Bar hygiene

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A strict regime is a necessity if licensees are to keep on top of the mess and germs generated by a pub full of customers. John Porter offers advice...

A strict regime is a necessity if licensees are to keep on top of the mess and germs generated by a pub full of customers. John Porter offers advice on cleaning and hygiene.

The bar area is potentially one of the most difficult parts of your pub to keep clean, mainly because customers are not subject to the same controls as you and your staff. In fact, it may sometimes seem that customers tracking dirty shoes across the floor, thrusting germ-ridden hands into your ice buckets, and leaving sticky lipstick prints on your glasses are deliberately out to get you into trouble with the EHO.


Your cleaning regime needs to be clearly established. The aim should be to start each session with a clean pub. To achieve that, you need to decide who is going to carry out the cleaning. In most cases, pubs tend to use a professional cleaner.

If you employ a cleaner yourself, you need to be clear about their employment status - are they self-employed, or a part-time employee of the pub?

Even if a cleaner has a number of other cleaning jobs, you might be liable for their tax and national insurance unless they are registered as self-employed or run their own cleaning company. It will avoid problems if you establish this at the outset.

If you would prefer to use a contractor, there should be no shortage in your area. Like the pub trade, cleaning is one of the UK's biggest employers of part-time workers, and there are many small-scale operators who will take on your pub as one of a number of "contracts" which they will either clean themselves or employ their own staff to undertake. If you are uncertain about their credentials, many of these operators act as franchisees for national cleaning companies, who will negotiate the price and contract specifications on their behalf.

If your are using a cleaning contractor rather than employing staff directly, it is crucial to agree the service specification before settling on a price. This will set out what cleaning needs to be carried out, and how often.

You then have a comeback if the cleaning is not being carried out to the agreed standard, but you also need to be aware that you will only get what you pay for, and any additional cleaning is likely to require additional payment.

Keep it clean

If, like many pubs, you are now open from mid-morning right through until closing time at 11pm, you may need to identify a quiet time towards the end of the afternoon when a cleaner can come in and ensure the pub is ready for the evening trade.

Most of the cleaning necessary during opening hours is remedial, and can be carried out by barstaff as part of their regular duties. However, it would be wise to make this clear from the outset.

You need to establish a routine for staff to check that tables are wiped, glasses collected, and ashtrays emptied and cleaned. It is also good hygiene practice to carry out regular checks on toilets, etc.

Barstaff will need to know where to find and how to use to cleaning equipment and materials to deal with spills and breakages, and will also need to have access to hand-washing facilities during working hours.


Dirty glasses are a potential health hazard which it could be easy to overlook.

Like most other operators, regional brewer Frederic Robinson now recognises it has to place a strong emphasis on hygiene, ensuring every possible precaution is taken throughout its chain of pubs.

As glasswashers are one of the most fundamental items of equipment in any pub, Paul Robinson, catering development manager, recently commissioned an independent hygiene and quality report.

He narrowed down the possible suppliers to three established industry leaders. Machines supplied by each were installed on trial in selected pubs.

The machines themselves were tested for bacterial levels, water dispersion and their ability to dry glasses, while glasses were tested for a bacterial count on both the internal and external lip areas, and were also assessed for their ability to allow both ale and lager to form and hold heads.

Although all three machines performed adequately, and within the parameters of acceptable bacterial levels, the machine supplied by Nelson Dish and Glasswashing achieved a bacterial score of virtually nil. Ale head formation in glasses from the Nelson machine was exceptional, scoring 10 out of 10, with head retention scoring the same. Lager, too, scored 10 out of 10 for formation with eight out of 10 for head retention. As a result, the machines are now specified throughout the Robinson's estate.


You wouldn't let your customers into the kitchen to root through your fridge, but all too many publicans still stick a bucket of ice on the bar and watch their customers plunge their hands in to grab a chunk of ice.

A number of reports by EHOs, as well as the occasional scare story in the national press, has put the issue of ice hygiene into the spotlight over the past couple of years . However, it seems that too many publicans either still do not fully understand, or at least tend to overlook, the potential hazards of contaminated ice.

Ice is a food, and will be treated accordingly by EHOs. One recent survey in Hackney, East London, found that 30 per cent of pubs and restaurants checked had unacceptably high levels of bacteria in the ice they served.

Les Simmons, general manager of ice machine manufacturers Hoshizaki, said: "Because ice is clear, it is automatically perceived to be clean. If it smelled or became covered in mould, I feel sure there would not be a problem. However, although they might not be visible to the naked eye, ice made without due diligence can harbour some of the most vicious strains of bacteria associated with food poisoning."

Contamination can be caused in two main ways. Ice stored in buckets on or behind the bar can be contaminated by staff or customers. If it is stored in ice machines, water filters can help to ensure that the water used is clean in the first place. It is vital that all staff who have contact with ice at any stage prior to it appearing in a customer's drink are made fully aware of the necessity for hygiene.

All scoops and ice buckets must be sanitised regularly, as well as the tongs or spoons used to serve the ice, and on no account should customers be permitted to help themselves to the ice bucket.

All the usual staff health precautions should be followed, as with any food contact, so nobody with a cough, cold or other infectious disease should be allowed contact with ice. Any cuts or grazes should be dealt with in the correct way and, of course, hands must be washed regularly.

However, the main problems arise if cleaning and maintenance programmes are not followed. Mr Simmons suggests a basic maintenance regime for ice makers:

  • Ensure all staff are aware of thedangers of contamination andunderstand how to prevent it
  • Empty the ice bin completely at least once every week, and clean andsanitise with a proprietary cleaningfluid such as Milton
  • Ensure all objects in contact with theice, such as scoops, tongs and buckets, are also treated
  • Move the ice bucket away fromcustomer reach
  • Keep regular checks to make sure themachine is in good condition -especially the door, as broken or loose-fitting doors are one of most commonfaults to occur on ice makers.

Related topics: Health & safety

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