Ask Rebecca Black why she loves carpet, and she can sum it up in one word: noise. Black is vice president of operations and franchise support for Alhambra, California-based Shakey’s USA, a 55-restaurant pizza company that plans to open 10 new stores in 2009.
Carpet helps absorb the sounds of families with young children who favor the restaurant and its accompanying game room. “We are a busy restaurant,” Black said. “Carpet definitely has an impact on noise.”
During the company’s plans for its first renovation in 2006, Black was delighted to discover carpet tiles. The tiles fit together and look like one large piece of carpet, but they offer lots of flexibility in terms of design. The carpet itself is durable, tough and easy to clean. “Spills happen,” Black said. “You can scrub it out with just a deck brush and soapy water and let it dry.”
And of course, if that doesn’t work, in comes the biggest benefit to carpet tile: replace the tile. “That was a huge selling point for us,” Black said. Shakey’s chose a nylon carpet tile — burgundy for the dining room and emerald for the game room. Each tile is 50 by 50 centimeters square.
What Black chose is also exactly what Bill Doan, a consultant and owner of Suwanee, Georgia-based William H. Doan & Assoc. Inc., would recommend for a busy restaurant. “Don’t even think about putting in anything except nylon,” Doan said. “A high usage, tough environment that a pizza place is likely to be needs solution dyed nylon fiber. I would strongly recommend carpet tile. I would be very careful about what colors to use … I would use level loop.”
Solution-dyed fibers have the color all the way through the carpet. So if it is cut, the same colors show through. Level-loop means the carpet fibers are looped, rather than cut, and all the same height, making the carpet tougher and not as easy to take on the mashed-down look that worn, cut pile carpet sometimes exhibits. Doan also recommends an impervious backing on any carpet so liquid will not soak through.
A good maintenance program is key to keeping carpet looking good, said Desiree Worsley, vice Shakey’s Pizza, photo courtesy of Big Imagination Group. president of marketing for Shaw Hospitality Group, which is a division of carpet manufacturing company Shaw Industries Inc. “Every carpet in the world should be vacuumed every night,” Worsley said. “Vacuuming is the first step toward preventing carpet from looking tired.”
But using a good commercial vacuum is essential, along with good vacuuming techniques. A good vacuum will be an upright, and should have two motors. It should have a top-filling feature, and a high-filtration bag. Expect to spend $650 to $750 to buy a good vacuum. “You put it in because you wanted it to look good,” Doan said. “You need to have good equipment to do a good job.”
Instruct your employees to look at the carpet closely as they vacuum at the end of the day, particularly looking for any stains or spills that need to be treated. A good vacuuming technique is to make two passes at the same section of carpet, and to make sure all areas are vacuumed, not just those that look dirty.
Carpet will need to be cleaned with some type of water extraction technique periodically, Worsley said. But using soap isn’t always necessary. She recommends, instead, a de-greasing product for carpet in restaurants. This will need to be done at least quarterly, she said. Doan said it can be done as often as monthly, if the restaurant is busy, and should be done by professionals. “When you begin to see your carpet is getting dirty, you need to be proactive,” Worsley said.
Great care can prolong the life of carpet, Worsley and Doan both said. But often, it’s the style of a carpet that signals that it is time to go. “Carpet can last four or five years or 15 years if you clean it properly,” Worsley said. “What happens is there is a life to the look of the restaurant, and you need to look and see if you need to change their décor.”
At Shakey’s, Black expects the carpet will outlast the décor, as Worsley suggests. She expects the company will want to freshen up the restaurants again in five years. She imagines, though, that the restaurants will always be carpeted. “There is the warmth of carpet, and the texture,” Black said. “It’s a good look for us. You do have to think about slips and falls, which may be more of a risk with other flooring.” ?
A solid carpet care plan is essential, experts say, to keeping carpet looking good, particularly in a busy restaurant setting. There is guidance out there to help you find the right equipment and people.
The Carpet and Rug Institute and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration maintain databases of experts and equipment that can assist you in caring for your carpet. The Carpet and Rug Institute regularly tests cleaning equipment and cleansers and rates them on their Web site, www.carpet-rug. org. Look under commercial carpets for their downloadable, PDF guide to caring for carpet, and also for a list of both providers and equipment that has received their seal of approval.
The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration offers training and certification for those in the carpet-cleaning industry. To access a database of cleaners, searchable by zip code, visit www. certifi edcleaners.org/locator.shtml.
Robyn Davis Sekula is a freelance writer living in New Albany, Indiana.