- M. Villarreal
3 Ways to Ensure a Clean Food Truck Kitchen
There is little argument when it comes to running a food truck kitchen, cleanliness is probably one of the biggest factors that affects how customers perceive your food business... especially since a customer can usually see your entire kitchen. Without a clean food truck, the least that might happen is the direct effect to the taste and quality of the food you serve. More importantly, you could deliver your customers food poisoning along with their meal which will definitely impact your sales and reputation, but can also devastate staff (and owner) moral.
In worst case scenarios, it could even lead to a catastrophic event like a hood vent, fryer or stove fire which could end your business. Ensuring that it’s clean can be difficult without setting up an effective schedule, but when approached with a plan, you can easily maintain your kitchen and business effectively with little time commitment.
Here are three easy things you can do to ensure that your food truck and kitchen maintains a high level of cleanliness.
1. GET SOME HELP – BUT INSPECT WHAT YOU EXPECT
The biggest time saver for a food truck owner is hiring a company to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the big cleaning jobs – such as fryers, stoves, ovens, walls and especially hood vents and exhaust systems.
Many food trucks hire professionally trained cleaners to help keep their kitchen systems clean and ready. There’s only one downside to this approach, most owners will often fail to consistently validate what the quality is that these cleaning crews doing to ensure the job is done correctly and according to health standards.
The first step in doing this is making sure that the cleaning crews have worked with food trucks before since they have their own unique cleaning needs. Then verify they also have the proper certifications to do the work. As an example, at Cornerstone Commercial Service, we have a team that specializes in food truck cleaning and our employees are certified through the nationally recognized PAC program.
To eliminate the chances of making mistakes, and in the interest of creating a consistent cleaning and documentation process, it is always best for food truck owners to hire the same professional cleaning crews each time.
As a way to create a documentation trail for the owner so they can have confidence during an inspection as well as to put the food truck owner’s mind at ease, we always provide an end of cleaning report supported with pictures from the cleaning to show you what we have completed. If you’re not getting this, ask for it. Documentation and follow up is your key to success.
All that said, the cleaning company handles the biggest jobs, but food truck owners should still assign regular cleaning tasks to employees to keep the kitchen from becoming overwhelming for cleaning crews.
2. SET UP (AND STICK TO) A STANDARD CLEANING SCHEDULE
Keeping your food truck clean on a daily basis should never be approached from just one angle or be allowed to rest entirely on the shoulders of a 3rd party cleaning crew. It is the responsibility of all food truck owners to assign daily, weekly and monthly schedules and specifically to each cleaning task that needs to be completed.
To do it right, maintaining a clean food truck kitchen can almost be a full-time job for your employees which can create high unintentional costs due to overtime (and you still may fail inspection)… especially when your lines are long, it can be difficult to stay on top of it the right way.
However, sacrificing some time each day and week to take care of the little things, it will ensure more successful and smoother mobile food business in the long run and allow you to keep costs down when you do need to bring in outside help to tackle the bigger cleaning jobs. Look for a partner who has skin in the game with you. At Cornerstone Commercial Service all work we do is not only guaranteed, but it’s guaranteed to pass inspection!
3. LASTLY - CLEAN THE RIGHT WAY
What you clean with can be just as important as how and when you clean. One of the most common chemicals used in food truck kitchen cleaning as well as other commercial kitchen spaces is bleach (and that’s not good).
While it has been proven to certainly kill germs, unfortunately it doesn’t contribute to an overall healthy environment and can often be useless to use.
First, according to many recent studies, bleach is actually a food truck’s or restaurant’s number one enemy for worker health and the environment. Bleach not only causes irritation for individuals with asthma and allergies, but can even cause dangerous chemical reactions when mixed with other common substances in a food service setting.
Secondly, yes, for germs it can be an instant kill, but only when it’s fresh. The negative when it comes to killing germs is that it is unstable and “flashes off” rendering it useless soon after mixing a solution for cleaning. Due to this “flash off”, it must be tested frequently because even in 15 minutes it can no longer be within the health department limits. This is why it is mainly used in dish machines, as they have a controlled process that kills the germs and flushes out on each cycle.
Lastly, is the physical equipment damage it can cause. It will rust equipment, eat away at metals and damage clothing or fabric. So, to prevent the hazardous side effects that can come from using bleach, consider safer, more effective and environmentally friendly alternatives. One great alternative is QUATs, which stands for quaternary ammonium compounds.
It has as a 10-second kill, meaning it must be in contact for 10 seconds in order to the kill the germs, but it remains steady and consistent with no “flash off”... meaning, It is forever stable and doesn’t lose its potency for killing germs over time no matter the frequency it’s being used at. These compounds are colorless, odorless and non-corrosive, which makes them safe for anyone to use on virtually any metal equipment and surface.
So, let’s talk cost. Everyone knows chlorine is cheap, however, QUATs is actually more cost effective due to its dilution rate. For each part of QA you’re somewhere between 256-512 parts of water and 1 gallon of QA sanitizer will make as many as 500 gallons of sanitizing solution. Not to mention, partnering with a supply company that properly dilutes the chemicals will also save money since they will only use the necessary chemical without waste, whereas employees often “over-mix” costing you more money.
Remember, this doesn’t only apply to you and your employees; this also applies to the cleaning companies you hire to help you. Make sure you know what type of chemicals they are using and how they plan to use them. At Cornerstone Commercial Services we ONLY USE NON-DESTRUCTIVE cleaning techniques. Without proper training, a cheap cleaning company can cause far more harm than good. No matter how you look at it, doing it the right way is always going to be less expensive.
All food truck owners are fighting for reputation, customers and profits and a properly cleaned food truck will positively impact all of these. A clean food truck kitchen reflects your commitment to excellence, your employees, customers and food safety. The cleanliness of a food truck’s kitchen affects the quality of the food it produces. One of the biggest challenges of a running a busy food truck is keeping the kitchen clean. With a multitude of activities happening all the time, regular cleaning can seem overwhelming if you don’t have a system in place and a trusted partner to help you.