Learn what to look for in a flooring product to make your restaurant safe for your guests and employees.
In fact, slipping and tripping is the second-most common workplace accident. When the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen and dining room are combined with risky environmental conditions, accidents are always a possibility.
Of all of the accidents that occur in restaurants, slips and falls from slippery floors are, by far, the biggest culprit. The most common reasons floors get and stay slippery in restaurants are:
As a restaurant owner, the biggest way you can keep your staff and customers safe is with an investment in slip-restaurant flooring made for restaurants and other commercial businesses.
In addition to caring for your staff and customers, there’s also your business’ liability to consider. Slippery and slick conditions add up to a personal injury attorney’s dream come true. A proven, effective slip-resistant flooring surface is a must if you want to reduce your liability and minimize your risk of a lawsuit.
While safety regulations can differ from state-to-state, as a general rule, flooring should be impervious to moisture and easy to clean and maintain. Furthermore, OSHA requires that employees have a safe workplace, which includes flooring that meets industry safety standards.
To achieve these objectives, a quality slip-resistant floor should have the following attributes:
Restaurant flooring options are similar to residential flooring options but are typically a higher-grade product to withstand heavy use. Some of the most common restaurant flooring choices include ceramic tile, concrete, vinyl, and rubber.
Of course, the key here is to select flooring that’s both durable and slip-resistant. According to the commercial flooring industry, slip resistance is based on three factors:
OK. Bear with me here. It’s going to get a little wonky. This is important information, though, because it will help you understand slip resistance and thus, enable you to take better care of your flooring and pick the right flooring to begin with.
Aggregate is the grit that creates the friction that permits traction. Aggregates can be used separately or together and typically have hard, rough edges to give the flooring its slip-resistant qualities. Generally, the more slip resistant the surface is, the larger the aggregate particles.
Some common aggregates are:
Flooring slip resistance is established through laboratory testing and is expressed in terms of its coefficient of friction (COF). Like I said. Wonky. Simply put, COF is the ratio of attraction between your foot and the floor.
COF ratings are classified as “wet” or “dry.” In terms of safety code regulations, the COF requirements are based on the “wet” rating. The higher the COF value, the less slippery the surface. To be classified as “slip-resistant,” the surface of a material must have a wet value of 0.60 or greater. Any flooring meeting or exceeding this rating will meet all general safety and health regulations, ADA and OSHA requirements.
Flooring is ‘conditionally slip-resistant’ if it’s wet COF ranges between 0.50 and 0.59.
Restaurants must take special note of “wet” and “dry” slip resistance. Most flooring surfaces are slip-resistant when dry; however, if you add any sort of contaminate—water, dust, grease or chemical cleaning solvents—its non-slip effectiveness may be greatly affected. As a COF general rule, the shinier a surface is, the slipperier it is, so many polishes that make restaurant flooring look nice are simultaneously making it more dangerous. Likewise, many surfaces, such as concrete, will become increasingly slippery with wear and age.
This can be particularly problematic when it comes to restaurant bathrooms. Because liquids of various sources fall on the floor, it’s vital to maintain slip-resistance in all areas of the restroom.
Ok. Just a little more science.
All aggregates must be combined with a foundational base—typically a resin that can preserve the gritty qualities while making the floor smooth so it’s durable and easy to clean. Slip-resistance requires roughness of aggregates to achieve friction and traction, but it also needs lock coat sealants such as polyurethane to make the surface more durable and easier to clean. However, the ratio to grit and smooth is a balancing act. If the lock coat is too thick, the abrasive qualities of the aggregate material will be sealed as well and slip resistance is compromised greatly. Too thin, and it’s going to be hard to clean to health and safety code standards.
Slip-resistant resinous flooring is commonly used in restaurants because of its durability and hygienic qualities. There are three core categories, each with potential benefits and drawbacks.
PMMA resin flooring can be installed quickly, even in sub-freezing temperatures if necessary. It is easy to repair because partial upgrades can be done as needed without requiring a full flooring replacement. PMMA resin floors are typically more expensive than other resin flooring options; however, they usually last longer and require less maintenance.
PU resin floors take significantly longer to install than PMMA resin floors, which means more operational downtime during installation and repair.
Newer types of slip-resistant resurfacing flooring have been introduced, such as polyavastic, polyaspartic, urethane and hybrid flooring, and each offers a benefit for specific uses.
There are a number of quality flooring options for your restaurant, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. It’s important to consult with your contractor or a flooring expert and choose resin flooring based on the unique needs and requirements of the flooring surface, rather than simply the cost.
There are four primary types of slip-resistant flooring used in restaurants today.
Choosing the right floor for your restaurant requires a knowledge of what each one can deliver, as well as some expert advice from your contractor or flooring specialist.
Also known as resilient flooring, slip-resistant commercial vinyl flooring is one of the most common types of restaurant flooring.
Commercial vinyl flooring is made from a mix of natural and synthetic polymers structured to create maximum durability. There are three types of vinyl flooring: vinyl composition tile (VCT), luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and sheet flooring. For restaurants, sheets are more popular because they eliminate most seams and crevices. Modern vinyl flooring products are heat-resistant and will repel water.
Vinyl flooring is less expensive than other types of restaurant flooring and can be treated with aggregates and antimicrobial agents to reduce germs and promote hygiene. Vinyl flooring is softer than concrete or tile and conforms to its subfloor, so it will be more comfortable for restaurant workers, especially if it is installed over a padded foundation. And, keep any vinyl you purchase clean with a resilient flooring cleaner to maintain the effectiveness of the floor’s aggregates and antimicrobial agents.
The maintenance of a commercial vinyl floor is as easy as daily cleaning with a good quality cleaner. Mannington’s Rinse-Free Cleaner for Vinyl Floors is a good choice. Mannington is a trusted vinyl brand. Their resilient floor cleaner is fast and easy to apply and works well.
Ceramic tile flooring is another popular product for restaurant kitchens because it looks nice, wears well, and is easy to maintain.
Ceramic tile is a clay-base mixture that is shaped and baked in a kiln. Because untreated ceramic is porous, a melted glass glaze is added to make the surface stronger and water repellent. While restaurants need the glaze to assure compliance to health and safety codes, if it’s applied too thick it can reduce slip-resistance. Remember, slip-resistance is achieved by adding aggregates that increase friction between feet and surface. The thicker the protective coating, the less surface aggregate there is—and the more slippery the floor can become, especially when wet.
The separate tiles are affixed to the flooring by a grouting compound. Grout is porous, too, so it must be sealed with the tiles when used in the restaurant. Once sealed, the floor is durable and easy to clean.
Ceramic tiles can be tricky to work with and may require professional installation. Once installed, maintenance is generally easy. If one tile cracks or breaks, just the defective tile is replaced and not the entire floor. Always keep extra tiles and grout stored away so you can replace a broken tile that’s an exact match to the rest of the floor.
Keeping a ceramic tile floor clean is critical to keeping it as safe as possible over time. Using a commercial-grade tile and grout cleaner and a grout cleaning brush to break up and clean away the grease, oils, and dirt that built-up on the floor. A quality tile and grout cleaner, a good scrub brush and daily cleanings are the best way to keep your ceramic tile floor free of slippery dirt and build-up. ProChem’s Professional Tile and Grout Cleaner is a high-quality commercial-grade solution that will easily clean your ceramic tile. This Grout Brush with an Extendable Handle is another great tool. It’s a solid brush and its long handle makes scrubbing the floor and grout easy.
Concrete flooring that’s reinforced with aggregates and sealed with a lock coat is another popular option for restaurants. Untreated concrete is porous, but once sealed, it’s very durable and can be customized to accommodate many different design schemes.
Concrete floors require more maintenance than some other flooring choices because they must be re-sealed often to assure slip-resistance and protection against water, grease, food and other common food industry contaminates. Over time, concrete surfaces may crack and stain. Also, after taking on some wear, wet concrete will become increasingly less slip-resistant.
Keeping your concrete floor sealed and cleaned is critical to its longevity and performance. Flo-Kem’s Flo-Crete Concrete Sealer is a great commercial concrete sealer to try if you choose a concrete floor. But, before you reseal your concrete floor, give it a good clean with a commercial-grade concrete cleaner. Flo-Kem’s Heavy-Duty Concrete Cleaner is a good choice. It’s a quality cleaner that will lift out grease and dirt that may have found its way into the concrete. Do this before you seal so you don’t trap the dirt inside.
Special rubber aggregates in combination with a flexible epoxy resin coating make the best rubber floors for restaurants. The material is slip-resistant and has a cushioning effect, which provides additional comfort when workers are on their feet all day. In fact, rubber kitchen flooring offers the most comfort. It also reduces some kitchen and dining room noise by absorbing the sound. Rubber materials are naturally slip-resistant, water-repellent, and easy to clean, which makes them a good option for bathrooms, as well.
Rubber flooring can compose the entire floor or be added in specific areas. It’s also available in tile form, making it easy to install and to replace any damaged tiles with minimal inconvenience.
The main drawback of rubber is that it’s one of the most expensive flooring choices. Additionally, some contaminates like grease can cause permanent damage, so it’s not the best choice for commercial kitchens that are constantly frying or sautéing food.
If you do choose to use rubber in your kitchen, use a good quality rubber floor cleaner often to keep the floor from getting damaged. IncStores’ Rubber Floor Cleaner and Degreaser is designed specifically to tackle the grease that can ruin your rubber floor and keep your floor safe from damage.
In addition to the floor itself, there are other tools and materials out there to increase your floor’s slip resistance. Anti-slip mats and tiles are two great choices.
Anti-slip mats can be placed on top of slip-resistant flooring to make the floor even safer. They’re great to add in areas where workers stand in one place for an extended period of time. Mats are recommended in areas that are often wet because they elevate the worker or guest off the wet, slippery surface and allow spilled fluids to drain through its holes. To reduce the risk of tripping, mats often have edges that incline gradually to the floor.
The biggest downside to anti-slip mats is cleaning them. The drainage holes in the mats make them difficult to keep clean. In the kitchen and dining room, grease, dirt, and food residue can accumulate; in bathrooms, grime and urine can make for an ugly appearance (and unpleasant odor).
Try these Anti-Fatigue Rubber Floor Mats. They’re a small investment and worth every penny to keep staff safe and comfortable.
To clean thoroughly, these mats must be taken out of the restaurant, hosed down and scrubbed with a strong cleaner, and dried completely to eliminate bacteria or moisture that may contaminate food or smell bad. Try Simple Green’s Commercial Cleaner. Simple Green is a reliable industrial cleanser and degreaser that will easily take care of the grime that finds its way into rubber mats.
Also known as modular flooring, slip-resistant tiles are interlocked during installation to form a continuous surface. They’re commonly made of rubber, PVC or polyurethane and combined with aggregate to make them slip-resistant. Friction may be enhanced further by knobbed, ribbed or corrugated surface finishes. This is beneficial in high traffic or consistently wet locations, like bathrooms or the dishwashing area or areas with a high degree of grease output like the space in front of a deep fryer. Slip-resistant tiles sit directly on top of your floor with sloped edges and can, therefore, create a tripping hazard. There’s no sense in eliminating a slip hazard just to introduce a trip hazard. You can lessen both risks by laying slip-resistant tiles across the entire floor, even in areas where slipping is less likely.
IncStores’ Strong Rubber Tiles come as a kit with corner, center and border pieces so you can create a custom slip-resistant rubber tile floor quickly and easily.
Like with a rubber floor, rubber slip-resistant tiles should be cleaned with a rubber cleaner to keep the tiles from getting damaged by grease and other dirt. This Rubber Floor Cleaner and Degreaser from InStores will get the job done.
Other anti-slip flooring accessories, like step covers, coatings, and tapes, combine a range of aggregate materials that increase the roughness of the flooring surface. However, most are used more in industrial settings where strict cleanliness regulations aren’t in place.
Anti-slip tapes, in particular, are not good options for restaurants because they’re not conducive to thorough cleaning. The main advantage of anti-slip tapes is they can be installed over irregular surfaces or reinforce high risk or badly worn surfaces until proper repairs can be made.
Check the manufacturer’s suggested use and guidelines before you install an anti-slip accessory or treatment.
Selecting the right type of slip-resistant materials for your restaurant is critical. Laying these high-performance floors is not easy and even the best materials will be greatly compromised without precise (if not professional) installation. All types of slip-resistant flooring come with prescribed recommendations from the manufacturer, and if the instructions are not explicitly followed, the product warranty will be rendered null and void.
It’s also vitally important to consider what the new flooring is going over – the floor’s foundation or substructure. The wrong base will reduce performance and can cancel warranty coverage. There are also other concerns. For instance, before adding flooring to a concrete surface, the underlying material must be tested for the presence of moisture. If not treated, this faulty base will damage your new floor and greatly affect its longevity. And, ceramic tiles can crack or break if there is just a tiny air pocket beneath it.
Most of the work that happens in a restaurant’s kitchen requires a professional chef. Installing specialized, slip-resistant flooring, however, requires a different type of professional. Working with a trusted contractor will save you time and money and prevent a lot of immediate and future headaches.
Your contractor can also provide a tone of value beyond just the installation of the floor, such as:
A slip-resistant restaurant floor is one of the most important features of a safe kitchen, but it’s not the only one. Creating a safe kitchen environment takes:
Get your staff involved. Creating a safe working environment takes a commitment from every member of your staff. Non-slip shoes for every staff member is an easy way to prevent injuries. And, encourage your team to clean up food, grease, and debris whenever they see it on the floor. Having everyone’s help in maintaining a safe working environment is key.
Observe all health codes and safety regulations. When it comes to flooring, restaurant owners or kitchen managers must also pay close attention to all applicable health and safety codes. There isn’t one standard; it varies greatly depending on where the property is located. Health codes can vary and guidelines are often open to interpretation. Before any work is done, you must make sure it meets all applicable codes or you’re just throwing away money.
Review customer ratings for all flooring products. Every product will try to convince you it’s the best on the market. Customer ratings are your best resource to find objective reviews. When conducting this research, try to find properties and functions that are most similar to your work. You need a hygienic, durable, safe, and attractive final product. Many options exist, but the selections are not one-size-fits-all.
This guide should get you well on your way to finding the best slip-resistant floor for your restaurant. Remember to consult a professional before you make any big purchases or before you attempt installation on your own.
If you do attempt to install slip-resistant restaurant flooring on your own, let me know how it goes in the comments. Or, if you have a question, reach out!
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