All dishwashers are not equal, and foodservice operators need to understand how and when there’s will be used in order to make the biggest savings. Tim Smallwood reports.
Not just keeping your customers coming back but also keeping them safe means that those who are running businesses, preparing and serving food need to meet minimum standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
They are not just good for business; these standards are required by the local government regulations that allow you to run the food business by ensuring the dishwash equipment you use is able to give a wash performance that will meet all your expectations. To maintain the quality of your service, Food Safety Standards require that a double or triple bowl sink for sanitising and/or a dishwasher that sanitises is provided.
The Australian Standard for the design, construction and fitout of food premises requires the sinks to be provided with water at a temperature of not less than 45 degrees for washing and 80 degrees for sanitising in the other sink. To maintain the temperature of the rinse water at more than 80 degrees is not the only problem with using sinks for washing up utensils and wares, the other one is the safety issue of staff having to handle items in a sink at that temperature, even when a basket is used. Those who have hand washed in the past also know that the wash sink also gets contaminated very quickly and needs to be frequently emptied and replaced with clean water if you are to wash effectively. Overall, hand washing is not only labour intensive and potentially risky, it is also wasteful of water and energy if the regulations are to be met.
The answer to these issues and a means of saving money and time is to use a dishwasher - but what sort? There are so many different types, each designed for different businesses and applications, and there are so many different brands on the market. Before you can talk to suppliers to get the best advice, you will need to work out and write down basic information: what you have to wash and the number of items that have to be washed over the busiest hour of the day. Very large food businesses should also identify how many staff they want to be involved in the washing and the space available for the equipment.
Even the smallest food business or facility can benefit from using a dishwasher rather than hand washing, because of the guarantee that the wares are clean and sanitised after washing. This can never be the case when hand washing. For example, a pantry in an office or nursing home would only generate a small number of items to be washed maybe two or three times a day, and the washing is often done by people who have no experience in running professional catering equipment. For them the best solution is an under bench semi commercial dishwasher which operates like a domestic dishwasher: press start and forget; but it should be one like the Miele range of fresh water machines which provide a guaranteed rinse that meets the Food Safety Standards and having four programs with the shortest being a 16 minute cycle but also an extended drying cycle if needed.
Hobart Australia suggests that for up to 100 meals a day, small and medium sized cafés and bistros would use an undercounter commercial dishwasher. But as in all other cases it will be the size and number of dishes and cutlery that have to be washed and the length of time for the washing which will determine the size of dishwasher you should get. The capacity of a standard 500 x 500 dishrack is fixed and will hold only 18 x 26cm diameter plates but 27 x 15cm diameter plates into the same rack which will take approximately two minutes to wash in the machine.
Generally racks will be loaded with a range of wares as they are returned from the customers, but the best way to calculate the right size and capacity dishwasher you need is to add up the wares and work out how many baskets will need to be washed over the peak period, allowing for the loading and unloading of the machine.
What's on the market?
Combination dish and glass washers are the ideal solution to coffee shops as they are suitable for glassware and small plates, cups etc. Companies such as Eswood have dishwashers for smaller spaces which will take 400 x 400 racks as an alternative to the standard 500 x 500 rack which is larger and heavier when working in confined kitchen spaces, and Stoddart has released the Wine Line series of glasswashers from Electrolux Professional which are designed to reduce damage to crystal and other fine glassware. For serious glass washing, Meiko Australia recommends reverse osmosis water filtration either built into the dishwasher or as an add-on which completely eliminates spotting and the need for hand polishing glasses after washing.
For most restaurants and hotels, the upright hood type pass-through dishwasher is the standard. These machines have a capacity up to 60 racks or 1,000 plates an hour while only using less than two litres a rack to wash. New technology such as the Comenda cross-jet water jets are used to ensure all residues are eliminated and Winterhalter incorporate waste water heat recovery to pre-heat cold water coming into the machine to save energy.
Single tank dishwashers require a sink and hand spray to be located beside the machine for pre-rinsing the racks of soiled wares to remove heavy soiling prior to washing. This pre-rinsing can use far more water than the actual washing machine, and to overcome this Wexiodisk has developed a pre-wash machine to replace the hand spray which is said to save up to 200,000 litres of water a year as well as chemicals, power and of course labour.
The sink beside the dishwasher can be made large enough for the washing of pots and trays which can then be run through the dishwasher on a standard wash cycle for a final rinse and sanitise, so that staff are not working with high temperature hot water. If the number of pots and food trays is significant then most dishwasher manufacturers also make dedicated pot wash machines such as Angelo Po with its LP202 model, available through Global Food Equipment, as well as combination washers.
For kitchens needing to wash quantities of cookware with heavily burned on residuals, some manufacturers offer a Granule type ware washer. These machines mix food safe plastic granules with the water and detergent to eliminate the need for pre-soaking before machine washing to clean them completely.
For large hotels and restaurants, multi-tank rack type automatic dishwashers are designed to wash from 80 to 240 racks an hour. This type of dishwasher can be tailored to suit particular needs with standard or large pre-rinse and up to three wash tanks as well as standard or extended final rinse. Specialist dishwasher manufacturers such as Meiko, Winterhalter and Hobart also offer heat recovery systems which will use the waste heat from the machine to pre-heat the cold water supply to enable the dishwasher to run on cold water rather than the hot water supply to save on running cost.
The most advanced dishwashers are the Flight (or peg type) dishwashers which have a continuous conveyor comprising pegs which allow all the plates and wares to be placed directly on to the conveyor, which eliminates the need for double handling of dish racks. These machines have all the same features and throughput capacity as the multi-tank rack type but companies such as Meiko Australia can design total systems that use conveyors and other robotic technology including automatic tray and cutlery washing and sorting to fully automate the clearing and washing process for maximum efficiency and scaleability.
There are many manufacturers of commercial dishwashers offering equipment in Australia, but as Washtech points out, it is important that the equipment is installed and commissioned by the company or an authorised service agent to ensure that it is running correctly. And in the long term, just as maintaining the performance of your motor vehicles, Rhima Australia insists that using the right detergent (fuel) and regular preventative maintenance can extend the effective life of the equipment.
All manufacturers maintain continuous research and development into foodservice washing technology to improve performance and reduce the consumption of energy and water and it is always worth examining the features of the equipment to see which will best suit your needs.
All dishwashers are not equal and you can expect to outlay more for dishwashers which will save on running cost and reduce the long term cost of ownership through efficiency and lower maintenance and service costs.