Photos by Josh Keown
Gatti’s Pizza has big windows. Mike Glenn, vice president of operations for the Austin, Texas-based chain, says one restaurant in Austin has windows measuring 1,500 square feet, while one in Frisco, Texas, has windows measuring 2,000 square feet. It makes Glenn think of advice he received from his aunt many years ago.
“She was in the retail business,” Glenn says. “She said one of the first things you have to do is make sure your front door and windows are spotless. They really build an impression.” It’s not easy to keep windows spotless. Gatti’s Pizza has 140 locations, and some are Gatti Towns, which have buffets as well as video and arcade games and amusement park rides. That means kids, and where there are kids there are sticky fingers touching the once-clear glass. “When you choose to go glass, it lets in light,” Glenn says. “That helps with our concept, but it can be a detractor if it’s dirty.”
Gatti’s operations department has specific procedures for when and how to wash windows. For the task of cleaning the inside and outside of the windows in the large restaurants, Gatti’s hires window-washing services that clean once a week. Before choosing a service, the restaurant asks the cleaner to do a sample. “We ask them to come in and show us their work,” Glenn says. “Then we ask them to come in for a couple of weeks before we sign a long-term contract.”
The professional window washers clean the windows early in the morning, before customers arrive. “I want the restaurant to be spotless. I just don’t want customers to see it being cleaned,” Glenn says. The service also cleans the mirrors on the walls around the bumper cars.
To clean up after exuberantly tactile customers, cashiers take out a roll of paper towels and blue glass cleaner to spot clean the windows. They do this a few times a day, when the rush of customers slows. The cashiers also use newspaper, which Glenn says does not streak. “We tried coffee filters, but newspapers are still the best for day-today cleaning.”
Whether hiring an outside service or training in-house staff to perform the task, operators agree that window washing is important and must be done well. Keith Arnold, owner of The Garlic Knot, which has four locations in Colorado, says for two of the locations he hired a man who was going door to door offering his window washing services. Arnold has fielded many solicitations from would-be vendors, especially during the recession. “We must get people soliciting every week,” he says. “It seems like all the window washers are unemployed, or their business didn’t work out and now they’ve taken the initiative to go do something else until things get better.”
The window washer Arnold hired cleans the inside and outside of the windows every other week. The Garlic Knot pays $10 for each visit, which takes about 15 minutes. “We have been using him for a few years,” Arnold says. “He does a good job and it’s not that expensive.”
Arnold stuck with this window washer even after a broken neon sign incident. “There was a whole debate on what happened,” Arnold says. “I had a guy fixing the neon sign the week before. So it’s possible he didn’t have it installed correctly. I watched the (surveillance) video and I couldn’t see anything.”
Now he cleans the part of the window around the sign. “I don’t let anyone else touch it,” he says.
One of the other Garlic Knot locations shares a space with a convenience store, so the window cleaning was part of the building maintenance contract for that location.
Glenn says in-house window washing works well for Gatti’s smaller locations, such as the 1,000 square-foot delivery units and the 4,000 to 7,000 square foot buffets that don’t have arcade games. “The process is relatively easy,” he says. “You spray them down with water, making sure you clean the frames of windows and the edges very well, then squeegee off.”
He says it’s important to clean the windowsills and frames first. Otherwise the squeegee will move the dust onto the window. “That’s where I see people struggle,” Glenn says. The dust is especially challenging in new shopping centers, where other tenants have spaces under construction.
For some, whether to hire a window washer is not a matter of expense, but of other factors. “Our staff washes the windows and it is part of their daily duties,” says Sal Lupoli, president and CEO of Sal’s Pizza, based in Lawrence, Massachusetts. “It’s all about ownership and pride in your job and location. We do not hire window washers.”
He says the workers wash the windows twice a day, more frequently if they get dirty. “We use a bevy of various green/environmentally friendly products. We use both squeegees and paper towels, and old fashioned elbow grease.” Sal’s Pizza has 40 locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Arnold offers this advice. “Depending on how big the windows are, maybe they can try it on their own, and if they don’t like the results, employ someone who’s down on their luck,” he says. ❖
How Green Are Your Windows?
There’s been a lot of media attention on “green” cleaners lately. They usually cost a little more, and they are promoted as natural, eco-safe, or environmentally friendly. If you research these cleaners, you might fi nd that the labels and the companies’ Web sites offer more information on what the cleaners do not contain, such as bleach or phosphorous, than what they do contain, such as blue and yellow colorant, presumably to make the cleaner literally green. There is no federal government rule for what the terms natural, eco-safe, and environmentally friendly mean.
For information on cleaners and the environment, try the US EPA’s Design for the Environment Program (www. epa.gov/dfe), Consumer Reports Greener Choices (www.greenerchoices. org), and Green Seal (www. greenseal.org).
Of course, one way to avoid chemicals is to avoid cleaners. Sometimes just water and a squeegee works on dust on exterior windows. (To keep with the save-the-planet theme, try not to use too much water.) Search the internet for tips that involve vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and other ingredients.
Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in food and business topics. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
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