Canadian Pizza Magazine

From the Editor: Fresh eyes

Colleen Cross   

Features Business and Operations Health & Safety cleanliness food safety

On the first day of my summer job at Andy’s Drive-In restaurant, several things were burned into my 14-year-old brain:

Ketchup, mustard, relish, onions on the bun, then tomato and lettuce on top. Dip the ice cream scoop in water before scooping. Always set the original cash payment aside while counting out change. Keep your hair tied back. Never touch your face in front of customers.

That last one stuck with me because it made me aware of something people do naturally that can make a big impression on others. It also taught me that even the most seemingly simple habits require training and deliberate practice.

My mind shot back to that instruction this summer when I learned of a study out of the University of Missouri. Researchers there found that the cleanliness of restaurant employees is incredibly important to customers’ perceptions of food safety, as important as a clean restaurant and washrooms, and hygienic food preparation.


The researchers organized food safety factors into three categories or “cleanliness clues:” the appearance and behaviour of employees, food temperature and freshness, and the appearance of the dining room and other visual aspects of the restaurant. The three categories were found to be equally important for customer satisfaction.

The researchers were most surprised by the high value customers place on staff having a clean appearance.

For the study, 300 people listed factors they felt were important to food safety and ranked them in order of importance. Then they graded the eateries they visited.

Three of these factors – employees keeping fingernails clean, wearing clean uniforms and wearing gloves while handling food – were ranked as highly important but received low performance ratings in many restaurants, There was definitely room for improvement.

An earlier study looked at seven aspects of cleanliness: interior appearance of restaurant, server’s appearance, restroom appearance, server’s behaviour, restroom personal hygiene, food condition and signage. The most important elements were server’s behaviour, restroom appearance and signage.

These results may not be surprising to you, but if they are, consider investing extra time (and time of course is money) to train your staff and to follow up on that training. Make sure you have a manual – all the chains do – update it as needed and train to it. It will help build consistency in your service and give your employees a boost of confidence.

The cleanliness and the clean appearance (note the difference) of your pizzeria are important. It may be helpful to ask friends, co-workers and acquaintances to give you their honest impressions. It’s also useful to develop the habit of viewing things through fresh eyes. It’s something we often do after redecorating a room. Once you’ve finished, leave the room, turn around and re-enter. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll see things differently and find something that needs changing.

The truth is, no matter how immaculate your kitchen, how scrubbed-clean your employees’ hands, how carefully maintained your bathrooms, and, more to the point, how delicious your pizza, it all means little if customers get the impression things are not clean.

Try to see your business through fresh eyes – your customers’ eyes – and you’ll be guided to better service.

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