Food Forum: Standardizing store cleanliness through sustainability

Retailers can realize numerous benefits when cleaning remains consistent
and sustainable. 

Cameron-Adams-HeadshotFor grocery stores with multiple locations, maintaining a brand standard is essential for securing repeat business. Cleanliness and sustainability play a large part in shaping a brand, as well as customers’ purchasing decisions. A 2011 Harris Interactive poll found that 94% of more than 1,000 adults would avoid a business in the future if they encountered dirty restrooms. Half of those respondents named supermarkets as a specific place they would avoid. Additionally, a 2012 Food Marketing Institute study found that cleanliness and sustainability were motivating factors for 97% and 50% of customers, respectively.

Providing customers with a well-kept store and a trusted brand is also important given today’s increasingly social culture, when negative online reviews and word-of-mouth can impact business. Especially in an environment where food is present, customers always expect cleanliness. If not properly cleaned and sanitized, back-of-house areas such as food preparation areas can harbor harmful germs and potentially cause a food safety incident.

A common challenge supermarket chains face is achieving consistently clean stores when dealing with variables such as foot traffic and weather that differ from location to location. Consistent results can be accomplished by integrating green cleaning into a continuous improvement process involving four simple steps.

1. Define the cleaning standard
The standard of cleanliness should encompass the key areas of the facility that will have the greatest impact on customers’ buying behavior. This includes visible areas such as restrooms, entrance ways and floors as well as back-of-house areas where food is handled. To achieve and maintain a standard that will impress customers, retailers should consider adopting green cleaning practices. Green cleaning not only improves the health and safety of the store environment, but can also reduce operating costs and improve a brand’s image.

2. Devise a green cleaning plan
Green cleaning involves products, processes, tools and equipment.  Microfiber can save water, low-temperature cleaning can save energy and concentrated cleaning products can reduce waste while increasing cleanliness.

Using these products, processes, tools and equipment, retailers can isolate the variables that drive cleanliness and develop a tailored program around these variables to maintain consistency. For instance, one variable to focus on may be seasonal weather patterns. In areas with lots of salt and snow, such as the Northeast and Midwest, stores will need to engage in more frequent floor care to keep their finish in top shape while stores in the Southwest can tailor programs to focus less on frequent upkeep. The end result should leave all areas of a facility free of spills, dirt and debris.

3. Implement training
Training all employees at one time and in one place is not feasible when managing multiple stores across several cities or states. Turnover can add a further hindrance. Online training programs are an ideal way to educate employees because they are available 24/7 in multiple languages, interactive and can be tailored to adult learning styles, job roles and specific locations. Training schedules should be developed and combine online training with in-person training for special topics. Training sessions should ensure employees who are performing cleaning duties have the right tools and knowledge to do a consistent job and also focus on limiting waste and food safety procedures.

4. Monitor green cleaning performance
In the past, it was challenging to monitor cleaning performance across multiple locations. Now, retailers can validate cleaning using a secure auditing platform that collects, analyzes and reports data in real time. They can pinpoint trends for each employee and facility, across all locations. This facilitates continuous improvement of hygiene and safety standards by identifying where cleaning programs need to be refined and where retraining needs to occur. Over time, as each store refines its cleaning program, the gap between customers’ expectations and cleaning outcomes will become smaller.

By following four simple steps, supermarket chains can develop and maintain a consistent brand image, sustainability and food safety across multiple locations. Providing customers with a clean shopping atmosphere will help keep them in the store longer and build brand loyalty, translating to greater store revenue.

Cameron Adams is global director of strategic planning & development for food service & retail at Diversey, a provider of commercial cleaning, sanitation and hygiene solutions and a part of Sealed Air. For more information, visit www.diversey.com.

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