My staff often has a standoff over cleaning the restrooms, especially mid-shift if they get blown up. I end up doing it myself, which is not ideal. My front-of-house staff has said that it’s unsanitary for them to do it and the kitchen is usually too busy (though the dishwashers do it for closing). Who typically handles this?
I think the expression goes, “It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.” A soiled restroom can, in an instant, undo all the good work you are putting in to providing high-quality food and service, and leave a guest feeling disgusted. Guests may use the care with which you maintain the restroom as a proxy for the care you put into cleaning the kitchen and everything else.
Despite their motivations, your staff raises a good point. It is a food safety and sanitation concern for food handlers and guest-facing employees to move between tasks like cleaning the restroom and food preparation or service, raising the risk for contamination.
In an ideal scenario, you’d have a dedicated staff cleaning person or contractor, who doesn’t handle food, take care of restroom cleaning. While a dedicated person is possible for larger operations or multi-outlet properties like hotels, smaller restaurants struggle to maintain these spaces. In those cases, the responsibility to maintain the restrooms often falls with the host, a busser or a dishwasher on the basis that that employee is likely to have downtime and is unlikely to handle food.
My advice, even for smaller properties, is to invest in a daily cleaning person, but also to make the light mid-shift upkeep of the restroom everyone’s responsibility. While not ideal, activities like picking up towels, restocking soap and wiping counters can be done with less effort than it takes to say “not it” and put the responsibility on someone else. Be sure employees are well stocked with dedicated restroom cleaning supplies, disposable aprons and single-use gloves, and are trained to disinfect themselves before returning to other tasks if they do need to straighten things up.
As always, municipal regulations vary, so be sure to check with your local health department and restaurant association to verify your practices are compliant.
More on cleaning here.