When asked by Fast Company magazine to name a must-have kitchen gadget not yet invented, Suzanne Goin, chef-owner of Los Angeles’ Lucques and A.O.C. restaurants, chose a tool that would automatically load the dishwasher. While a hired dishwasher still must perform that task, warewashing machines have significantly lightened their load.
Andre Decker, chef at Spazzo Italian Grill & Wine Bar in Seattle, began his career as a dishwasher 20 years ago and spent many hours spraying, scraping and soaking dishes. “Today’s machines do it all, freeing up the dishwasher for other jobs, such as cleaning the walk-in or prepping on the line,” he says. Conveyor warewashers are his model of choice. “During peak service, we can put four or five racks of dishes through in 4 minutes,” Decker says.
The warewasher you buy depends on the size of your operation, but as one supplier points out, “dishwashing is not a profit center, so you don’t want to dedicate a lot of space to it.” Used machines are lower in cost, but new dishwashers—ranging from $5,000 to $16,00o, depending on features—quickly can pay for themselves. Look for the Energy Star label; according to 2013 specs, these models are now about 40 percent more energy- and water-efficient.
Hood- or door-type warewashers fill a niche when kitchen space is limited but there are heavy-duty cleaning demands. The machines fit into a small footprint but offer fewer racks than conveyor models. The Electolux Green & Clean line features energy-saving ventless models that capture the steam generated in washing and use it to preheat the incoming cold water.
Space-saving undercounter dishwashers are designed for small restaurants, QSRs, coffee cafes and bars. The Avenger HT-E by Jackson can clean 26 racks an hour using only .73 gallons of water per rack. It has digital controls, a built-in booster heater, updated sanitation technology and is Energy Star rated.
Large restaurants doing a lot of cooking and table turns benefit from a conveyor-style warewasher. These can accommodate bigger loads and all shapes and sizes of dishware and cookware. The Energy Star qualified CH44 from Champion washes 219 racks per hour using 130 gallons of water or .59 gallons per rack. This new model features technology that keeps energy and water consumption at a low level by directing water use only when a rack passes beneath. Conveyors also can clean a few racks in minutes when speed is of the essence.