So, you’ve decided to tackle cleaning the floors yourself and need a vacuum cleaner to do the job efficiently. What should you be looking for?
For the purpose of restaurant cleaning, vacuum cleaners come in two types—backpack and canister models. Canisters come in upright or pull-along designs and can be used for dry and wet-dry applications. Backpack models are only suitable for dry applications.
Most manufacturers and suppliers agree you can’t go past a backpack model for ease of use, especially when negotiating your way around tables and chairs in a dining area.
Paul Brennan, managing director of A1 Cleaning Supplies, recommends buying a model with a bypass motor rather than a flow-through motor, which is not as safe. “This unit doesn’t cool its motor with the air coming through the bag, which means if you are using a backpack for dry vacuuming, and accidentally run over water or a wet patch, you’re protected. It’s the only thing for places selling food and drink. If you use the wrong machine, you’ll continually burn out the motor when you go over spills.” He also says a backpack is more user-friendly for restaurateurs, who are likely to use it on a daily basis. “A backpack saves a lot of time and effort because you don’t have to drag a bulky cleaner around.”
For these reasons, Brennan likes the Australian made PacVac SafetyPro backpack vacuum. “The frame of the SafetyPro is designed by chiropractors. It weighs only 4.2kg, and is very comfortable to transport.”
Ben Rodgers, machinery sales manager at Tensens Cleaning Supplies, also recommends the PacVac SafetyPro, as well as a similar model, the Australian made Koala backpack from Polivac.
“Both blow the air straight up, rather than down, which is a feature to look for, and both are good machines. Another feature you want is a cord restraint, so if the cord gets caught it doesn’t pull out of the unit. That and comfortable straps—to take the weight off your shoulders and onto your hips.”
According to Cleantec national product manager Steve Young, you should also look for a machine that is “powerful and quiet”.
Restaurateurs need a machine with at least 1000 watts, although a higher wattage does not always mean better suction. Suction performance depends on the internal setup of the vacuum and its filtration system.
Young says a power head—a separate attachment that will set you back about $180–$240 if not included in the original price—is also a good idea. “A backpack needs to have a power head that can adjust automatically to the floor surface. It should also have a brush attachment to actually sweep the carpet, not just brush loose dirt off the top. This prevents the need for premature brush bearing or belt replacements, because the power head senses the floor and adjusts to the height automatically,” he says.
Asset Cleaning Supplies manager Dian Matthews is also an advocate of a power head, claiming it will “save you 20 minutes out of every hour of vacuuming”. However, power heads cannot be fitted to wet-dry vacuums. For dry applications, Matthews recommends the Australian made Hako Shadow Vac, which has a bypass motor to deal with occasional wet areas.
Young says other features to look for include: good filtration; a wand attachment; a hose; a sturdy bag compartment; good safety features, and onboard tools for above floor cleaning and detail work. “It needs an enclosed vacuum bag system and the machine should not be able to operate without a bag in place, and an electronic control system that indicates the bag is clogged or full.” And, he says, the vacuum should have an extra safety feature that automatically turns the internal motor off if it is left on and unattended for any length of time.
While a backpack model might be the way to go for carpeted areas and front-of-house, it’s not suitable for wet areas such as the kitchen, bar and restroom, where spills are common. For these areas, you need a wet-dry unit, which only come in canister models. Young recommends the Sensor upright vacuum—a wet-dry vacuum made by Windsor. An alternative, suggests Matthews, would be the Charles model by Numatic.
“A lot of the time you’re using alkaline cleaners, and the stainless steel wands on the Charles can cope with that, while some other models don’t. It’s recommended for restaurants, especially for wet-dry applications,” he says.
All the experts agree there’s little point trying to find one vacuum cleaner to cover all your needs. “I wouldn’t look for one model to do the two jobs—you need to have one for front of house and a separate one for areas that need a wet-dry unit,” Young says.
Graeme Dillner, Kerrick Industrial Equipment, says the Kerrick Back Pac Vac model is a good choice to use in a restaurant’s front-of-house and dining areas. “As for the wet-dry vacuum cleaner, I would say the Roky115, which we currently sell to small offices, schools, and larger restaurants.”