Food storage safety.

Safely storing your food is key to avoiding contamination and spoilage. Diligently separate raw and cooked foods and ensure they’re stored at proper temperatures to avoid cross-contamination. Don’t forget to label items with expiration dates to ensure you’re using fresh ingredients. 

4. Cleaning supplies storage safety.

It’s essential to have cleaning supplies on hand, but they should always be stored in a designated area, away from food or food preparation areas to prevent accidental contamination. So, keep them close—but not too close.

5. Dedicated employees for dedicated tasks.

With shift changes and separation between the front and back of house, certain cleaning tasks can easily be overlooked. Assigning specific cleaning tasks to your employees ensures nothing slips through the cracks—helping you maintain a consistent cleaning routine and fostering accountability among your team.

6. Daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning checklists.

While tables and bathrooms should be cleaned daily, other tasks like checking ventilation systems can be done less often. Creating a daily, weekly, and monthly restaurant cleaning schedule will ensure less frequent cleaning tasks aren’t missed and keep your restaurant in top condition year-round.

What are the 7 steps in a cleaning process?

Walk into any public restroom and you’ll quickly realize that people have very different definitions of clean. But, when it comes to food hygiene, you can’t afford to have inconsistent standards. Include this seven-step cleaning process in your food safety training to maintain consistent hygiene standards from front to back of house.

  • Scrape: Begin by scraping off any leftover food, grease, or debris from surfaces and equipment using a brush or cloth.
  • Rinse (first time): Rinse the surface with warm water to remove any leftover residue. 
  • Apply detergent: Once you have a fairly clean surface to work with, apply a suitable detergent or cleaning solution. Make sure to cover all areas thoroughly. 
  • Rinse (again): Rinse off the detergent with clean water until all soap and remaining debris are washed away, leaving the surface prepped and ready for sanitizing. 
  • Sanitize: Apply a sanitizing solution to the surfaces. This kills any remaining bacteria and other pathogens, ensuring the area is safe for food preparation. Don’t forget to read the instructions, as most sanitizers need to sit for several minutes to be effective.
  • Rinse (last time): Rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water to remove any remaining sanitizing solution and prevent it from coming into contact with food.
  • Dry: Depending on the surface you’re cleaning, you can either dry it off with a clean towel or allow it to air dry. This prevents the growth of bacteria and mold—so don’t skip out on this last step.

How to maintain cleanliness in a restaurant.

Without a consistent cleaning schedule, keeping your restaurant clean can feel like wiping down a revolving door filled with finger-painting preschoolers: impossible. While including cleaning protocols in your restaurant’s training process can help, nobody’s memory is perfect.

That’s why it’s important to use a restaurant cleaning checklist to keep each department’s cleaning responsibilities clear and ensure nothing slips through the cracks. 

Worried you’ll miss something? We’ve got your back. Our comprehensive checklist covers daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning tasks for your entire restaurant. Relax (at least a little) knowing your team has wiping, sanitizing, and polishing under control. You can even customize it with a restaurant deep cleaning checklist of your own.

Download your free restaurant cleaning list here: Restaurant cleaning checklist

Serving up HR with a side of simplicity.

Need a hand with more than cleaning, like staying on top of those endless summer PTO requests? We know restaurant HR is one of many extra hassles a restaurant owner like you needs to deal with. That’s why we make it easy to set time off restrictions and share them with your team at the touch of a button—so you can ditch the hassle and focus on what you do best. 

And if you’ve got HR covered, Homebase provides an all-in-one app that helps you manage your hourly team. Whether it’s helping with timesheets, scheduling, or payroll, you’ll find a time-saving tool to suit your taste.

Restaurant cleaning checklist FAQ

What is a master cleaning schedule for the food industry?

In the food industry, a master cleaning schedule refers to a document that thoroughly covers all the cleaning tasks in your restaurant. The document should clearly note what needs cleaning, the required frequency, the designated cleaner, and the cleaning products and methods used. That way, your restaurant has an easy set of steps to follow to avoid hygiene issues.

Why do restaurants need a cleaning checklist?

A cleaning checklist for restaurant businesses is important for several reasons:

  1. Health and safety compliance: Restaurants must stay on top of legal obligations to health and safety regulations. A cleaning checklist ensures that food inspector visits go smoothly.
  2. Prevent foodborne illness: No restaurant owner wants to be responsible for customer illness. Thorough cleaning significantly lowers the risk of foodborne illness.
  3. Boost productivity and organization: Disorganization makes for a slow kitchen, which means wasted time and more work. A cleaning checklist keeps your restaurant efficient and organized.
  4. Enhance customer experience: Customers strongly prefer frequenting clean restaurants, and your cleaning checklist will help you provide that experience.
  5. Maintain equipment: Equipment that isn’t cleaned properly is more likely to break, which costs your business both time and money.
  6. Avoid legal trouble: The consequences of not complying with food safety laws can be quite serious. Staying proactive with your cleaning minimizes the risk of this kind of legal trouble.
  7. Promote employee health and morale: The health of your team is important too. Employees will have better morale and fewer sick days in a clean workplace.

What is the correct order of cleaning?

While cleaning instructions can differ dependently on what is being cleaned, a good general rule to follow is:

  1. Scrape off any food and other remnants.
  2. Rinse with warm water to remove residue.
  3. Apply detergent to the entire surface.
  4. Rinse again until soap and debris is completely washed away.
  5. Sanitize using an appropriate product by following the instructions.
  6. Rinse off the sanitizing solution to ensure food safety.
  7. Dry using a clean towel or air dry, to prevent growth of mold and bacteria.

Related posts

5 Powerful Payroll Software Suites to Every Restaurant Needs

“Payroll is fun and easy to do,” said no one ever. As anyone who’s ever had to run payroll for…

Read article

Opening a Restaurant Checklist: All You Need to Know (+Download!)

There’s so much to think about at the beginning of any new business, but opening a new restaurant is its…

Read article

How to Start a Restaurant In 10 Steps

If you’re passionate about the food industry and looking to start a small business, it could be time to open…

Read article

Restaurant Names Made Easy: 100+ Creative Ideas

With today’s restaurant customer spoiled for choice in a saturated market, your restaurant’s name helps your establishment stand out from…

Read article

Restaurant training 101: A complete guide to training your restaurant team

Restaurants are busy places. There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn. That’s why restaurant training for employees…

Read article

How to reduce labor costs in a restaurant

Next to skyrocketing food costs, labor is the biggest expense for restaurants each year. And as minimum wage creeps higher…

Read article
Effortlessly schedule and track your team's time with Homebase.
Try our basic plan free, forever.
Try Homebase for free