Please help: I have been offered an opportunity to get a new cleaning account. Its a restaurant; it’s about 1,300 sq. ft. with 2 bathrooms & supplies provided by owners. We need to bid to clean all dining areas, kitchen excluded, seven days a week.

You want to have a base line that you always use to calculate any bid you prepare. That will be your own (don’t fall for the fancy computer calculator models out there) formula that’s based on these factors:

Square footage: All square feet are not created equal so this is just a starting point. Of course there will be a big difference between 5K and 20K sq. ft., so you want to use this as a place at which to begin your calculations.
Density: How densely populated is the area? This is particularly important when you’re talking about an office space but even in a restaurant, you’ll need to think about how easy it is to maneuver for cleaning and how much stuff there is to clean packed into the square footage you have to service.
Age and condition of surfaces: Old buildings and surfaces are much harder to clean and will have a lot more built up dirt and grime than newer construction or a facility that’s been recently remolded. So allow more time for older facilities and adjust your price upwards accordingly.
Customer requirements: How clean do they want it? If it’s a fancy, upscale restaurant, your potential customer may have higher standards than if it’s a sandwich shop across from the downtown bus terminal. You can usually get a pretty good idea of this on the walk-through and no matter what, don’t ever give a bid without seeing the facility first.
Access: Will you have a large window of opportunity for accessing the restaurant? If you have a key and can go in say, between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am, that’s going to be easier (and cheaper) to service than a client that wants you there at 10:00 pm on the dot every night.
Convenience: You’ll need to take into account things like whether or not they have a floor sink, if it’s on the outskirts of town or any other extenuating circumstances that may make it more or less difficult to service.
These are factors you’d look at in considering a chance to get a new cleaning account regardless of the industry. Use factors to come up with a cost of labor estimate based on what you pay yourself or your employees. Include payroll costs and supplies too. Then multiply by your 7 days and make sure to add in your General and Administrative percentage, and of course profit!

But you asked about restaurants, so let’s talk about some things that are unique to the food service business:

Grease: I don’t care what type of food they serve, you will deal with more grease and dried food in a restaurant than you could possibly imagine. Make sure you keep this in mind when calculating your labor and pricing because it is a totally different animal from the same sq. ft. in a store or office.
Pests: It seems like all food service establishments have roaches. How many just depends on how they run their business. I’ve found that some employees just don’t like to deal with bugs, no matter how much I pay them, and many people don’t do restaurant cleaning for just this reason. It’s something to consider.
Cheap labor: Most restaurants have one or more low (maybe minimum wage) person on board who washes dishes, empties trash and may even occasionally clean the bathrooms (usually under protest). For this reason, be sure that your customer is clear in understanding (and is willing to pay for) a professional cleaner. Because they have had a minimum wage bus-person who has been doing the cleaning (and not doing a very good job of it), they will usually balk at paying a decent fee for having professionally trained janitorial staff come in to clean it the way it should be cleaned. If they’ve been having the cleaning done in-house, they’re not going to be used to writing a check for the work, so there’s going to be some sticker shock when you give your proposal.
Stick to your prices, because you really can’t lower your standards for one client can you?

Personally, I’ve had a hard time finding restaurants that are willing to pay good rates for janitorial services. Because they frequently have low paid labor in the form of dishwashers, restaurant owners in my area seem content to pay an untrained person who resents doing cleaning work rather than pay what it takes to have a professional janitor do a good job for more money. Depending on what the labor market is like in your area, you may have more success.

It’s great to get new cleaning accounts, best wishes on making a go of this opportunity!

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