Ken Burgin

Show the Sparkling Cleanliness of Your Business to Reassure Anxious Customers

News about the spread of Coronavirus is not good, and people are starting to panic – we need to stand as islands of calm and true hospitality, while taking important precautions. It’s also time to take urgent management action to protect your profitability.

You can stand out from the crowd by being spotlessly CLEAN and HYGIENIC. Here are some quick ways to make this obvious to customers. There also need to be special precautions with staff who are coughing or appear to be sick. If they’re casual or on hourly pay, they may feel they can’t afford to miss work, even if unwell – watch closely.

It’s essential to get staff on board with the reasons, not just the actions – discuss with the team HOW they can be subtly showing just how clean and responsible your place is. Their education is vitally important. Explain the theatre of it – we don’t just DO clean, we show off how thorough we are, and many small things make a difference. It’s using the well-known marketing principle: Know > Like > Trust…

  • Get KNOWN as a reliably hygienic, friendly, clean place
  • Be well LIKED for all the little things
  • Building TRUST keeps people coming back

Front of House:

  • Have hand sanitiser available for customers at the entrance. And on the counter, where staff are seen to use it.
  • Spotlessly clean uniforms – how are those aprons and chef jackets looking? If they need an upgrade, include everyone – don’t leave the poor kitchen hand in his street clothes and old apron #respect
  • Blitz and tidy the drinks station, with baristas and bar staff constantly wiping down surfaces. These areas are often full of clutter – take a hard look.
  • Suspend the use of reusable cups (Keep Cups) for takeaway coffee – it’s great to avoid single-use cups, but cups that customers bring could be a contamination risk.
  • No more clearing glasses with fingers through the rim! Trays should be standard for clearing and delivery – this will also make it faster. Remind staff that they may be touching people’s spit, and encourage lots more hand-washing.
  • Clean condiment bottles plus salt & pepper containers on tables very regularly – make it obvious. Might be time to temporarily swap to disposables.
  • Stop offering cutlery in a container on the table – it’s not hygienic, especially with the knife blade and fork prongs facing up! Think about it!
  • Review cleaning practices: do staff wipe down a seat then use the same cloth to wipe the the table? Ewww! Or use the same cloth to wipe the drinks bench and the steam wand on the espresso machine? Yukkk! Handling garnishes for drinks with their hands – no way!
  • Food Safety Supervisor courses are always useful, and there are many online – encourage more staff to do them, and pay the fees. They cover much more than hand-washing. Promote the number of graduates you have (post on Facebook or Instagram), and give them a special role to play, front and back of house.
  • Using kiosks for ordering? Have someone regularly wiping them down with a sanitised cloth. People cringe at the sight of sticky finger marks.
  • Dump the grubby toys in the kids corner – they should have gone years ago! If you want something for children, have new small toys in sealed bags – check a party supply shop.
  • Scrub the chair legs – they’re often scuffed and marked. You don’t notice, but it adds to an overall impression of untidiness.
  • Double check for ‘sticky places’ – chair arms, under the edges of tables, worn carpet, table surfaces. These buildups happen over time and need a special cleaning effort – eliminate the yuk factor.
  • Is it time for a mystery customer program, with a special section on cleaning and hygiene, not just service.?


  • Check the public view of the kitchen from outside – through a window or back door. How does it look – as clean as a hospital, or a mess? It’s easy to overlook cracked tiles, dirty bins and greasy surfaces when we’re busy, but now that it’s quieter, there is no excuse. Time to lean = time to clean.
  • Upgrade the view through the pass into the kitchen – can customers see pots and pans with grubby bases? They need to be scrubbed to a shine, because the overall appearance is gross.
  • Replace fluorescent tubes that have lost their brightness – they fade long before they die. You need the space very well lit, so dirt and stains are easily seen.
  • Double-down on glove use, and avoid staff touching food with bare hands where customers can see it. We know that gloves don’t guarantee hygiene, but the perception is important. Use latex-free gloves to avoid allergies.


  • Clean and repaint the bathroom – is it a sanctuary, an afterthought, or gross? Any cracked tiles or loose fitting that need fixing? People assume your kitchen will match the cleanliness of the toilets.
  • Upgrade the soap dispenser, towels and hand-drying facilities. Add sanitiser.
  • Reinforce the cleaning patrols, all through the day and night. Have a special bucket with equipment and gloves. It’s no-one’s favourite job – include the manager and boss so you all share the ‘dirty work’.
  • Put up a cleaning checklist and timetable on the back of the door – you don’t just do this, but you advertise how conscientious you are.

This is just the start… 2020 could be a challenging year, and your obvious commitment to hygiene can give you a strong marketing advantage.

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome – please send them to me through Linkedin or Facebook.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.