COVID-19 has seen the requirements for cleaning shift in all kinds of facilities, but one that should not be overlooked is foodservice. Naturally, restaurants and other facilities in this sector have always had to be particularly sanitary. But, in the time of increased focus on infection prevention and control, both operators and suppliers have had to up their game.
The scope of the cleaning and disinfecting measures put in place in foodservice is broad. Solutions throughout 2020 have ranged from more frequent and thorough disinfecting to contactless service to ensuring top-quality air ventilation.
The ventilation question
For example, the fact that coronavirus is a ubiquitous airborne threat is a major reason that closed indoor spaces have been touted as such a danger. In response, noted a recent assessment, restaurants and other tight-space facilities have been working to regain patrons’ confidence by bolstering the ventilation.
A key measure of this is known as the “air change rate” — in other words, how often the still indoor air is exchanged with non-contaminated, kinetic outside air. In the days before COVID-19, this wasn’t a key focus of facility design, notes David Krause, an industrial hygienist and founder of Healthcare Consulting and Contracting. Instead, ventilation was used mainly to limit smells, CO2 levels, and other pollutants. Increasingly, though, in this world of heightened awareness, many facilities are placing more emphasis on improving this. Methods may be as simple as keeping windows and doors open, when the weather allows for that, while others are implementing HVAC upgrades.
Another commonly touted measure to help curb the spread of the virus in facilities like restaurants has been automatic soap and sanitizer dispensers. These were growing as a cleanliness trend before COVID-19 but they have quickly become ever-present.
They’re available in a variety of forms: tabletop dispensers, free-standing modules, wall-mounted options. But what is vitally important, explained foodservice cleaning expert John Goetz, is ensuring they are doing the job correctly and efficiently.
Goetz is a global product manager for kitchen and laundry for Hydro Systems, a leading chemical dispensing equipment provider. He notes that foodservice has been one of the most heavily impacted sectors during the pandemic. A core component of that has been loss of foot traffic and customer base, with indoor dining closed in many regions for long periods and patrons encouraged to seek takeout or pickup options instead.
However, sites are still open for limited dining and for these takeout options. Even what is arguably 2020’s most prominent foodservice operations trend, the rise of the ghost kitchen, requires strict sanitation. Fewer customers on-site does not equate to less necessity when it comes to hygiene and cleaning. What it does mean, notes Goetz, is that while the demand for dispensers – whether it be hand sanitizer or chemicals for industrial washing machines and dishwashers – remains, the usage volume has decreased. “It plays into the need for cost-effective and simple dispensers,” he says.
Hydro Systems is tackling that problem head-on. At the recent ISSA Show North America, held virtually due to the pandemic, the company showcased its latest dispenser products. Most of their offerings in this field are electronically powered and dispense a controlled amount of multiple chemicals into kitchen washing machines or dish machines. Goetz notes they’ve tried to focus on making sure that clients and end users know the roles that dispensers play in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and the importance of the right temperature and chemicals in getting virus kill rates up.
One of those products is the DM500, a two-product wear-wash dispenser with no programming. Another, to follow in 2021, is a connected wear-wash dispenser. Offering technology that ensures the optimized amount of chemical solution is dispensed avoids the untenable scenario of an end user needing to come into contact with the chemicals or, worse still, ending up free pouring or mixing. Instead, with the push of a button or the squeeze of a trigger, the job gets done right.
There’s a sustainability benefit as well as the safety perks, too. In automatically dispensing the right amount and concentration, these types of products help to cut down on the waste you would see with ready-to-use systems, says Goetz. “Getting the job done first time in terms of kitchen and laundry means less rewash, which of course uses more chemicals, more water, more utility.”
Hydro Systems, of course, is just one supplier in this crucial field. We’re living in a time when safety practices – and the communication of those practices – have hit a new peak of importance. As such, offering safety and security has become vital, and hospitality is no different. The instruments are out there to enhance safety and hygiene across all facilities, and hospitality and foodservice is a perfect microcosm of the issues at hand when viewed through a microscope.