As the days begin to brighten and warm, it’s that time of the year again! When thoughts turn to the big events you’ve got planned and how to prepare for the competition ahead. A key part of any successful mobile catering business is keeping everything spotless and well maintained.
With competition so fierce in this fast-moving market it’s vital that staff are working in a clean and safe environment. And customers have a positive view of the business. That’s where this super spring-cleaning checklist comes in so handy.
In any mobile catering environment, grease and dirt can naturally build up over time and cover surfaces and cooking equipment. This isn’t only a health risk but also a fire hazard, too. As well as having cover such as catering public liability insurance, you’ll also want to follow these steps to a simple springtime refresh.
- Divide up your vehicle
- Consider colour-coded cleaning
- Get the right cleaning products and store them correctly
- Give your staff some proper training
- Do you have catering public liability insurance?
- Pressure washing and other exterior jobs
- Don’t forget the water system
- Inspect outdoor furniture for wear and tear
- Take time over the inside
- Cleaning cupboards, cabinets and storage areas
- Make sure countertops are spotless
- Scrub sinks and rid yourself of drain smells
- Give your dishwasher some TLC
- Clean the cooker hood
- Degrease your fryer
- Oven cleaning that gets the job done
- Blast that microwave dirt
- Clean that fridge and freezer both inside and out
- Fragrant floors to be proud of
- Curtains and mats that are ultra-clean
- Immaculate staff uniforms
1. Divide up your vehicle
Like most things in life, the best approach to such a large and important job is to divide it into smaller, more manageable tasks. So, start off by splitting up your vehicle and other areas into different sections. For example:
- Vehicle exterior – Your mobile catering vehicle’s body, windows, tyres and other systems such as gas, power and water. As you clean, note down any maintenance issues that need sorting. Loose signs or other matters can easily cause damage to someone or their property and require a call on your catering public liability insurance.
- Customer areas – Public dining or bar areas may include foldaway tables or chairs for patrons. In view of the high number of customers you could be serving on a daily basis, these areas can soon look tired and dirty or damaged.
- Vehicle interior – Don’t forget the ceiling, walls, floors, mats, curtains, and any other nooks and crannies.
- Kitchen and food prep areas – The mainstay of your business. A regular and thorough cleaning of these areas will cut down on the risks of food contamination and other health hazards.
- Appliances – Knowing how to clean and maintain expensive business items such as cooker hoods and freezers will keep your catering business on track. Dirty appliances won’t function efficiently and can soon become a danger.
- Bathroom areas and bins – Keeping such areas clean and fragrant shows you really care about your business image and the health and safety of all concerned.
2. Consider colour-coded cleaning
Once you’ve decided on the most effective division of your vehicle and surrounding areas, consider colour-coded cleaning in your business. Many mobile caterers use a colour-coded system in order to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen and to stop the spread of disease-causing germs.
Essentially you need to assign different coloured cleaning equipment to each area depending on the level of risk contamination involved. The colours range from blue for low risk areas to red for areas posing the highest risk.
You don’t have to follow this, but it will help from a staff training point of view. Also, many catering supply companies will offer cleaning products in these basic colours.
The great thing is the colour-coding system can be applied anywhere and on any equipment. Not only mops and brushes but also knives and chopping boards. It’s a really great idea for keeping any busy kitchen clean!
For a deeper look at colour coded cleaning, read our guide on ‘What is colour-coded cleaning?’
3. Get the right cleaning products and store them correctly
If you don’t have the right tools for the job then a thorough spring cleaning is going to be difficult to achieve. Here are some of the items you’ll be sure to need.
- Mop – Whether flat, pulse, sponge, string, steam or microfibre, a good mop will make short work of your van floor.
- Rubber broom – Useful for sweeping up surface debris. Tough and durable as well as easy to clean and versatile, the rubber broom can be used for everything from sweeping carpets to wet scrubbing.
- Microfibre cloths – Fast drying, washable and reusable you’ll need an ample supply of these versatile items. Whether wet or dry they can clean virtually any surface.
- Sponge scourers and scrubbing brushes – You often need something abrasive to remove really stubborn stains and grime.
- Industrial cleaning gloves – Using cleaning products can be very harsh on your hands. Ensure staff are well protected and hygiene prioritised by wearing durable gloves when cleaning.
- Grout brush – With its super stiff bristles and angled head, the humble grout brush can work wonders on stains around sinks and debris on the floor. You don’t need to spend much money to clean effectively.
- Oven cleaner and other cleaning products – From window and glass cleaner to wood polish and multi-surface cleaner, there are many products worth adding to your cleaning armoury. When cleaning food and hand contact areas make sure disinfectants and sanitisers are food-safe.
- Pressure washer – It might not be a necessity, but giving the exterior of your van a good clean will be much quicker and easier with one of these.
Always store your cleaning products and equipment safely away from food. You don’t want customers getting access to them, even accidentally. In the case that there is an accident, read about what the most common kitchen accidents are and how to prevent them. Catering liability insurance can’t erase the trauma of a young customer being injured by a hazardous cleaning chemical!
4. Give your staff some proper training
Cleaning a commercial kitchen is very different to cleaning one at home. As a catering business owner it’s your responsibility to ensure that cleaning is both thorough and systematic. Investing in effective training for your staff is the ideal way to ensure this. From floors and hard surfaces to specialist kitchen equipment, having the proper training is vital to do a good job.
There are plenty of courses available to help staff understand the importance of cleaning and how to do it properly. For example, an online training course from High Speed Training covers cleaning schedules and how to develop them, food safety laws, and protecting food from contamination whilst cleaning.
5. Do you have catering public liability insurance?
As part of your spring-cleaning routine, it’s useful to check you’ve got the right coverage in place for your business. As circumstances and business needs change, you’ll want to be sure your business is well protected in case anything goes wrong.
Whilst it isn’t a legal requirement to have catering public liability insurance, most councils and event organisers demand a minimum public liability insurance to cover claims up to £5 million.
So, not only could you be left open to potential legal claims, but you may not be able to set up at certain pitches at all!
6. Pressure washing and other exterior jobs
If you want to make a good impression on both regular customers and passing trade, you’ll need to make sure the exterior of your van or trailer is top notch. Improving the outside appearance is bound to result in more foot traffic and a boost to your business accounts.
Starting from the roof, pressure wash the exterior including the body, doors and windows. Whilst you’re at it, carefully check the roof and all the seals on the door, vents, and windows. Be on the lookout for any cracks, holes, or damage. Even a minor issue can turn serious if it’s left unrepaired. Remember, serious water damage to your food truck could put a big dent in your business. Other springtime exterior jobs include:
- Lights – From strings of fairy lights to hanging lanterns, exterior lighting can really enhance the atmosphere of your business. Cleaning shades and replacing bulbs will help them twinkle that bit better.
- Tyre checks – Clean and inspect your tyres. Looking out for any tread wear, cuts, bulges, or things embedded in the tyre. Refer to your user manual to ensure tyre pressure is suitable.
- Vehicle battery – Depending on the type of catering vehicle you have, you might need to check your battery. As well as charge, make sure all cables and connections are secure and free from dirt and corrosion.
- Gas safety – Take any opportunity to check if gas tanks are in good condition and all connections are secure. A spring clean is as good a time as any for this vital check. If you happen to own a food truck, check out our blog on gas safety tips for food trucks elsewhere on our site.
- Generator – It’s even worth cleaning this essential piece of kit. Look for any cracks, leaks, loose fittings, and wet spots whilst doing the cleaning. These are all signs you need to have your generator inspected by a professional.
- Toilet facilities – Thoroughly clean handles, switches and taps. Check the condition of all fixtures, taps, and toilet seats and replace where necessary. Clean toilet roll holders and soap dispensers and repair any cracked titles, mirrors and grouting.
- Wheelie bins – Are bins secure and free from pests? Use disinfectant and that handy pressure washer to clean your bins inside and out.
- Check for pests – Even mobile food businesses can have a big job dealing with pests. Keep your kitchen as hygienic and free from pests as possible. Get in a professional to check.
7. Don’t forget the water system
The freshwater system in a mobile catering unit needs cleaning to ensure it functions as it should. This is an issue particularly after periods of non-use.
Whilst you’ll no doubt check the manufacturers guidance for sanitising the system, most systems can easily be cleaned fairly easily.
8. Inspect outdoor furniture for wear and tear
Even if you’re just providing customers with a couple of folding chairs and an umbrella it’s vital to make sure everything is clean and properly maintained. If someone hurts themselves whilst using your services, then they could make a claim against you. For which you’ll need catering public liability insurance.
So, give everything a good wash and remove any rust with steel wool. Check for wobbly legs and all bolts and screws are secure. Torn fabrics or chips and dents need to be repaired and wood treated with wax or preserver. A bit of touching up now with paint or varnish will help protect your furniture throughout the season.
You could also add some homely planters or hanging baskets to highlight the look of your truck throughout the spring and summer.
9. Take time over the inside
Once the exterior is taken care of, it’s time to tackle the interior. You’ll do a much better job if you can remove everything inside the food truck before taking on this part. Start cleaning the upper parts before moving down.
From ceiling lights and wall switches to wiping down the walls themselves, you’ll want to cover every last inch. Be sure to move equipment out of the way so you can get behind, too. A huge amount of dust and grime can build up in such hard-to-reach places.
10. Cleaning cupboards, cabinets and storage areas
Remove everything inside cabinets and cupboards before dusting and wiping them. Inspect the build quality of the units and consider whether the layout is still effective for your needs. For example, reducing the need to bend down to pick up heavy items could help keep staff safer when it comes to carrying and lifting.
Take the opportunity to put everything back in order and group them according to an inventory. There are lots of helpful apps out there designed to keep a track on such items.
If anything is chipped, broken or worn out then discard and replace if necessary. From kitchen utensils and cutlery to serving plates and glasses, you don’t want anything to let down your business.
Check all stock expiry dates and labels. Throw away anything that’s no longer at its best or no longer required. We’ve written more about the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates elsewhere on our site.
11. Make sure countertops are spotless
Whilst your whole vehicle needs to be clean, the food preparation surfaces need to be particularly spotless. Not only will this destroy any bacteria and germs but will also prevent cross-contamination between foods. Even the smallest of cracks on any surface can provide a home for bacteria, germs and allergens.
Food poisoning and other harm to your customers’ health needs to be prevented, if it’s not then you’ll be glad you had catering public liability insurance to deal with the fall-out. So, make sure any damage is attended to.
Use a deep cleansing, sanitising spray to clean your surfaces. For a streak-free finish, allow the surface to dry naturally in the air.
12. Scrub sinks and rid yourself of drain smells
With constant exposure to dirt and kitchen waste the sink area can become a breeding ground for germs if it’s not cleaned regularly. As well as a good quality dual-purpose cleaner and disinfectant, if you’re in a hard water area then it’s well worth using a limescale remover, too.
Fat, oil and grease can play havoc with your vehicle’s drainage system but also local sewers. Consider installing a grease trap to catch such nasties and keep your drains and pipes hygienically clean and smelling fresh.
13. Give your dishwasher some TLC
If you want your dishwasher to function correctly then you’ll need to give it a good clean, too. Just like you would at home, it’s always a good idea to pre-wash dishes, cutlery and similar utensils before placing them in the dishwasher.
Make sure to regularly empty the dishwasher filter and use water softening salts in hard water areas. A clogged filter can strongly affect your dishwasher’s performance and leave items marked and stained after use.
14. Clean the cooker hood
When you’re cooking all day every day in such a confined space, your cooker hood can soon attract a lot of dirt and grime. Restore its shiny finish and smarten up by using a steam cleaner and then polishing with a microfibre cloth.
Make sure to remove any filters and clean them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Paper filters need to be replaced on a regular basis.
15. Degrease your fryer
If your mobile catering business uses a fryer then you’ll need to keep it clean. If too much grease builds up it can become a fire hazard. Simply drain away the oil, and use paper towels to soak up the excess.
Then remove any baskets, filters, and racks for separate cleaning. Use a wet sponge and warm soapy water to clean the inside of the fryer.
16. Oven cleaning that gets the job done
You’ll obviously be cleaning your oven on a regular basis. But springtime is always a good time to give it an even deeper clean. There are some great cleaning solutions out there just right for even the toughest oven cleaning jobs. Just make sure you read the safety instructions and wear a decent pair of gloves to protect your skin from the chemicals.
17. Blast that microwave dirt
All that spitting and spluttering you hear from the microwave can often lead to some unpleasant dirt and grime that needs removal. It’s always better to clean off such dirt at the time, before it hardens.
However, if you haven’t managed to do so then you can loosen the stains by placing a bowl of water inside and hitting full power for 2-3 minutes. Then use a multi-purpose cleaning spray inside and wipe it clean with a dry cloth.
18. Clean that fridge and freezer both inside and out
Turn off each appliance and empty out all items from both fridges and freezers to check expiry dates. Even items kept in freezers will go off or not be at their best after a whilst. If the ice in your freezer has built up, it could be in need of defrosting.
Remove any shelves and drawers and give them a good clean with warm, soapy water. Spray interior walls, doors, seals and seams with a multi-purpose cleaner and use a cloth to wipe down.
Clean the exterior, paying particular attention to the door handles. The back of the fridge can become coated in dust and grime so be sure to clean there, too.
19. Pristine floors to be proud of
At the end of a hard day cleaning a floor might not be at the top of someone’s to-do list. But if you care about the health and safety of your staff then it needs to be. Slips and trips are a big health and safety risk for anyone working in a mobile catering unit. A dirty or damaged floor surface will eventually lead to injuries.
20. Curtains and mats that are ultra-clean
If your food truck has curtains or other window dressings to make it look cute then you really need to make sure they’re regularly cleaned. Dirty curtains are not a great advertisement for your business. And whilst you’re at it, take the time to clean any kitchen mats. It’s very important these mats are as clean and sanitised as the floors they cover.
21. Immaculate staff uniforms
There are lots of reasons why a business might need a catering uniform for its staff. But from aprons and T-shirts to chef hats and jackets, they won’t look good if they’re not clean. So, send uniforms for a professional dry clean and check to see if they need a refresh.
Perhaps an embroidered logo could be added to show off your brand and give everything a new lease of life.
So, there you have it. Your very own step-by-step plan to spring cleaning your mobile catering vehicle. Whether it’s catering public liability insurance or anything else, if you’ve got a question then comment below and we’ll see if we can help.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.