Restaurants are increasingly moving from clipboards and pens to digital technology. And they should. These digital tools streamline and simplify multiple processes – from taking customers’ orders to facilitating inspections.
But now, patrons and staff are likely to touch – and share – multiple screens. Whether your host is sending a text about an open table or a server is completing a sale, your team must commit to consistent, thorough “clean screen” procedures.
Preventative measures, like wearing and changing single-use gloves regularly, are among best practices, but they’re only the beginning. Digital-friendly sanitizing wipes should be easily accessible and regularly used. Sanitation schedules should be established for shared screens – similar to schedules for cleaning other equipment. Whatever the strategy, a regular sanitizing regimen is essential for a healthy, code-abiding establishment.
Washing hands saves lives. Many hands are sharing tools, devices, surfaces and germs in restaurants, and germs can spread fast through contact with these items.
Increasingly, restaurants and other food service organizations are relying on mobile technologies, such as POS systems, tablet menus, and remote card payment machines. Mobile devices are also being used to manage food prep and safety in accordance with inspection regulations.
While these devices offer multiple benefits – increased efficiency, accuracy, etc. – they may also carry some risk. Think about it: everyone involved in the experience of dining out runs the risk of sharing screens and, therefore, sharing germs. Screens constantly get shared between employees – and customers – during shifts.
How dirty do screens get? Scientists have found that the average cell phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Major pathogens, like Streptococcus, MRSA, and E. Coli have routinely been found on electronic screens. Passing these dirty devices around spreads the germs and bacteria to hands – and then, potentially, to other surfaces.
“Research says your phone is covered in germs: 25,107 bacteria per square inch to be exact. That makes your cell phone one of the filthiest objects you touch,” explained Francine L. Shaw, food safety expert and president of Savvy Food Safety Inc.
“With advances in technology, cell phones are consistently being utilized to execute food safety strategies throughout the food service industry. This is especially true for the leaders in the industry that have implemented this advanced technology to enhance their company’s food safety culture.”
So, how can restaurants successfully keep its screens germ-free? Here are three simple steps every restaurant should consider.
Step 1: Clean everything
“Technology is the way of the future. So how do you keep your phone clean? First and foremost, wash your hands,” Shaw explained. “Then clean and disinfect your cell phone by using a combination of 60 percent water and 40 percent rubbing alcohol. Mix the ingredients together, then dip a soft cloth – don’t use a paper towel, it may scratch the screen – in the solution and wipe the damp cloth gently across your phone.”
“Apple warns against using anything other than a soft cloth on your screen, but, let’s face it, a soft cloth isn’t getting rid of any germs,” Shaw added. “Personally, I love technology – there are many UV lights on the market that will destroy surface bacteria. Regardless of the method you choose, clean your phone frequently. And, keep it out of the restroom!”
We tell food service employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom and, hopefully, they all comply. But think about the hundreds of patrons visiting a restaurant daily. And what about employees coming on-shift to work while, inevitably, carrying their germy phones? If they touch surfaces in the restaurant before washing their hands, they can transfer germs to these items.
In family restaurants, children tend to touch everything in sight. I’ve seen toddlers who picked their nose or licked their fingers and then touched the table, doorknob, etc. And now that screens are more common in restaurants – used for everything from reviewing online menus to paying bills via a shared tablet – it’s critical that every screen in your establishment gets regularly (and properly) disinfected.
The solution: identify every device that has a screen and wipe it down. A tried-and-true product, like Windex Electronic Wipes, can work wonders for getting germs off a variety of electronic screens. It’s an all-purpose product that every restaurant should have on hand and insist that employees use regularly and often.
Though the food code no longer allows personal cell phones in kitchens, staff often use them before shifts and during breaks. Encourage employees to wipe their personal phones to prevent contamination. Additionally, require them to wash their hands after using their mobile devices and before touching food, surfaces and/or equipment.
Step 2: Make a schedule
Your restaurant employees schedule their shifts and tickets. Tables get wiped down before changing patrons. But is there currently a schedule in your restaurant for when a POS system gets disinfected? If not, there should be.
No one should have to wonder when a screen was last wiped down. A simple checklist will do. Cleaning products should be available in the main dining areas. If your restaurant isn’t looking to take up too much space with a box of screen wipes, consider a Microfiber Teraglove. It’s small, compact, and can fit anywhere.
Step 3: Sanitize screens
Restaurants are busy places. Not every job gets done according to schedule especially during hectic shifts. But, just like the kitchen and washing staff make sure the prep areas and cutlery are sanitized, the same must be done for all digital screens in your restaurant.
At the end of each shift, have the staff focus more intentionally, and more thoroughly, on cleaning all of the restaurant’s mobile devices. A heavy-duty product with a reputation for being effective, like Tech Armor, provides a full kit of microfiber wipes and cleaning solution. By disinfecting the surface of each screen, you’ll significantly limit the potential for germs and the associated risk of illnesses.
Restaurant leadership requires its employees to wash their hands after using the restrooms. Teams must follow specific protocols around cleaning dishes, utensils and kitchen equipment. Surfaces should be regularly disinfected, and restrooms scrubbed on schedule.
Another best practice would be to wipe down all shared surfaces and not just screens. For servers, tables and counters are more obvious, but what about menus, napkin holders, and condiment dispensers. A great opening practice is to wipe down these commonly touched components of the restaurant experience.
If you’re not regularly cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting your screens, you’re putting your staff and guests at an increased risk for spreading germs and contracting some pretty miserable illnesses. Create specific protocols around cleaning your screens to increase the health and safety of your facility, employees and guests.