9 steps to safely re-opening your commercial kitchen
It’s been a long four months for us all, but we know that if you run a hospitality business, it’s been a particularly tough time. Now though, as lockdown restrictions lift and customers look forward to coming back through your doors, here’s how you can make sure everything is ready for their return.
1. Book a ‘re-start’ service
If you have any concerns about any equipment or systems in your business, get everything checked out with a full compliance inspection. It’s better to get any niggles sorted now – and make sure you’re meeting all commercial kitchen regulations – than lose more business to downtime later once customers are coming back through your doors.
2. Arrange a Gas Safety Check
A Gas Safety Check is required by law every 12 months – so ensure yours is still valid. Even if it is, now’s the time to make sure all cooking equipment that’s been in ‘hibernation’ is still safe to run – with particular focus on ensuring pressure is safe, chimneys and flues are clear and cut-out devices are working as they should.
3. Check chillers and freezer temperatures
Strict food temperature guidelines are in place for commercial kitchens, not only for heating and reheating, but also for cooling and freezing. Before re-stocking your fridges and freezers it’s vital to check that your appliances still reach and maintain the required temperature, especially if they have been turned off for any amount of time.
4. Run dish and glass washers on empty
It’s important to complete a ‘dummy run’ on your warewashers – this will not only clear them of any lingering debris, but will also give you the peace of mind that they are still working and draining properly before they have to meet heavy demand from constant daily use.
5. Stock up on essentials
You may have lost track of the supplies you had before lockdown, so this is the time to check your essentials like commercial detergents, rinse aids and hand soap. You might not have had time to do a full spring clean in March and April, so consider products like surface cleaner, degreaser and descaler to get your worktops and appliances back to their best.
6. Review your fire safety processes
While the focus is on COVID-19 safety, it’s vital that you don’t overlook fire safety. A full fire risk assessment is highly recommended – especially if your dining area or kitchen layouts have changed, new staff have joined your business or evacuation drills and training are needed to align with social distancing rules. You may need storage advice too for things like extra stocks of alcohol-based hand sanitiser or potentially flammable PPE. At the very least, a maintenance visit should be booked in to ensure your extinguishers, alarms and other life-protecting equipment will work in an emergency.
7. Have a HVAC inspection
It’s likely that your heating and air conditioning hasn’t been used over the past few months – at least not as heavily as it is designed to be. Boilers and AC units should be checked as soon as possible to ensure they’re working safely and efficiently – and with government guidance encouraging a switch your AC to ‘fresh air’ mode where possible to minimise the risk of airborne bacteria, it’s also a good idea to review your systems with an expert to see where improvements could be made.
8. Diversify your menu
Once you’ve checked your equipment is safe and operational, you might want to consider how your business will best meet the challenges and changing demands of a post-lockdown world. You could install new commercial catering equipment such as pizza ovens and serve by the slice or start a takeaway service. Perhaps you could consider a convection oven for tapas, light bites and pies. And countertop fryers could be great for snacks to serve in a beer garden or terrace to maximise ‘al fresco dining’ capacity with restrictions on indoor numbers.
9. Review any PPE laundering procedures
As per Food Standards Agency guidance, it's a good time to ensure PPE and uniforms worn by staff can be 'safely changed and cleaned regularly'. Choosing to bring laundry in-house if you currently outsource can be the best way to keep control of your washing process, and you should also consider ozone disinfection – a particularly good option if you need to improve laundry infection control across a large hotel or holiday park.
More useful advice can be found via the Foodservice Equipment Journal and on the Food Standards Agency Checklist