(photo:  Ronan Kruithof)
13.08.2021, 14:54

Controlling Food Service Cleaning Costs

Catering, Health, Safety & Environment, Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Diversey provides guidance to catering and food service businesses on managing Covid-19 related increases in food hygiene and cleaning costs.


Covid-19 has placed new demands on the catering and food service sector. Behind the scenes the priority is to protect staff and ensure food safety. The overriding requirement front-of-house is to protect and reassure customers. In most cases that led businesses to introduce additional and stricter measures. This has increased costs when commercial pressures are to say the least very challenging. What can businesses do to reduce their cleaning costs without compromising on protecting their customers and employees?


One of the most important tasks for any food service business is surface cleaning. Disinfectants or sanitisers remove pathogens and break a major link in the chain of infection. Businesses that remained open during the initial lockdown, or reopened later, naturally wanted simple and effective products – perhaps with additional infection prevention properties - to enhance their existing routines. They also wanted to clean more frequently – and visibly – to provide additional reassurance to their customers that they were in a clean and safe environment. For many the quickest answer was ready-to-use products: they are convenient, easy to introduce, and readily available.


Ready-to-use products can be ideal for temporary use and occasional tasks but in the long run costs can mount up, especially when they are used frequently. This is why many food service businesses already utilise ultra-concentrated products in conjunction with dosing or dilution equipment. Cleaning solutions are prepared accurately and consistently on-site by adding water to a reusable spray bottle, wash bucket or sink. The cost of each is much less than using ready-to-use products. For example, a spray bottle or kitchen surface cleaner prepared this way might cost tens of pence while the same size ready-to-use equivalent could easily be two or three pounds.


Switching from ready-to-use to ultra-concentrates also offers sustainability benefits. These include reduced single-use plastics, less packaging, lower CO2 emissions, fewer chemical miles, and improved cleaning consistency.


There is, however, an upfront investment required with any dosing or dilution system. This can include the cost of the equipment and training staff. Nevertheless, this investment is repaid by the savings made with lower cost-in-use, reduced wastage, and improvements in consistency that save time and money. Reputable suppliers will offer detailed projections to show how and when their products return on the investment. It is often much quicker than businesses expect.


Another area where food service businesses have introduced additional precautions during the pandemic is hand hygiene. Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is effective. Every business serving food will have a washroom and should ensure they have enough soap in stock for customers to wash their hands when they want.


But soap and water are not always practical. In any case hand disinfection should be used in addition to handwashing to help control the transmission of viruses and bacteria. Additional precautions are advisable during the pandemic where the priority is to provide effective hand disinfection products right where they are needed. The most practical solution is often a disinfectant hand-rub that can be used on its own. Many businesses have placed hand-rub in pump-action bottles at their entrance and other convenient points throughout their buildings. This has provided a good temporary solution.


Studies show, however, that people dispense more product than they need if they are free to decide for themselves. Many of us will take two or three shots from a dispenser “just to be sure” when one is enough. This means bottles are emptied quicker than necessary. That can be expensive for businesses because they need to buy extra product and replace or refill bottles more often. Perhaps more importantly at the moment it increases the risk that other customers or employees will not be able to disinfect their own hands. And there is always the risk that portable bottles will go missing.


Professional dispensers (mounted on the wall or floor stand) and the products they are designed for offer a number of longer-term cost and operational benefits. They dose the correct amount of product – no more, no less – for effective disinfection. In the long run that means better cost control and predictability. This alone can often justify the investment.


Well-designed dispensers also help to maximise and maintain product availability. This is vital to enabling everyone can disinfect their hands. Features such as issuing alerts or making it easy to check product levels visually help reduce the risk of product containers becoming unexpectedly empty so they can be replaced or refilled in time. Using larger containers of concentrated product should, all else being equal, extend the time between replacements or refills which also helps reduce the risk of non-availability. And of course, dispensers in fixed positions are less likely to go missing.


Ready-to-use products have offered an excellent solution to the immediate challenge of providing additional infection prevention measures during the pandemic. In the longer term, solutions based on professional ultra-concentrate formulations and accurate dosing and dilution equipment offer better economy and lower overall costs for kitchen cleaning and hand hygiene. However far into the future the pandemic continues they can make sound commercial sense.


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