Make a clean first impression

Set high standards, so diners notice when they walk through the door.
A restaurant worker sprays sanitizer on a table.

This article originally appeared in the Gordon Food Service Foodscape publication.

Clean is king in the food industry. Aside from obvious health implications, a clean space enhances your overall business. Regardless of the quality of food or service, a space perceived as unclean will leave customers with a negative impression. 

The moment customers walk through your door, the judgment meter is running. Statistics in a recent Forbes article showed it only takes a consumer seven seconds to lock in their first impressions about your space and your business.

Seven seconds feels awfully fast. But when you dig in, it makes sense. Although seven seconds represent a tiny snippet of information, that duration represents 100% of a customer’s experience with your business. From that point, all other reactions are filtered through that initial impression. This is known as a “first impression filter,” and you can’t afford to stumble. After all, there’s truth to the adage “you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.” 

Cleanliness adds value

Public spaces are important. Creating the best image for your location in those first moments is paramount to building consumer confidence. That’s because no one’s immune to forming a quick negative impression:

  • Were you hit with a musty smell when you walked through the door?
  • Did the server miss cleaning some spill from the table before you were seated?
  • Was everything going great until you went into the bathroom?

Guests get a sense of cleanliness immediately, and it’s impossible to turn disgust into delight. Getting off to a clean start makes guests much more forgiving of other shortcomings—an edge that may be valuable when you’re short-staffed or making menu changes because of supply-chain limitations. Consider these statistics:

  • 51% of visitors will overlook poor service if the space is clean and inviting.
  • 57% report a clean table is more important than the quality of the food.
  • 73% say a smelly restroom is worse than receiving the wrong order.

Planning makes perfect 

Clearly, a clean and welcoming appearance is vital to your success with customers, but it’s only half of the equation. If success is where talent meets opportunity, then your employees—your talent—also have a pretty loud voice.

This doesn’t happen by accident. Consistent cleaning is planned. Taking time to develop a standard operating procedure for cleaning will pay dividends on a daily basis. 

With a clear schedule of tasks, outlining what needs to be done, by when, and by whom, the efficiency by which it is done will increase. Your space will become better organized and, most importantly, everyone in that space will be safer. 

The payoff: better business

Don’t be afraid to signal to customers that you take cleaning seriously. The inclusion of hand sanitizers, visual signage indicating procedures and actions taken by staff and management will show customers the environment they are dining in is safe and clean. The confidence you create can boost your success. 

With this in mind, the direction seems clear. By maintaining a clean space and signaling that you take cleanliness seriously, you build consumer confidence and word of mouth or social media buzz.

Ultimately, it leads to loyal customers. These customers will return again and again, and they will recommend a space they know is safe and clean to their families and friends. 

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