The Pirate's Code to Swabbin' and Sanitizin'.
Daydots Food Safety Solutions
Tuesday, 27th January 2009
What's in the legendary Pirate Code? Open the dusty book if you can crack the lock, carefully pour through the faded pages, and it will reveal some long lost secrets of the most feared pirates in history.

And shiver me timbers, are there actually cleaning procedures included as part of that long revered code? Yes, it seems that Red Beard and his associates cared a lot about sanitation, and swabbing the deck was just the beginning.

Don't let their shaggy beards and ship's fearsome appearance fool you. The shredded masts, skull and cross-boned flags and walking plank were just a ruse for a conscientious crew, devoted to keeping their sailing vessel squeaky clean.

And just as in a pirates's ship, a foodservice environment has 3 main areas that need to be focused on when it comes to keeping your establishment "ship-shape."

The Poop Deck

Admittedly the Front of the House on a Pirate's ship needs a little work- tattered black flags blowing in the wind can be a little threatening, especially to the sounds of cawing blackbirds and Pegleg's clippety clop.

But the regular swabbing of the deck and gleaming brass knobs present an inviting image and communicate that the crew cares about cleanliness and the safety of their guests, even if they are about to walk the plank.

And this is where a restaurant can excel in order to present a great first impression to the customer. If customers see a clean "front of house" as soon as they walk in the door, it translates into the start of an excellent guest experience.

Sparkling windows and floors, clean trash containers, cleaning dining tables throughout the day and sanitizing on closing, all create an immediate image in the customers's mind. "If the dining room is clean and attractive, so is the kitchen," and this image also transfers to the perception of the food quality.

Keeping service stations tidy and stocked with clean wiping cloths and EPA registered sanitizer solutions mixed to the proper concentrations will make it easier to maintain a fresh clean dining room and lobby. An inviting atmosphere sets the stage for a fabulous dining experience.

All this before the food has even made it to the table, which brings our attention to…

The Galley

While pirates may have been most concerned with scurvy and plague in days of old, bacterial and viral hazards pervade a restaurant kitchen environment, and pose even greater risks in modern day. Risk of cross-contamination is ever present and cleaning and sanitation must be built into daily practices by foodservice staff at all stages of preparation.

Whether slicing meats, assembling sandwiches, or serving "gruel" on a pirate ship, properly cleaning utensils and equipment is critical to help prevent cross contamination.

Food contact surfaces used in preparation or serving (cutting boards, utensils, work surfaces) must be cleaned after each use and sanitized using an EPA registered product with the UPC identified on the label or heat treatment to kill harmful microbes to safe levels as instructed on the label.

These items should also be washed and sanitized between the use of raw and ready-to-eat foods, and every 4 hours of continuous use. Dishes, glasses and utensils can be a source of microorganism contamination from customers themselves, particularly Norovirus and Hepatitis A, and these items must be cleaned and sanitized after every use.

Heat sanitization can be accomplished in automatic warewashers, where items are sanitized using 180°F rinse water. Alternatively, items may be immersed for 30 seconds in a sink equipped with a heating element, where the 171°F water kills the microorganisms.

Chemical sanitizers registered for foodservice use include Chlorine, Quarternary ammonium and Iodine. If washing items manually using a 3-bay sink system, they should be washed in the first sink using hot soapy water, rinsed in the second sink and then immersed as directed on the EPA registered sanitizer label. The solution should be tested to the proper concentration using test strips, and the water temperature may be between 50° and 115° F.

Alternatively, items can be immersed quickly or sprayed with an EPA registered sanitizer and allowed to air dry for 30 seconds, which also contributes to the required dwell time. Low temperature warewashers use a chemical rinse cycle which rid surfaces of microorganisms to safe levels, and the level of these chemical concentrations should also be tested regularly.

Presoaking flatware, utensils and small bakeware is a step often overlooked by foodservice operators. However, taking the time to presoak can yield better overall results by attacking hard-to-remove proteins and starch films from items, and helps eliminate the need for costly rewashing.

Pots and pans pose unique problems and often do not come clean their first time through a dishmachine, sometimes requiring up to four machine cycles to get clean. This inefficient procedure could cost your operation both time and money. Pots should be scrubbed first, then run through a machine, or washed instead in a 3-bay sink system.

Whether swabbing the deck or washing a kitchen floor, it is important to keep surfaces free of debris and cleaned with a floor cleaner that attacks grease build up. Some products are rinse-free and the product continues to work on the floor, even after the procedure is finished.

Wouldn't the pirates have loved this time-saving option! And special care must be taken when washing around drain areas, especially when power washing floors. Listeria bacteria is a known dweller inside drains. These harmful bacteria and other hazards could be released, unknowingly contaminate nearby equipment and pose a serious risk to foods in the preparation area.

Cleaning equipment and removing grease extends the life of equipment and keeps it running smoothly. Specially formulated degreasers used on walls and equipment can also help reduce the risk of dangerous flare-ups around ovens, grills and hoods.

Some extra tips to remember:

  • Display "Wet floor" signs or tents to help avoid risk of slips and falls.
  • Store mops, buckets and other cleaning tools in separate locations from food preparation and food storage areas.
  • All chemicals should be labeled, stored away from food areas and each should have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) stored in an accessible location.
The Head

Dirty Bart and Bloody George were brutal enemies across the high seas and may have had their differences in battle, but each ruled a tight ship of his own. One area where there was no disagreement was the importance of cleaning the private facilities, as crude as they were, and making sure that washbasins were available after using the privy.

It is often thought that if the restaurant's restrooms are clean, that reflects on the management's commitment to sanitation, food safety and food quality. In fact, customers often use restroom cleanliness as a benchmark in making a decision to patronize an unfamiliar establishment.

Public restrooms should be cleaned every day or more often, using effective detergents, EPA registered disinfectants and sanitizers to clean sinks, toilets and floors. Handsinks in restrooms should be stocked with soap, warm running water, paper towels or hot air dryer, and a wastebasket. Consider using Zone isolation methods to help minimize spread of contaminants between restrooms and other areas of the operation.

Opening the Treasure Chest

Keeping your establishment clean and safe is the responsibility of every employee.

A Master Cleaning Schedule should be developed so that management can monitor the timely cleaning of kitchen equipment, floors, restrooms, dining room and storage areas. It will also help distribute cleaning tasks among staff persons and ensure that cleaning duties don't slip between the cracks.

Management commitment and self-inspection is the key to a great cleaning program, and staff training on the most effective ways to clean and sanitize your establishment is a good investment in your business.

Once the entire staff is committed to participating fully in this program, then you've cracked the pirate's code for keeping your restaurant ship-shape. And you will have seized a hidden treasure… one more piece in the formula for success.

Daydots Food Safety Solutions is a division of Ecolab - www.daydots.com
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