You go out for your Friday night evening meal with your family. You expect there to be a very high degree of cleanliness in both the restaurant and amongst the waiters/waitresses. First impressions last. If your waiter/waitress is not presentable then do you assume the whole restaurant is unclean and run for the door? As a member of staff, you're a representation of your establishment, and your hygiene and habits should match accordingly.
Here are 7 simple restaurant hygiene rules all servers should know.
- Be well groomed
- Wear a clean uniform or outfit
- Wear clean, appropriate footwear
- Have front-facing habits
- Ensure all equipment is clean
- Make sure each table is clean
- Separate cleaning materials
1) Be well groomed
Personal cleanliness habits are important when you’re part of the front of house team. Restaurant guests will notice if staff are poorly groomed. And being 'well-groomed' doesn't mean standing there playing with your hair all night like Danny Zuko from Grease.
'Well-groomed' just means you take care over the finer details of your personal cleanliness.
For example, keeping your nails short will help keep them clean and so will using a nail brush before each shift. But back to you hair, make sure it's kept under control. And as for facial hair, some restaurants may prefer that their waiters are clean-shaven whilst others accept a well-maintained beard.
In fact, in certain parts of Germany and England, well-maintained facial hair is a requirement for employment in coffee shops and pop-up restaurants.
Also as you’re constantly dealing with food and utensils and potentially customers, it’s really important to keep washing and sterilising your hands regularly to avoid possible cross contamination.
Then, try to remember what your grandma used to tell you:
Make sure your nose is clear, and your teeth are brushed daily and consider always having a pack of mints handy (but we don't suggest chewing when interacting with customers because many people find this too relaxed). If you do blow your nose, make sure to blow it away from guests, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
2) Wear a clean uniform or outfit
Once your body is clean and well-groomed, make sure that your uniform is equally so. Some restaurants have uniforms and some allow you to wear your own clothes in a certain style.
Whatever the chosen style is, make sure you wear clean clothes every day, this is very important to help avoid cross contamination. For more high-end restaurants, make sure your uniform is washed and ironed.
Some restaurants may now require you to wear a facemask and gloves while serving customers. If this is the case make sure you always follow the business guidelines around when to wear them and replace them.
3) Wear clean, appropriate footwear
You could have the cleanest, crispest uniform around, but a pair of dirty shoes can ruin the whole effect
Staff often choose to buy specialty footwear that is easy to maintain and clean. When you have speciality shoes with water resistance or waterproofing, they are easy to wipe down and clean when compared to regular shoes.
At the end of your shift, it's a good idea to wipe your shoes down with a damp cloth, removing all visible dirt and debris, and then they will be ready when you have to go to work again and last longer too.
4) Have front-facing habits
Make sure that you never pick or blow your nose in front of guests. Do not run your fingers through your hair, scratch unseemly places, wipe your nose with your hand, or cough or sneeze in front of guests.
If you wouldn't do it when first meeting the person of your dreams for a first date, don't do it in front of your customers.
Try and do all of those natural things just listed - if absolutely necessary - out of sight and wash your hands immediately after. Guests should feel that staff have appropriate manners and grooming habits. Don’t do anything that will put guests off their food!
Maintaining a Hygienic Environment
5) Ensure all equipment is clean
Even the order-taking notepad should be clean-looking without, say, a chocolate thumbprint on the back.
Do quick checks of the floor and surrounding areas - anything that guests may see when seated. If there are spills, either mop them up yourself or have another member of staff do so before doing anything else. Make sure the floors are swept and clean without letting them get out of hand, even during busy periods.
6) Make sure each table is clean
Before guests sit down, make sure the table is clean and wiped down as well as the chairs or benches. Use disinfectant spray to ensure all germs are killed. If your restaurant uses linens, glassware, napkins, and cutlery make sure they are clean/new for every sitting. Make sure the linens, glassware, napkins, and cutlery are also fresh.
Do quick checks of the tables once cleared too, making sure nothing gross - like gum on the underside of the table or fingerprints in the candle wax - is lying around for the next diners to discover.
7) Separate cleaning materials
Some waiters and waitresses have to do ad hoc cleaning, so make sure cloths, sponges, and mops are stored separately from areas that ready-to-eat (cooked food and pantry items) are stored, handled, and prepared. And again when using cleaning materials, make sure you always only use new/fresh ones each time as this will prevent possible cross contamination.
Cleaning supplies and detergents can contaminate foods and harm restaurant guests. Chemicals may also harm you as a waiter if not washed properly from the skin when used.
These may seem like nit-picky rules, but a server's hygiene should be such that a guest does not even notice it. If a guest notices something amiss, then something is wrong. Both you and the restaurant should be clean and pleasant so that guests can focus on the delicious food instead.
Some guests will return to your restaurant again and again, and some as an occasional treat, so that means that every guest should have excellent service and cleanliness every time. That way, your reviews stay positive.
Want to know more about speciality waiter and waitress shoes?
Did you know that waiters and waitresses can buy slip-resistant footwear with speciality safety elements designed for their job roles?
Download our slip-test results to demonstrate how, at SHOES FOR CREWS (EUROPE), you can buy shoes that exceed the minimum ISO standard for slip-resistance, getting you home safely every time.