A Complete Cleaning Checklist for New Restaurant Owners

Most restaurant owners are keenly aware of the importance of cleanliness. While the menu and the decor may be more obvious than the routine of keeping a restaurant clean, the reality is the success of many restaurants (and demise) can lie in the ability to adhere to stringent government regulations regarding sanitation. From patron health to community reputation, to fine prevention sanitization practice is a large concern for restaurant owners, and we appreciate why.

When entering the food service business, cleanliness should be a top priority, right up there with the menu and décor. The reality is, due to stringent regulations set forth by the state and federal government, the success of your business relies on it. Failing to create a clean, sanitary environment in your establishment could put your patrons at risk and might even negatively impact your reputation in the community.

As a new restaurant owner, there is a great deal to learn from learning your local health codes all the way through stocking up on black trash bags. As a trash bag provider for thousands of restaurants we have had the privilege to get to know many restaurant owners and respect their commitment to best practices. We have outlined below, a comprehensive checklist – one that can be used for the grand opening – all the way through the many years ahead of owning a successful restaurant.

Before You Do Anything: Know Your State’s Regulations

The most important thing to do when developing a cleaning strategy is to look at your state’s food establishment sanitation laws. Many resturantures are surprised to learn that health code laws vary from state to state. Understanding your health code requirements is the very foundation of success for avoiding fines, and a negative impact on your business. The regulations you must meet  should also serve as the foundation of your program for cleanliness and sanitation. Your daily, weekly and monthly cleaning tasks will help ensure you keep your business compliant and — most importantly — will prevent you from putting your employees’ and patrons’ health at risk.

Back-of-House Cleaning

We like to call this the “inspector haven” because while your customers may never see it, it is the focal point for health inspectors. It is also a challenge because frankly, it is where the messes are made. To keep a truly “clean kitchen” requires a lot of time, attention and diligence to keep clean. We have outlined a “cheat sheet” of daily, weekly and monthly tasks, but please keep in mind many of these tasks may even need to be done close to hourly! Routine inspections throughout the day help to see which tasks need to be addressed as they arise.


  • Wipe down and sanitize all surfaces, including:
    • Knives and utensils
    • Countertops and prep areas
    • Fryers
    • Steam tables
    • Meat and cheese slicers
    • Ice machines
    • Mixers
    • Grease traps
    • Dish racks
    • Soda guns
    • Reach-in cooler exterior
    • Storage bins exterior
    • Walk-in cooler handles
    • Dip wells
    • Food scales
    • Sinks
    • Toilets
    • Floor mats
  • Empty and replace all trash and recycling bags
  • Take out all trash and recycling
  • Wipe down and sanitize trash and recycling bins
  • Tidy up prep and storage areas, walk-in cooler, etc.
  • Vacuum all carpet and upholstery
  • Sweep and mop all floors, including walk-in cooler
  • Make sure all food items are stored air-tight and labeled
  • Launder all bar towels, dish cloths, rags, aprons, etc.
  • Clean and sanitize back-of-house bathrooms
  • Dispose of grease and oils (make sure to do this properly)
  • Dispose of food that has gone bad


  • Wash and remove grease behind fryers, stove, oven, etc.
  • Machine scrub flooring
  • Dust and wipe down light fixtures
  • Dust and wipe down ceiling fans
  • Clean out dry food storage and coolers
  • Wash walls and molding
  • Empty, clean and sanitize ice bin
  • Empty, clean and sanitize coolers and freezers
  • Take apart and deep clean appliances
  • Sharpen and deep clean knives


  • Order 55-gallon trash bags
  • Order and restock all cleaning supplies
  • Order and restock employee gloves, hair nets, face masks, etc.
  • Empty and clean grease traps
  • Wash behind the hot line
  • Use descaling chemicals and cleaners to deep clean coffee and espresso machines
  • Clean and dust refrigerator coils
  • Wash hood vent
  • Inspect and replace rodent traps
  • Check for new changes to health code


Front-of-House Cleaning

The front of the house is any area of your restaurant patrons will see during their visit to your establishment, including the lobby, dining room, bathrooms, ordering windows, etc. While the regulations may not be as stringent for the front of the house, they’re equally as important because they are a critical element of the ambiance. No matter how beautiful the decor or the meal, patrons will not tolerate a dirty restaurant. Make a perfect (and a lasting) impression on your customers by:


  • Clean and sanitize all surfaces, including:
    • Dining tables
    • Dining chairs
    • Dining booths
    • Menus
    • Condiment caddies and dispensers
    • Bathroom countertops
    • Bathroom sinks and faucets
    • Bathroom soap and paper towel dispensers
    • Toilets
    • Bathroom stall doors
    • Exterior doors
  • Vacuum carpet and upholstery
  • Mop all hard-surface floors
  • Clean bathroom mirrors with glass cleaner
  • Tidy up lobby and dispose of any trash
  • Empty lobby/exterior trash and recycling bins and replace bags
  • Wipe out lobby/exterior trash and recycling bins
  • Empty feminine hygiene bags in bathroom
  • Restock paper towels, toilet paper and soap in bathrooms
  • Remove and replace bathroom trash bags
  • Launder all cloth napkins and tablecloths


  • Use glass cleaner to clean all exterior windows and doors
  • Dust and wipe down blinds and window sills
  • Dust all décor and surfaces in dining room and lobby
  • Soak and sanitize condiment caddies and dispensers
  • Wipe down walls and baseboards
  • Dust and wipe down light fixtures
  • Dust and wipe down ceiling fans


  • Replace menus, condiment bottles, caddies, etc. that are too dirty or old to clean
  • Remove décor and clean walls
  • Update public-facing signage
  • Have carpets and upholstery professionally cleaned
  • Check for new changes to health code
  • Dust and remove cobwebs on ceiling


Mastering the Big Grand Opening

A thorough clean before the grand opening is crucial to ensuring your restaurant looks warm and inviting so visitors leave good reviews and want to return again and again. However, it’s not just the first impression that matters to restaurant patrons and the health department. Be sure to stay on top of your cleaning schedule to ensure you leave a lasting impression and keep your business thriving well into the future.