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Commercial Catering: A Recipe for Better Hygiene in a Post-Pandemic World

13th July 2020

The catering industry, like virtually all others, will be forever changed by the effects of the ongoing pandemic. But as restaurants, cafes and caterers prepare to re-open for business, it’s essential that the industry looks for new, safer and healthier ways of working in the wake of these events. 

Today, we’ll be taking a look to the future, exploring a handful of key steps commercial catering professionals could take to achieve better catering hygiene in preparation for a post-pandemic world. From food preparation and storage to clothing, equipment and wider hygiene concerns front of house, we’ll provide chefs, caterers and other professionals in the food and drink industry with the recipe for success.

Step 1. Outline new measures for food preparation and handling

Best practice for food handling and preparation has always been paramount in commercial catering, to avoid cross contamination between different food types and surfaces that can cause harmful bacteria to spread and multiply. 

However, as commercial kitchens begin to resume normal business operations, these measures become even more important, as hygiene is seen as an effective defence against preventing further spread of the coronavirus in the current climate.

Looking ahead to when the imminent threat of Covid-19 has subsided, it’s likely these heightened measures will continue, so take the time to continually brief and train kitchen and front-of-house staff on the correct protocol for handling and preparing food.

Stress the importance of regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces and hands, using separate chopping boards and prep areas for raw and cooked meats, as well as storing foods in suitable containers at the right temperatures. This will mean that post-coronavirus, these measures will already be second nature and fully integrated into your kitchen processes.

You should also look to introduce new processes for handling food deliveries both now and in the future, as Covid-19 can stay viable on surfaces for hours, sometimes even days. Creating a dedicated delivery processing area for removing outer packaging, disinfecting and washing goods before they enter the rest of the kitchen will ensure potential contaminants are isolated to one area. Once deliveries have been unloaded, the entire area should be disinfected and individuals handling products should ensure they thoroughly wash their hands before touching other surfaces or produce.

Step 2. Create a deep cleaning schedule

When it comes to bolstering hygiene in commercial kitchens, carrying out regular deep cleans is paramount. Although commercial kitchen regulations in the UK mean they’re already subject to rigorous cleaning procedures, extra vigilance should be applied given the current situation we’re all living in.

The best way to ensure cleaning processes and frequency are adhered to moving forward is to implement a structured cleaning schedule. To minimise disruption to daily operations, schedule intense cleaning rituals to take place before and after shifts,and if your kitchen staff are tasked with this job, allow additional time to carry this out before any food preparation takes place. 

In addition, food preparation areas, cooking stations, equipment and other high-touch surfaces should be disinfected throughout service to reduce bacteria build up and the chances of contamination. 

Cleaning routines should also include food storage areas such as walk-in chillers, freezers and dry food stores – ensuring they’re clean and well-maintained at all times. To minimise the effort and disruption for cleaning these areas, upgrade to hygienic shelving units that feature built-in antibacterial finishes and removable shelves.

Step 3. Emphasise and facilitate increased personal hygiene

There’s no escaping the fact that everyone will be on high alert when it comes to general hygiene as we come out the other side of the coronavirus outbreak, whether that’s in our homes or in public places. This means the commercial catering industry needs to do everything in their power to reassure consumers their establishments are operating to the highest standards of hygiene.

Whether it’s operating in the kitchen or serving customers, put extra emphasis on personal hygiene for all staff members. This should cover every element of daily operations to ensure staff are promoting cleanliness best practices across the board. 

This should include making sure staff uniforms are freshly laundered and footwear is clean before entering the premises, as some types of bacteria can remain viable on fabrics or be spread underfoot. In light of the pandemic, you could even consider asking staff to spray shoes with disinfectant before entering the kitchen as standard practice, as well as installing hands-free antibacterial gel units throughout the premises. 

It also goes without saying that communicating to staff the importance of regular handwashing and good personal hygiene is essential, as well as potentially providing them with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves and hairnets that may still be a mainstay when we fully come out of lockdown.

Step 4. Add extra measures for front of house

Whether you’re a fast food establishment or a sit-down restaurant, your cleaning protocols should always include optimising cleanliness in front-of-house areas. From serving countertops and tables to public restrooms, when normal life does resume, regularly disinfecting customer-facing areas should still be a priority, ensuring your establishment upholds good levels of cleanliness at all times. 

For sit down service, tables, chairs, condiments and menus should be wiped with antibacterial cleaner between sittings with socially distanced tables where possible. Although it’s not certain that social distancing will be a long-term feature of life after Covid-19, it may be advisable to maintain signage and floor markers to prompt customers (and staff) to keep the correct distance from each other and to sanitise their hands. 

For customer service counters in on-the-go food establishments, installing plexiglass screens could be an effective way to maintain safe distances between employees and customers for the foreseeable future and will all go towards giving customers and staff peace of mind when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

While there’s still a great deal of uncertainty around how life will be in a post-coronavirus world, ensuring hygiene is a top priority in the catering industry should be a key consideration moving forward. With the above measures in place, you can work towards promoting best practice for cleanliness in your establishment to successfully navigate your way to recovery. 

Of course, if you need any assistance in terms of reassessing your food storage facilities we’re here to help. Shop our range of hygienic catering shelving online now or get in touch with our storage experts if you want to discuss your individual needs in more detail.