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All Hail Commercial Dishwashers, Automated Heroes of the Restaurant Kitchen
Choosing the Right Tool for the Job
In a typical restaurant kitchen, dishwashing is damp, dirty, and physically demanding work. Without clean dishes being returned to the line as regularly as soiled ones are bussed in from tables, restaurants would find themselves living in the weeds. As a restaurantâ€™s business expands, the need for quickly sanitized dishes and cutlery has increased the demand for commercial dishwashers as part of the standard outfit for a high-yield restaurant kitchen setup. When taking on the cost and responsibility of a major equipment purchase, the efficiency of the equipment is the primary consideration. Efficiency is dictated by the needs of the business versus the capability of the equipment to meet those needs.
The purchase of a commercial dishwasher is one of the most serious equipment purchases a restaurant owner will make while outfitting their kitchen. With a number of options and amenities available, knowing exactly what your kitchen needs is the first step to making a purchase that suits your business over time. After all, who goes into these purchases knowing the difference between â€œlow temp/high tempâ€ (and which option is best suited for their restaurantâ€™s needs?) What does â€œchemical sanitationâ€ actually mean? Is a conveyor system right for my business, or should I be looking at undercounter washers instead? Whatâ€™s the difference between glasswashers and dishtables, and are these things that I will regret not knowing after Iâ€™ve made my purchase? Luckily, you wonâ€™t have to go into this decision by yourselfâ€”weâ€™ve compiled and distilled the key features of commercial grade kitchen dishwashers for you, so you can make an informed decision that youâ€™ll feel confident is the right fit for the needs of your restaurant. After all, the restaurant dishwasher you choose should be every bit as unique as the kitchen whose needs it serves.
Self-Questionnaire for Equipment Purchases
When making a purchase of restaurant equipment, itâ€™s crucial to make an informed decision. Before delving into the specifics of what kinds of restaurant dishwashers to buy, itâ€™s critical to do a â€œself-auditâ€ of the restaurant and its specific needs to understand what options will best serve the restaurant over time. Though some of the self-questionnaire items may seem self-explanatory, this list will help you to clarify what kind of kitchen dishwashers will be right for your business, ensuring youâ€™re not overpaying for options your business doesnâ€™t need, and making certain that the key needs of your kitchen will be served by your purchase. Before you begin shopping, ask yourself and your kitchen staff the following questions, so you can refine your search for the right commercial dishwashers:
What kind of restaurant is being served?
Fine dining, casual dining, catering, and bar kitchens all have different needs in terms of type of dishes, cutlery, utensils, etc. being washed, and the rate at which these items will need to be cleaned. If you know the needs of your business before you begin shopping, youâ€™re more likely to focus on the equipment thatâ€™s best suited for you.
What are you washing, and how much washing will your business require on an hourly basis?
If you know what a typical hour in both the kitchen and dining room look like, you can estimate the hourly demands of your restaurant dishwashers. After all, thereâ€™s no need to spend more money on high-yield commercial dishwashers if your business only has a moderate needâ€”likewise, you donâ€™t want to overtax the machinery of smaller-yield kitchen dishwashers and have to purchase another before its necessary.
How much space is available for a commercial dishwasher?
Let the area dictate the equipment, not the other way around.
What kind of sanitation is required?
Know before you buy whether your kitchenâ€™s dish pit will be pre-rinsing dishes before sending them through the machine, or if youâ€™ll be looking for a unit with a food disposal included as part of the standard amenities.
What kind of accessories do you want, and what features does the kitchen absolutely need?
In a purchase as significant as a commercial dishwasher, there are lots of â€œbells and whistlesâ€ available, and often, many of them are included standard. Not everything costs extra in purchases of this magnitude, so in addition to having a list of what your kitchen needs, you will also want to create a â€œwish listâ€, and see how many of your needs and wants can be paired up into a singular unit that not only addresses the kitchenâ€™s needs but includes amenities that will make your dish pit run smoother and with less stress on your kitchen staff.
What is my budget?
As with any large-scale purchase, know your ideal price as well as your upper end price before you begin shopping. Sometimes, itâ€™s worth your while to spring for a more luxurious unit, especially if you expect the unit to serve your kitchen for years to come. While you should have an idea of the ballpark price youâ€™d like to spend, make sure you take into account a â€œhigh ballâ€ number too. Thereâ€™s a saying thatâ€™s as true of equipment purchases as it is of most large-scale buys: A good dishwasherâ€™s not cheap, and a cheap dishwasherâ€™s not good. The commercial dishwasher is one of the biggest equipment purchases your kitchen is likely to undertakeâ€”make sure you budget enough to avoid â€œbuyerâ€™s remorseâ€ from cut corners.
How Hot Do You Want Your Commercial Dishwasher To Be?
Once youâ€™ve completed the self-questionnaire, youâ€™ll have a good idea of the type of unit youâ€™re looking for before you begin browsing the myriad of options available in the world of restaurant dishwashers. Knowing the needs of your business is the first step to saving yourself time, frustration and money. One of the principal considerations in your purchase is the method of sanitation required for your kitchen: will your business choose high temperature sanitation or the low temperature method (chemical sanitation)? In a high temp dishwasher, a 180 degree (Fahrenheit) hot water rinse sanitizes the dishes. Many restaurant kitchens prefer this option, because the high temperature rinse eliminates the need to use sanitizing chemicals, thus eliminating any residual chemical odor, or chemical damage to fine glassware. Grease and other residues soften and liquefy at the higher heat, so cleaning if more efficient in a high-temp system. Once the rise cycle of a high temp unit is completed, dishes dry quicker as the door of the unit is opened and the heated water evaporates, meaning the time from wash to line is more expedient than in other systems. As an added bonus, high temp systems are also economical because thereâ€™s no need to purchase additional chemical sanitizers to use with the units. There are, however, a few significant drawbacks to the high temp dishwasher that should be noted as you weigh your options: the installation process utilizes a specific electrical circuit (208v/240v) and plumbing requirements. If your kitchenâ€™s dish pit isnâ€™t already equipped with the correct electrical/plumbing requirements, the installation of a high temp dishwasher is far more involved, and will be an additional cost that will need to be factored into your budget. Finally, many city codes require a Type-II hood over any steam or heat producing unit to ensure that condensation doesnâ€™t drip over food prep areas, another â€œhidden costâ€ of high temp dishwasher units. Lower temp dishwasher units rely on chemical sanitization, rather than heat. For bars and fine dining establishments who use fine glassware, this is often the preferred choice, as it avoids hot glassware and unwanted steam. The drawbacks of low heat units can include stains and stubborn residues that donâ€™t soften as much as they would under higher heats. Likewise, there can often be a lingering smell or taste associated with chemicals in lower temp machines. The long-term cost of lower temp units includes the ongoing expenditure of sanitizing chemicals, so include an estimate for that cost in your budgeting.
Size & Space Considerations
Once youâ€™ve broken your decision down into high temp versus low temp, youâ€™ll want to take a look at the four main types that youâ€™ll have to choose from, and which of these types in available in the heat specification of your preference: Countertops, undercounters, doors and conveyors.
Countertop units are the ideal choice for kitchens with limited space: think espresso bars, food courts, mobile food trucks, office kitchens, or even schools and daycare centers. The primary drawback of a countertop unit is the capacity limitationsâ€”these units are only built to handle about 20 racks (120 average dishes) per hour.
Undercounter units are comparable to home dishwashers, in terms of both size and capacity. On average, their yield is 30 racks (20 x 20 inches), or roughly 750 dishes per hour. Glasswashers are a specific type of undercounter unit, as the name implies, specifically for washing glassware. These are the ideal choice for bars, as the units are gentler on glassware, and often include a built-in drainboard.
Door-type dishwashers are typified by their tall â€œlift up/pull downâ€ doors that allow for ease of sliding racks in and out. The doors also allow the added convenience of washing larger sized items, such as trays or other serving equipment. This type is often connected to dishtables, forming streamlined assembly line action of pre-rinse, wash, and dry. This is the ideal choice for many restaurants, capable of 65 racks per hour, or an average of 1625 dishes. Pot and pan washers are a subset of door type units which feature extra clearance to accommodate sheet pans, mixing bowls, or other large items. These type of door units also typically include increased power for heavy wash items.
Conveyor units are the standard of industrial kitchens or cafeteriasâ€”these units are equipped to handle over 200 racks per hour, or 5400 dishes.
The Bells & Whistles: Amenities
After deciding on a temperature requirement and washer type, the added features are your last consideration in your purchase. Many of these come standard, so familiarizing yourself with the features that best suit your dish pit will help narrow down your choice. Pre-rinse units make cleaning easier, because leftover food can be sprayed away into the food waste disposer. A food waste disposer can be cone mounted within a dishtable, or mounted into the sink, and grinds food particles fine enough to be washed down the drain without clogging it, thus saving on plumbing expenditures. A built-in final rinse booster for hot water machines come in 40 degree or 70 degree specifications (depending on the kitchenâ€™s needs) that raise incoming water to 180 degrees. External final rinse boosters are available in units without a built in booster, or when available water temperature is lower than 140 degrees. Extended hood dishwashers and extra high wash tanks are particularly useful for kitchens which use tall trays, large dishes, or oversized potsâ€”these add up to 6 inches to the tank height, so allow for the added dimensions in your space requirements. The extended hood will also decrease the amount of steam coming out of the unit, preventing moisture damage to the kitchen over time. Dish racks are a required accessory for most units, and come in 3 basic varieties: plate racks, peg racks (for glassware and mugs), and flat racks, for cutlery, utensils, or other large items. Standard racks are generally 20â€³W x 20â€³D.