Canadian Pizza Magazine

The pizza Chef: July/August 2013

By Diana Coutu   

Features Business and Operations Health & Safety

Cleaning Crews

One of our readers asked whether an overnight cleaning service was worth
the investment. Let’s review some options to clarify what type of
service we could be looking at. 

One of our readers asked whether an overnight cleaning service was worth the investment. Let’s review some options to clarify what type of service we could be looking at. 

First and foremost there is the daily cleaning of your kitchens: walls wiped down, counters and make line cleaned, wiped and sanitized, walk-in cooler swept and mopped, equipment wiped clean, dishes washed, rinsed and sanitized, your 3-compartment and all hand-wash sinks, taps and faucets scrubbed clean and finally floors swept and mopped.  

Then there is the weekly cleaning of your kitchens, which entails things like clearing shelves off, wiping them down and reorganizing the items neatly. Be sure to include the shelves in your walk-in cooler. This is where you inspect your highly used equipment – things like hot bags, pizza baking discs, pizza peels, cutters, can openers, aprons and the like – and set aside anything needing repair – throw out anything beyond repair.


Next there is the monthly cleaning. This is where you would pull equipment away from walls to clean behind them. You would also take the opportunity to inspect the equipment: check that your fan blades aren’t gummed up full of debris, and check your compressor vents. Anything that has a buildup of dirt and debris should be thoroughly cleaned. Your equipment has to work twice as hard to pull air through filthy vents, and that can easily cause the compressor motor to overheat and burn out. That kind of a fix is more expensive than cleaning dirty vents. It’s not just the cost of a cooler or freezer, but also the downtime and the spoilage of the product inside. This cleaning list crosses over into some equipment maintenance, which if done properly will save you plenty of money in the long run. Well-maintained equipment will outlast and outperform poorly maintained equipment any day of the week. Let’s face it, equipment failures never happen on a weekday afternoon, it’s always in the middle of a Friday night rush when service calls are at a premium. 

Next is your quarterly cleaning schedule, and finally your six month and annual cleaning schedules. This is typically a specialized service since it includes things like power washing your hood exhaust and if you’re smart, a full servicing of your ovens and dough mixer. At least once a year a skilled technician should take apart, clean, lube and reassemble the components of your dough mixer and ovens. Those are primary pieces of equipment, and if they go down, the whole pizzeria shuts down too.

That’s quite the extensive list: so what’s it worth? Let’s do a little math. How long and how many staff does it take to clean your kitchen on an average night? Are the overnight cleaning company’s rates comparable to your in-house rates? Will they do restaurant kitchen cleaning or are they mainly an office space janitorial company? Will they charge you extra for the mess, or are there some things they don’t do? Do you have a system for cleanup, or is it left willy-nilly and things have to be redone? For example, someone will sweep the floor, then sweep all the flour off of the counters onto the floor and have to re-sweep the floor. That’s just making more work and wasting time. By creating a top-down system, clean up will go much faster and be more consistent. 

A busy kitchen is a messy place and the ABC’s in the kitchen are Always Be Cleaning. Daily cleaning is something that should be handled in-house by your staff, as well as, weekly and monthly cleaning, which is how my pizzeria handles it. We’ve found that staff members who help maintain equipment are more likely to notice when a piece of equipment isn’t working properly. Staff members who don’t help clean and maintain equipment are typically oblivious to any problems and ignorant of solutions. A cooler that is warming up above 4 C could simply be unplugged or have blown a breaker, but when staff members aren’t familiarized with equipment they may not see the signs and simply say, “I thought it was a little warm,” only after all the product inside has spoiled.

The big part of this equation involves operations and your staff. Do you have one or two key staff members who seem to work the majority of closes, and therefore handle an inordinate amount of the cleaning at close? Are they the ones asking for the overnight cleaning crew? If that’s the case, perhaps the best solution is to implement a “post-dinner rush checklist,” where the store is given a thorough cleanup. Sweep off those counters, wash all the dishes, organize the store and give the floor a good sweep. That way, all your staff on that shift pitches in to help clean up and because no one gets to go home until the checklist is completed, everyone is motivated to get it done. Now your closing staff members won’t have to clean up after the entire shift, just the last few hours of it.

Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man., and was a director on the CRFA board from 2009-2013. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis, for more information contact her at

Print this page


Stories continue below