Flooring is an element of kitchen design and outfit that is often overlooked, but the importance of a robust, hygienic surface underfoot cannot be overstated.
The market for commercial kitchen flooring is fairly specialised however, but one leading manufacturer is Hertfordshire-based Altro.
The firm believes that distributors and end-users need to primarily consider safety and hygiene factors when choosing flooring. “Consideration should also be given to creating a comfortable working environment, durability, life cycle costs and minimum downtime when it comes to installation,” said Martyn West, Altro’s specifications manager – North.
“Employers have a responsibility for everyone using their kitchen or industrial catering area. Every food business operation must ensure that food safety is never compromised. The layout, design and construction of food premises must prevent the accumulation of dirt and the shedding of particles. Floors and walls must have impervious, non-absorbent and washable surfaces. All floors, walkways and stairs must be safe for employees or clients.”
He believes that with varied and complex contaminants being an everyday issue, an increased level of slip resistance is a must-have in kitchen and food preparation areas. “Ensure your chosen safety flooring offers sustained slip resistance beyond the HSE’s recommended level of TRRL 36, even when contaminants such as greasy water, milk, flour, cooking oil are on the floor. And do ask for proof of sustained slip resistance – you need confidence that your chosen flooring will continue to perform like new, year after year.”
West reported that the surfaces chosen for kitchens and food preparation areas must meet exceptionally high health and safety and food hygiene standards – increasingly this spells problems for many traditionally used finishes, such as ceramic tiles which can provide a breeding ground for bacterial growth.
“Cost of course is a constraint, but consider life cycle costs as well as installation processes. Downtime costs money, so ease and speed of installation are key,” said West. “Choose products designed to minimise downtime and cause the least disruption to busy kitchens and production runs. For the same reasons consider durability – fit products that are manufactured to perform to a high standard over a long period of time, even in the most demanding environments.”
To conform to the HACCP food safety management standards, excellent hygiene and rigorous cleaning routines are essential, and surfaces must be impervious to bacteria ingress and easy to clean to prevent contamination. “We recommend using a system designed to work together, such as Altro Stronghold safety flooring and Altro Whiterock hygienic wall cladding – both of which are HACCP approved,” he added. [[page-break]]
Altro Stronghold 30 safety flooring was developed as a specialist kitchen solution. It is designed to exceed the latest safety and hygiene regulations, offering good slip resistance and a safe flooring environment. It’s said to be hygienic and easy to clean, long lasting and durable, and also enhances the work environment with comfort underfoot and sound insulation properties to reduce noise – particularly important in busy commercial kitchens.
This flooring is also designed to keep users safe in environments with a range of contaminants which are inherently more slippery than clean water.
The Stronghold and Whiterock pair has been used in many Pret a Manger restaurants in the UK, with the restaurant chain even specifying these products for its recent French expansions. Pret a Manger operations support manager, Adrien Garcia, said: “Altro kitchen floors and walls can be cleaned with jet washers, which ensures impeccable hygiene while simultaneously saving time on cleaning.
“Our other priority is safety, and the slip-resistant properties of Altro flooring responds perfectly to our demands. In addition, with a certified installer, the installation is extremely quick: the restaurant kitchen at Issy les Moulineaux, Paris, was completed in one week.”
Another option from the manufacturer is AltroCrete PU Excel, a 5-9mm textured floor made for heavy duty areas of potential spillage and increased temperature range (-40°C to +120°C at 8mm+). It is said to have good resistance to impact and abrasion and to a wide range of chemicals including organic acids found in foodstuffs. This type, from the firm’s long-established resins portfolio, was originally designed for industrial food processing but has found a natural home in more demanding commercial kitchens.
Although the company has no plans to launch any further kitchen products, it has recently increased the warranty, sustained slip resistance and life expectancy on its 2.5mm safety flooring ranges. Altro Designer 25, Altro Unity 25 and Altro Classic 25 now come with a 20 year warranty and 25 year life expectancy and sustained slip resistance.
It will also be introducing new information soon, based on a more detailed examination on how different contaminants affect user safety and therefore why specialist flooring solutions are required in commercial kitchen environments.
West predicted that there will be a shift in how flooring is specified in commercial kitchens, based on an understanding of the threat from contaminants rather than the “previously-held simplistic view that flooring should be specified solely on the number of covers”.
“We also believe over the next couple of years that manufacturers will provide more aesthetically-pleasing flooring solutions based on a deeper understanding of how the physical environment impacts employee wellbeing.”