Make Sure Matting Is on the Menu was published for Crown Matting Technologies
Luigi is the chef at a busy Italian restaurant in downtown Chicago. Each day he comes in about 3:00 in the afternoon and rarely leaves before 11:00 pm. While he handles a number of issues and performs a number of tasks before cooking begins, at around 5:00 pm, invariably no matter what he is doing, he is standing. He is:
- standing to answer the phone,
- standing to carry in food items,
- standing to give instructions to restaurant staff, and, of course,
- standing for several hours at the stove and working the steam table.
Along with standing, it seems like Luigi is always on the run. It’s interesting: some chefs report that the hectic, fast-paced energy they experience when working is often what they love the most about their work. However, their bodies—especially their backs, knees, ankles, and feet— do not share this love affair and often suffer from this fast-paced work environment.
The pace of work and the pain endured are interconnected. Further, the more pain, stress, and fatigue Luigi and other kitchen workers feel while at work, the more likely they are to have an accident. Essentially, the kitchen work environment is a double-edged sword.
One way to deal with this situation is for chefs like Luigi as well as other kitchen workers to wear special shoes designed to make their standing and fast-paced jobs a bit less physically stressful and safer. But these shoes can only do so much. Ultimately, it is the floor matting installed in restaurant kitchens and food service areas that are the key to reducing pain and promoting safety in restaurant kitchens.
While the bulk of the information we are going to share here is on reducing physical stress and promoting safety in restaurant kitchens through proper matting, you should first know that most restaurants can be divided up into four “matting zones.” These zones include the following:
Entrances: Entrances to the restaurant include front entrances as well as side and back entrances. They are the first place where soils and moisture can be “walked in” on shoe bottoms so it is important to make sure proper matting is installed in these locations. Each entrance should have 15 feet of matting made up of three components: scraper mats, wiper/scraper mats, and wiper mats. Each one plays a specific role in capturing and holding soils and moisture, preventing as much as 80 percent of these contaminants from being walked inside the building.
High-risk areas: High-risk areas are those areas that have a high probability of attracting soils and moisture, with the potential for soiling and damaging hard- and soft-surface flooring. High-risk zones in a restaurant would include prep areas on the dining room floor as well as in the kitchen area; transitional areas between a carpeted walkway and the hard-surface kitchen or food service area; and the walkway directly to and from the kitchen.
High-traffic areas: Every restaurant will likely have one or two corridors that receive substantially more foot traffic. A perfect example is the walkway leading to and from the kitchen. These areas can become heavily soiled. When this happens, the likelihood that soils and moisture will be “walked” into other parts of the restaurant increases. Plus, there is the safety factor. Proper matting can absorb soils and moisture, preventing it from being spread throughout the facility. This can also help prevent a slip-and-fall accident from occurring.
Work areas: If you were the manager of a factory, work areas would be where your products are made, assembled, stored, and shipped. This work area is surprisingly similar to the key work area in a restaurant: the kitchen. The first concern in a kitchen is that the floors stay as clean and dry as possible, which an effective matting system can ensure. However, in those areas where workers must stand for long hours, like our friend Luigi does, an anti-fatigue matting system, among other types of mats, should be installed to help reduce pain and fatigue and enhance worker productivity and promote safety.
Matting in the Kitchen
Now that we understand our matting zones, what mats are advised for installation in kitchens? Before we answer that question, we must point out something very important. Most all of the following mats we will be discussing must be purchased, either online or through a janitorial distributor. Rental mats are typically not of the quality that we need to promote safety in the kitchen.
Further, in most cases, the mats we will be discussing are not even available through a linen or similar rental service. We should also note that, in the long run, because these mats are of higher quality and better made, they tend to be very durable and long lasting. Ultimately, they are often a cost savings over time.
The types of mats that help promote safety in a commercial kitchen include the following:
Anti-fatigue mats: We mentioned these earlier, and of the mats we will discuss, anti-fatigue mats are the ones of which most restaurant owners and managers are aware. Anti-fatigue mats are designed to reduce the musculoskeletal pain and fatigue many chefs and kitchen workers experience after standing for long periods. They provide a gentle but definite “bounce,” helping increase blood flow to the lower limbs, which in turn can reduce fatigue and pain and promote safety. Select mats that can be used in damp areas and also look for mats with a cushion made of a patented material called Zedlan. Most experts in the professional cleaning industry will say these are the most effective anti-fatigue mats available.
Flow-through mats: When it comes to safety, these mats are crucial. They are designed specifically for wet areas. What if a pot of soup falls on the floor while working? With a flow-through mat, the soup will flow through the holes in the mat to the floor, keeping the walk area dry and safe. This helps promote safety and keeps shoe bottoms dry, helping to prevent a slip-and-fall accident. Some cleaning may be necessary when the accident first occurs, but the major cleaning of the spill can be performed when all work in the kitchen has ended.
Anti-microbial mats: While these mats are typically designed for use in a medical setting or in veterinary hospitals, they often have a place in a commercial kitchen. An anti-microbial mat has an anti-microbial agent applied, which inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Because we can have as many as 50 direct and indirect contacts with a floor every day, these mats help prevent contaminants on floors from being transferred to workers and then onto surfaces and even food. Some anti-microbial mats also have anti-fatigue properties, so they actually address two special needs in a restaurant setting.
The Matting Audit
There are several other mats we could discuss that can help promote health and safety in your restaurant. What I often suggest for clients is to work with an astute janitorial distributor well familiar with mats and also conduct what we call a “mat audit.” In a mat audit, note what mats are currently being used in the restaurant, at the front of the house as well as the back, along with where mats should or could be placed.
Usually the audit will find several areas of the restaurant where mats should be installed along with determining the types of mats that are needed. And sometimes the audit will determine that certain areas may not necessarily need a mat. However, my advice is always the same: Better to be safe than sorry; if in doubt, install a mat.