A glimpse of how supermarkets in the UAE maintain their premises…- By Megha S Anthony
The retail experience in Dubai is taken very seriously, even when it comes to supermarkets. Whether it is the variety of fresh produce available every day, the user-friendly design of the store or even the standards of cleanliness and hygiene maintained at the supermarkets, everything is wellplanned to provide the best experience for customers.
In 2016, the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai introduced new criteria standards for licensing groceries in the emirate, with the aim of establishing a uniform identity for such stores and giving them a consistent look and feel from inside and outside, in line with international standards. The new standards were introduced to improve the quality of services available to the public in Dubai, particularly in the retail sector. The new criteria cover various basic and operational requirements, which should comply with the standards of the Health & General Safety Department of Dubai Municipality, with regard to the design of the store, product display and classification, and health and personal hygiene, among others.
FM today takes a closer look at what goes into supermarket cleaning in the UAE and the technologies and innovations that aid the process. According to the Food Code published by the Government of Dubai and Dubai Municipality, cleaning and maintenance include elements of cleaning and disinfection, pest management, waste management, building and equipment maintenance and the need to monitor the effectiveness of these elements. The Food Code also specifies that food establishments should ensure that food premises, fixtures, equipment, and utensils are maintained to an acceptable standard of cleanliness, and in a good state of repair.
Most supermarkets follow a strict cleaning regimen. However, unlike other facilities, supermarkets have to deal with high traffic, spills, maintenance of high levels of hygiene in sensitive food areas, and odour control, etc. LuLu Hypermarket - the retail division of the multidimensional and multinational LuLu Group International - has close to 133 stores and is immensely popular with the shoppers across the Gulf region. Praveen Haridas, Hygiene Manager, Retail Operations-Abu Dhabi, LuLu Group International, says that the general cleaning of the supermarket is done by a contracted service provider, and sensitive areas like the fresh food department are managed by their own staff. “We have a master cleaning programme, and it is closely monitored by the concerned housekeeping supervisor in each outlet. The master cleaning schedule includes the areas for cleaning, chemicals to be used, the frequency of cleaning and the procedure,” he informs.
As a service provider, National Catering Company LLC (NCC) is one of the largest support services conglomerates in the UAE, taking care of supermarkets like Souq Planet and Abela Khalidiya. Tarek El Goweiny, CEO, NCC, says that the entire process of food area cleaning is controlled internationally by certification body - HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points), which was originally initiated by NASA - and locally by the governmental rules and regulations of Food Control Authourities. When it comes to the general cleaning regimen, Goweiny says that the process starts from the design phase of the supermarket. “A lot goes into establishing a good cleaning regimen. At the design phase, we analyse the layout, flow of people and materials, calculations and designs of air circulation and ventilation systems, and fit out finishing materials, after which we come up with a cleaning schedule that best suits the supermarket,” he contributes.
All supermarkets have certain areas that witness high traffic. And, these are maintained and cleaned frequently using ride-on machines or walk-behind machines depending on the store size and rush. And, ample signage is used at the time of cleaning to pre-vent any accidents. Haridas adds,
“Any type of food spillage (wet/ dry) is handled seriously and immediately. Cleaning personnel are immediately informed and appropriate cleaning is put into action. The spillage area is also cordoned off to avoid any accidents, and the housekeeping staff/sales staff ensures that spillage is removed and the area is clean before removing the signage.”
Deep cleaning is another important factor here; however, the frequency of it depends on the size of the market. At LuLu, Haridas says that the master cleaning in all fresh food departments is done on a weekly basis whereas in the other departments it is conducted monthly. Another key factor is good indoor air quality. At Lulu, no chemicals are used to maintain air quality. “Instead, we use HEPA filters in the Air Handling Units (AHUs) to screen the dust and microorganisms. This fresh air is then cooled and goes through the filters before moving into the supermarket areas through the AHUs. The quality of the air is monitored yearly by government-approved third party laboratories and the standards are up to date,” he adds.
Technology, too, has an impact on the way service is delivered at markets. Goweiny says that they’ve started to introduce mobility and IoT technologies in smart applications for planning, alerting, communications, updating, sampling for regular lab tests and analyzing the entire cleaning and hygiene process. “One of the new technologies we are currently working on is in the R&D phase right now. It’s called the ‘Smart Waste Management’ system, which is a new environment-friendly application for waste reduction, segregation, and recycling of food, plastic, metal and paper waste through ‘smart bins’ and ‘data analytics’,” informs Goweiny.
According to the Food Code, floor surfaces should be kept in good condition, free of cracks, crevices or other defects. There should be no dips or hollows. Floors should be free from accumulation of food waste, dirt, grease or other visible obnoxious matter. They should be washed with detergents at least once daily. Hot water or steam may be used for better removal of grease. Coving between floor and wall junctions should be kept clean, in good repair and be bonded firmly to their positions. When it comes to general maintenance of hygiene and cleanliness, the shop floor space in supermarkets poses a daily challenge to building cleaning and places high demands on man and machine because of the small by lanes and the restrictive areas to be cleaned. Floors in supermarkets are subject to one thing in particular: high load. Every day, during opening hours, several visitors and diverse types of dirt dictate maintenance cleaning requirements. Work is carried out mainly outside opening hours, but there are also situations where cleaning has to be carried out within the shortest time, and the surfaces must dry as quickly as possible.
The types of dirt found on floors in supermarkets are diverse: dust, sand, fluff and scuff marks from shoes as well as bits of vegetables and fruits. For cleaning companies, it is therefore important to clean quickly and effectively and efficiently remove all types of dirt in order to keep supermarkets looking attractive and offer visitors a clean and pleasant environment.
Speaking about the kind of equipment one can use for floor care in supermarkets, Shakil Siddiqui, Professional Sales-Dubai, Kärcher, says, “For coarse dirt, it is recommended to sweep before wet cleaning – a scrubber drier that is suitable for the area and surface to be cleaned can subsequently be used to remove any further dirt or dust. We have machines that scrub and vacuum in a single pass for a clean and immediately dry surface. The scrubber dryers can be equipped with a disc scrubber head as well as a roller scrubber head including a pre-sweep unit. The disc version is suitable mainly for smooth or shiny surfaces subject to light soiling, the roller version mainly for structured surfaces with numerous crevices. This ensures that the surface structure is cleaned efficiently deep into the crevices.”
He also adds that the noise level of the machines must always be taken into account for maintenance cleaning in supermarkets, so as not to disturb customers. Cleaning machines with an ecomode are particularly suitable for this working environment: the suction power is adjusted to the degree of soiling so that operation takes place at a low noise level.
Maintenance of accessories
When it comes to accessories, the most important one for any supermarket is the trolley. These are the showpieces for a store, and when they are well cared for, they stay looking new and fresh for longer. A leading international supplier in providing shopping trolleys, Wanzl Middle East, has an environment- friendly and professional approach to cleaning and handling each and every trolley with care. Mohit Ahuja, General Manager, Wanzl Middle East, says that they use only specially developed biodegradable cleaning agents for the maintenance of the trolley.
The preferable shelf life of steel trolleys is an average of 7-8 years, given normal conditions depending on the usage, service, climate, etc. Most retailers consider 5-7 years for a replacement. “In coastal environments, (within 5 km of a tidal waterway) we only guarantee plating for one year unless power plus coating is ordered (additional powder coat finish due to salt air). We offer a 36-month warranty for the castors. The maintenance here in the Middle East is carried out by the retailers. We recommend quality maintenance, which includes cleaning and maintaining the wheels and chassis. The trolleys should be washed monthly due to the dusty conditions here in the Middle East,” explains Ahuja.
Ahuja also aptly analogizes shopping trolleys to visiting cards, as they are rolling sales drivers for the business. When shopping, customers prefer the trolleys to be hygienic and clean, well lookedafter and maintained. “Wanzl satisfies all these requirements in one fell swoop – with the Trolley Star service. In Germany/UK/ Switzerland, we use our Trolley Star, a mobile car wash for trolleys, pre-wash, brush cleaning, rinse and sanitise. It is expensive to buy, but the public and customers love it and feel that they are getting something more than other supermarkets when they see it working,” he adds.
Out here, however, the practices are the same as always. Steel trolleys get damaged, require straightening and MIG welding. Some stores are worse than others depending on the area. “Plastic may be coming; it certainly has been a threat since a few years now, but drawbacks have always been the cost of the product and its maintenance. Of course, with plastic, we expect minimal maintenance, but we have investigated plastic welding techniques and cleaning,” says Ahuja.
While trolley maintenance seems to be an area that is found wanting, it is quite impressive to note the high standards and products are in wide use across the field of supermarket cleaning.