As we continue to welcome back dining guests to our restaurants, it is necessary to create priorities to maximize resources. With so much on everybody’s proverbial plate, it’s challenging to pick what projects should be at the top of that list. One often overlooked process is the care of a restaurant’s floors, both in the front and back of the house.
With that in mind, our company has scheduled a series of floor maintenance training programs during the coming months. Bill McGarvey, our in-house expert on “all things floor care”, shared with me his best practices for the restaurant/foodservice and hospitality professional to create and implement a floor maintenance strategy.
Let’s start with a very basic question: why is special attention to flooring so important? “Floors say a lot about a facility and people make judgements based upon their observations,” Bill explained. For a long time, shiny floors equated to a clean facility. Not saying that belief was or is accurate but in the eyes of the customer, it often carries weight. QSR customers rated cleanliness number one out of 15 criteria in a survey.
It was really the second piece of his answer that should make the alarms go off in everybody’s head. “Beyond mere appearance, there is the safety aspect. Slip and fall incidents cause severe injuries and fatalities, with litigation costs around $150 billion per year. Floor safety is the establishment’s responsibility.”
I was curious about how an establishment chooses a starting point for implementing a plan of attack. Bill continued: “Flooring concerns start outside because what is outside is brought in on peoples’ shoes. Construction next door or parking lot repairs can create issues inside your building. Proper matting can reduce tracking of soils by up to 90%, and during inclement weather can afford an opportunity to dry shoes soles before they get to your floor. If using matting, make sure it doesn’t create tripping hazards. Next comes the general appearance, litter, particularly in the front of the house should not be tolerated. It’s unsightly and depending on what it is, could pose another slip hazard.”
As a result of the pandemic many restaurants will change hands and new owners will have the opportunity to select and install new flooring. I turned to Bill to get his thoughts on how to choose new a floor. “Designers have many different options today when creating the ‘look’. But what type of floor do you want? Is it a traditional Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT)? Is it carpet? Is it terrazzo or marble or granite? Is it today’s popular Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) or a blast from the past Vinyl Asbestos Tile?”
Each of these floors require some level of dry soil removal, sweeping or vacuuming. Other than the carpet, all require some form of wet cleaning – mopping or scrubbing, on a routine basis usually daily at a minimum. And different floor types cannot always be treated the same. And since we’re wet cleaning, we probably are using chemicals so that means chemical safety training must also be accomplished.
Whether the choice is to purchase and install a new floor or to keep the existing floor, the surface must be maintained. To assist our customers, Imperial Dade launched our Floor Care training program. “We knew that this couldn’t be a one size fits all because there are simply too many individual scenarios,” Bill explained. “We offer floor care training in various forms, depending upon customers’ situations. Our formal class covers all aspects of floor care from matting and sweeping to stripping and refinishing. Specialty floors are also covered from identification to differences from VCT and cautions regarding their proper care. We stress safety at every turn while providing the knowledge required to implement a Floor Care Program.”
The floors both in the kitchen, dining area, and restrooms represent spaces that everybody on a restaurant’s team shares. Bill chimed in: “The reality, is that the floors are an all-hands-on-deck area. No one should be allowed to walk past litter or worse yet, a spill. Daily cleaning tasks or procedures should be explained to all employees, with particular emphasis on the proper chemicals to be used and those chemicals that should NEVER be used in a restaurant setting. Improper use of cleaning chemicals can create a dangerous situation.
I asked Bill what restaurateurs and facility managers would learn at one of our flooring schools about the stripping and finishing of a restaurant floor. “First, make sure you know what floor type you have and whether or not there is floor finish on it,” Bill outlined. “If there is no floor finish, you shouldn’t be stripping the floor. If in fact you have a floor that should be stripped and refinished, please attend a class form a reputable distributor, manufacturer, or industry resource. This is one of the most hazardous tasks in the cleaning profession and should not be entered into lightly. The chemical is typically harsh, the floor will be a skating rink, and operators are usually standing in a puddle with electricity at their fingertips.”
After attending a training session, how does the operator and their staff implement the knowledge? Bill shared some simple ground rules. “Typically, we look at floor care in four categories – Preventive, Daily, Interim, and Restorative. The operator may look at it as new, pretty good, needs help, and forget about it. Preventive is trying to keep soil at bay with matting and even outside sweeping if necessary. The daily cleaning is supposed to keep up with the days soiling and help preserve the appearance at a high level. Over time, the daily efforts may no longer give that new look so some heavier cleaning may be needed, such as a scrubbing of the floor for a deeper or interim clean. For floors with finish, eventually it needs to be stripped and refinished. Ideally though, with proper care, this restoration will be a rare exception every year or possibly two.”
He then continued with how to execute best practices for daily floor maintenance. “The number one enemy of floors with finish or any coating is dry, gritty soil. Grit acts like sandpaper under feet, table legs, chair legs/wheels, carts, etc. The best thing you can do for your floor is get the grit out. Sweeping, dust mopping, using microfiber if you can, or vacuuming thoroughly will do the trick. Wet cleaning floors with finish should be done with a clean mop and bucket, properly diluted cleaning solution in cool water. Yes, cool water. Piping hot may be one thing on your quarry tile kitchen floor, but if you have finish on your floors, the hot water will degrade the finish and you’ll be stripping it again sooner. By the way, your quarry tile floor should never have finish or coatings applied. If a floor has finish, it will eventually have to be stripped and refinished. Proper daily care, combined with proactive interim cleaning can help reduce the frequency of complete stripping. Side note: if your mop bucket goes to the FOH while you’re open, you want to be sure the bucket and water are clean. Customers will notice.”
Flooring, proper floor care, and training are an investment. Bill sees it a two-step analysis. “Hands on training helps cross over language and literacy barriers. Also, students have access to someone who is experienced and can answer their questions. They can also learn to use the floor care equipment the correct way in a safe environment. Also, think about it, do you really want them learning on your floor? The second consideration is the insurance ramifications that are surrounded by slippage. Unfortunately, too few managers think about this before an injury occurs. I mentioned the litigations costs earlier. And beyond the financial costs, there is the human cost, the pain and suffering people go through, it could be your employee so on top of everything else, you’re shorthanded again.”
Our team of experts are here to help you and your staff create an effective strategy for the maintenance of your floors. Visit our website, under the “About Us” tab click on “Cleaning Institute”, and you’ll be taken to our training page where the schedule of classes is listed. We’re here to help!