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The importance of colour-coded cleaning in mobile catering | Guide & tips

As we all know, hygiene is a massive part of any successful mobile catering business. But only by following the correct professional cleaning industry procedures will you be able to maintain the highest levels of cleanliness at all times.

To cut down on the dirt and debris in your mobile catering van, take a read of our simple guide to a colour-coded cleaning system. When it comes to keeping everything spick and span you won’t look back. 

A build-up of grease and grime not only presents a health hazard for your customers, it can be a fire risk, too. Staying on top of business risks means choosing an insurer who understands the unique challenges for mobile caterers.

The helpful team at Mobilers has been arranging insurance for mobile caterers for more than 20 years now. That means we can quickly and simply arrange catering public liability insurance for a wide range of catering business types. Just give us a call and get your business covered.

Cleaning sponges

Why does equipment need to be colour-coded?

Colour-coded cleaning is by far the simplest and most popular way to help any business owner meet the highest standards of hygiene at their premises. First developed in the 1990s for cleaning hospital and clinical environments, the lessons learned there were soon applied to the food and catering industry.

The idea behind colour-coded cleaning is to colour code your cleaning equipment to match specific areas in your premises. Doing this will cut down on the potential spread of bacteria and other harmful pathogens from area to area. It’s become a vital weapon for hospitality and catering business where such risk of cross contamination can cause serious illness.

By choosing to adopt a colour-coded system in your mobile catering truck you can make cleaning easier and more efficient. And most importantly, provide both your staff and customers a cleaner and safer environment. After all, you wouldn’t want to clean a dining table with a cloth that was previously used to clean a toilet!

This kind of coloured code cleaning practices could also end up attracting more customers, too. When local food safety officers come to call, they’ll be looking at how hygienically food is handled and the general cleanliness of the vehicle. These are essential parts of making sure that food hygiene standards are met and the food you're selling is safe to eat. Showing that you’re following a colour-coded cleaning is a great way to prove this to the officer.

Remember, the higher the hygiene rating the more likely it is customers will recommend you to others.

Getting started with colour-coded cleaning

Taking steps to reduce the chances of infection and preventing cross contamination is vital for keeping your business on track. Just like having the right catering public liability insurance, it’s a sign of a responsible business owner.

Follow these easy steps to get started with a simple colour-coded system. It will soon help you maximise cleaning and hygiene standards in your mobile catering vehicle.

Step 1: Divide up your space

Start off by splitting up your vehicle and other areas into different sections depending on the levels of infection risk. Then give each area a certain colour to match the cleaning equipment to be used there.

Most restaurants and bars, whether mobile or bricks and mortar, use the following four main colours.

  • Blue – Generally reserved for the lowest risk areas excluding food areas.
  • Green – Public areas such as the eating area or bar. As a mobile caterer you might have some foldaway tables or chairs for customers or perhaps a place to add sugar to their hot drinks. It’s extremely important to cut down on the possibility of infection between customers. Particularly in view of the high number of customers you could be serving on a daily basis.
  • Yellow – Kitchen and food preparation areas tend to be associated with this warning colour. These areas present a higher risk of contamination. Indeed, you may wish to introduce colour coding to your food prep items, too.
  • Red – A colour most associated with hazards. Assigned to bathroom and toilet areas as these are regarded as posing the highest risk in terms of bacterial contamination.

While there’s no rule that you need to follow this, it’s probably best from a staff training point of view that you do. Also, most catering supply companies will supply cleaning products in these four colours.

Sticking to colour-coded equipment ensures there is no cross contamination during the cleaning process. Preventing harmful bacteria being transferred around your premises and helping eliminate the high risk areas of infection.

Once you’ve decided on the most effective division of your vehicle and surrounding areas then you’ll need to assign a different mop (and other cleaning equipment) to each area.

These could have a coloured handle, head or bristles to make it easy to identify. This colour-coding system can be applied anywhere in your business and on any equipment from mops and brushes to gloves and even knives in your kitchen!

Step 2: Get the right products

When making the change to colour-coded cleaning, you’ll need to invest in the right products to equip your business. There’s an almost limitless range of colour-coded cleaning equipment available. But what are the essential products you need to get started?

  • Mop – The head, handle or both could be colour-coded. There are many different types of mops available including flat, pulse, sponge, string, steam and microfiber.
  • Mop bucket – Whether light and economical plastic or hard wearing metal there’ll be a mop bucket right for your business.
  • Rubber broom – Useful for sweeping up debris. Rubber brooms are a tough and durable alternative to traditional brooms. Easy to clean and very versatile, the rubber broom can be used for everything from sweeping carpets to wet scrubbing.
  • Dustpan and brush set – A cheap but very effective way to clear up dry spills on the go.
  • Lobby spill kit - Perfect for rapid cleaning, the handy squeegee brush lets you clean liquids and sweep away dirt all at once.
  • Microfibre cloths – Fast drying, washable and reusable these are very versatile and great value for money. Used wet or dry they can pick up dust and dirt from virtually any surface.
  • Sponge scourers – Abrasive to remove stubborn stains, but with a soft, absorbent sponge to wipe up any spills.
  • Industrial cleaning gloves – Ensure that hands are well protected and hygiene prioritised by wearing durable gloves during cleaning.
  • Grout brush – With super stiff bristles and an angled head, a grout brush makes it easier to remove stains around sinks and debris on the floor before thorough cleaning.
  • Trigger spray bottle – A coloured head will make the bottle easy to identify. So, staff will know at a glance what it contains and which area it should be used in. The pump also helps maintain a consistent dosage of cleaning solutions. This helps save money by reducing waste.

Wiping side with cleaning product

Step 3: Give staff the right training

Using the colour-coded cleaning approach will undoubtedly minimise cross contamination and infection. It will also make it easier for staff to identify the right equipment for the right area, and may simplify training. It’s a good idea to remind staff of the colour-coding system using hygiene posters and labels. The colour coding cleaning system will only work if everyone understands and knows how to use it.

Any food business needs to ensure that cleaning is thorough and systematic, so providing effective training for your staff is a great way to ensure this. Training could include how to clean floors and hard surfaces as well as sinks, utensils and other kitchen equipment.

For example, hard surfaces such as tables and work tops are common places for bacteria and germs to be found. Cracks on any surface can easily trap crumbs and excess water, creating a perfect place for bacteria to thrive. Follow these top tips for hard surface cleaning:

  • Remove any items and loose debris first.
  • Always wear gloves and wash your hands after cleaning.
  • Use a deep cleansing, sanitising spray.
  • For a deeper clean, allow the spray to sit on the hard surface for a few minutes.
  • Use a cloth to wipe up excess moisture for a streak-free finish.
  • Rinse your cloth in warm water and store in a bowl of disinfectant between uses.

How often should you clean kitchen items is a common question among catering business owners. Here’s a quick guide.

  • Work surfaces and utensils – After each task, particularly if used for food preparation. Thoroughly clean and disinfect daily.
  • Hobs and ovens – Wipe up any spillages quickly to prevent a build-up of grease and grime. Clean the oven interior at least once a week.
  • Coffee machines and kettles – Clean and flush with hot water and a specialist cleaning fluid or descaler once a week.
  • Sinks, taps and draining boards – Just like any other work surface, these need cleaning throughout the day depending on use.
  • Fridges and freezers – Wipe and sanitise fridge interiors daily. Deep clean weekly. Freezers should be thoroughly cleaned monthly.
  • Microwaves – At least once a week, but any spills should be cleaned up immediately.
  • Floors – Clear up major spillages immediately to prevent hygiene hazards as well as slips and falls. If a customer hurts themselves on a slippery floor, then you’ll be in need of catering public liability insurance. Thoroughly mop and disinfect the floor at least every day depending on use.
  • Hoods and vents – A clogged ventilation system will soon impact the rest of the kitchen. If you use a deep fat fryer in your van then be sure to deep clean these areas at least once a month.
  • Dishwashers – Weekly to ensure your dishwasher is giving you the best results.
  • Bins – Rinse out the bins once or twice a week depending on use.

Also make sure to remind staff to clean these often-forgotten areas:

  • High shelves.
  • Gaps between walls and equipment.
  • Underneath appliances.
  • Fridge doors, seals and shelves.
  • Ventilation systems.

Step 4: Store cleaning equipment safely

Whatever cleaning system you use, always ensure your cleaning products and equipment are stored safely. One of the most important things you can do is to keep cleaning products in a place where your customers can’t access them, even accidentally. After all, you don't want customers wiping down tables with the wrong cloths. Commercial cleaning chemicals can be extremely hazardous, particularly to younger customers.

Keep cleaning chemicals in the bottles they’re sold in so that the manufacturer’s instructions are easily accessible. Ensure that damp cloths, mops and buckets from different areas do not touch one and other.

Washing fork in sink

Step 5: Colour code the rest of your kitchen

Keeping your mobile kitchen streamlined, safe and incredibly clean will not only meet hygiene standards, but also the needs of the 21st Century customer. Colour-coding is also a great way to prevent cross contamination between different food types.

Particularly when dealing with raw and cooked foods or those containing allergens. After all, preventing food contamination has to be a priority for anyone who’s serious about catering standards.

So, where do you start? A great place to begin is with knives and chopping boards. These are both essential to preparing things like raw meat, raw fish, cooked meat, vegetables, bread and dairy products. The following is a suggested list of knife and chopping board colours suited to different food groups.

  • White – bakery and dairy products
  • Yellow – cooked meat
  • Brown – root vegetables
  • Red – raw meat
  • Blue – raw fish
  • Green – salad, fruit and fresh vegetables

Given how strict the rules on food safety are, keeping your catering vehicle clean can be a daunting task. However, if you follow the simple colour-coded cleaning procedures outlined here, you should be able to both protect your customers, ensure great quality food, and safeguard your business.

To find more information about running your own mobile catering business, take a look at the Mobilers blog and latest news, where we share all sorts of useful tips and insights.

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Do you need catering public liability insurance? Mobilers can provide immediate cover and quotations, as well as short period policies on request.

Get a quote for catering liability insurance today.

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