4 Restaurant Tabletop Cleanliness Best Practices

Sponsored by French’s Food Company as part of their Improving the Tabletop series.

There are plenty of clichés about cleanliness, mostly because they are true. As it turns out a bad review of your cleanliness will cause 85% of consumers not to visit your restaurant. There are few places where that cleanliness is more obvious than the table or bartop your guests are sitting at. That’s why we wanted to speak about some best practices at your tables to give every guest a reason to return.

Kill the Clutter

Restaurant tabletop clutter

There is nothing more difficult to clean than a space filled with stuff. You have to deliver an organized and clean environment on which a guest can experience your great food and service. It’s the little things, like using a caddie to organize your condiments. This one provided by French’s works great to make it easier to clean a table after service.

 Instead of pushing the condiments around the table while wiping, all of them can be lifted up and the table wiped correctly. This ensures that you clean quickly and thoroughly instead of pushing crumbs about until the condiments. Oh and the caddies make sure your table appears organized and ready for service when guests arrive to be seated.

Make it Flat

Keep restaurant tables flat and even.

What a horrible first impression when you have tables that are teetering about on uneven feet. This is a ubiquitous problem in our industry and is also simple to correct.

To be clear, the fix is not a bunch of folded cardboard coasters. Instead, make it a daily job for someone to test the tables throughout the dining room. If you don’t already have them, you can add self-leveling feet to your tables. They can be set to level easily. And by making it a part of your regular opening checklist, you never get behind. Simple as that.

Pre-cleaning FTW

Pre-clean restaurant tables

The cumulative effect of not consistently cleaning the tables in your dining is acutely felt during high revenue periods. While your joint is jumping it’s less obvious, but as soon as volume subsides, it becomes horrifyingly obvious that you haven’t done much cleaning during the shift. However, if you build a good table turn process, this becomes a less onerous problem, because you have allocated your labor to keep it caught up.

Create a check list for all table turns. Require the host verify the table as ready. It doesn’t have to be a long list. Just give them four specific items to check:

  1. No food remnants on the table surface.

  2. The table is level.

  3. It has a fresh set up.

  4. The floor below the table is free of debris.

Sure, there will be times when all the systems get neglected and you turn to survival mode, but it can’t be your default condition. This fix takes discipline, but it will absolutely bear fruit. Once it becomes a part of your culture you don’t have to do much to maintain it.

Clean it Right


Use the best cleaning supplies for the job. Soapy water with a clean rag, rung dry, is always the best way to manage in-shift cleaning. If you want to disinfect the tables, do that as a closing duty. There is nothing quite as unwelcome as the odor of bleach emanating from the table next to you. It may smell clean, but it also smells like chemicals and that just isn’t reassuring. Make sure you periodically change the soapy water and rags. You can also load soapy water in a spray bottle, but make sure you mark it clearly to avoid any confusion about its purpose.  

Remember, each visit by a guest provides impressions about your business and what you value. If you were having guests to your home, you would certainly ensure your house was clean. The same MUST be true of your restaurant. These simple best practices will go a long way to getting you there.