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Back of House Heroes: All About Warewashing

Warewashing is part of any kitchen, but just how important is it to running operations? Learn how and why warewashing can make or break your kitchen.

Professional Dishwashers – Man & The Machine – Are The Real Kitchen MVPs

You know them as professional dishwashers. We consider these hard-working, often unnoticed and underappreciated workers the Kings of Warewashing. Why? The success or failure of restaurants, diners and related foodservice establishments are often at the mercy of the men and women who operate the most important piece of equipment in any commercial kitchen operation. Problem is, to master this job, you must ignore the many fringe benefits that never reach your work station of sinks, suds, scrubs and steam.

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“It’s not a glorified position. It’s not something that everybody wants to do," said Steve Wingate, east regional sales manager for CMA Dishmachines, an industry leader based in Garden Grove, Calif. 

Every customer demands clean – no, spotless – dinnerware, but nobody tips the dishwasher. It’s a nomadic job, separate from the rest of the commercial kitchen operation, so it’s less teamwork and more you-work. Restaurant regulars become friends with the hostess and wait staff, even a few chefs. They never learn your name, never see you. 

While every shift in the front of the house is different, allowing the hours to seem to pass faster, every minute in the very back of the house is the same: another round of pots and pans, cutlery, flatware, glasses, kitchenware, serving pans and trays. And they’re heading your way. With more in tow. And it’s just 25 minutes into your eight-hour shift. If you’re lucky, like really lucky, you may get a five-minute break later in the night. Meanwhile, you spent most of your shift looking at food, smelling like food, cleaning food, but unable to eat any food. 

Oh, and at most businesses, you’re the lowest-paid employee. 

We’ll say it here: Professional dishwashers and their mechanical partners in cleaning and sterilization are the Most Valuable Players in the foodservice industry.

Dishwasher Debate: Undercounter vs. Upright?

Hap Schneider, general manager of ACityDiscount, recommends upright dishwashers like the CMA High Temp Single Rack Dishwasher w/ Hot Water Booster (54 racks / 216 covers per hour) for restaurants with more than 50 seats.

Less than 50 seats? Schneider’s pick is the CMA High Temp Undercounter Dishwasher Glasswasher (30 racks per hour)

Their reward? Well, let’s just say you won’t see their photos in any cookbooks. As of now, there’s no Food Network competition to celebrate their cleaning antics. And here comes another bus tub… 

“The most important role of the professional dishwasher – the person and the equipment – is to be able to get stuff out on time,” said Mike Ellin, showroom sales manager at ACityDiscount. “If you start running out of pots and pans, plateware and flatware, the entire restaurant operation slows down, or comes to a halt. “But it’s more than speed. You want somebody who takes care of items, takes pride in their work, separating dishes and glassware without chipping or cracking them. Those costs can add up too.” 

ACityDiscount talked to industry experts about the task of warewashing and the professional dishwashers – the people and the machines – that keep our favorite restaurants running smooth.

Getting It Done

“That’s the hardest-working guy in the kitchen – the dishwasher. If you train somebody right, they’re the backbone of your operation. In our restaurant, on Sundays, we have over 500 covers with two, three plates per person. Hands down, that’s why he’s the hardest-working guy in the kitchen. Sometimes, he’s the least paid. But you have to find the right individual and train them right.”
– Juan Santiago, chef at Uptown Cafe in Johns Creek, Ga.

Easy Way or The Hard Way

"You have to have competent dishwashers or you’ll find out how important that role is… you’re the executive chef and owner, and you’ll be washing dishes.”
– Henry Chandler, owner/chef of Henry’s Louisiana Grill in Acworth, Ga.

CMA High Temp Undercounter Dishwasher Glasswasher 30 Racks/Hr
High Temp Undercounter Dishwasher Glasswasher 30 Racks/Hr

CMA High Temp Undercounter Dishwasher Glasswasher (30 racks per hour)

Features & Specifications

  • 30 racks / 120 covers per hour
  • Built-in detergent and rinse chemical pumps
  • Built-in 4kW booster heater
  • 2kW wash tank heater
  • Counter-balanced double skin door
  • Low 0.8 US gallon water usage per rack
  • Door safety switch, extended wash cycle switch
  • Stainless steel safety filters protect wash pump
  • Top mounted detergent and rinse-aid prime switches
  • Operator friendly, removable stainless steel wash and rinse arms allows for easy cleaning
  • 1 peg and 1 flat bottom rack supplied
  • Uses standard 19-3/4" x 19-3/4" racks

Time Saver

“Time consuming. Very time consuming. The glassware, they take twice as long as the plates because (depending on the dishwasher) you have to run them through twice to make sure they’re spotless. “And severs don’t bring them back (dirty dishes) when they need to. That’s why if I get my own restaurant, I’m going to have my bartenders do that. They have so much free time – when they’re not serving the customers – they can do it.”
– Thomas Wilson, culinary student at The Art Institute of Atlanta, aspiring restaurant owner

Soapy Situation

“Lots of restaurants, rather than buy the upright dishwasher units, will contact a company that will supply the soap and sanitizer and give them a unit for a small rental fee. Some people like that idea because they don’t have to pay the initial investment… But the cost comes back to them later with increased costs in detergent and sanitizer. And that makes the difference. If you’re buying the machine yourself, sanitizer and detergent cost a lot less.”
– Schneider

CMA High Temp Single Rack Dishwasher w/ Hot Water Booster 54 Racks/Hr
CMA High Temp Single Rack Dishwasher w/ Hot Water Booster 54 Racks/Hr
CMA High Temp Single Rack Dishwasher w/ Hot Water Booster (54 racks / 216 covers per hour)

Note: Dishwasher requires an input water temperature of 140°F… When checking out, you will be able to get this item is a corner or straight through model and you can also choose if you would like the water boosted up 40°F or 70°F.

Features & Specifications

  • 54 racks / 216 covers per hour
  • Economical to operate
  • Uses only .96 gallons of water per cycle
  • Automatic soil purging system
  • Filters wash water and traps plate debris into external tray
  • Tray can be easily removed for dumping contents
  • Heavy duty 12 and 14-gauge 304 stainless steel construction 
  • Built-in chemical resistant industrial 5kW heater and optional 12kW booster heater 
  • Unique spray arm system features upper and lower stainless steel wash arms
  • Specially designed pull-pins allow wash arms to be easily removed for cleaning
  • Top-mounted control box is water tight and includes a rack counter
  • Extended wash/delimer switch and easy-to-read temperature gauges
  • Auto start/stop makes operation safe and easy
  • Field convertible for a wide range of applications

Started In The Sink

“I know how painful it is to do since I’ve worked in that position. In my experience, I think that’s the best way to learn – going through the ranks of the kitchen. You start out in the dish pit then you work your way up.”
– Santiago

How'd Ya Do?

“(As a professional dishwasher) no news (feedback) is good news.”
– Wingate

Tips to Move From Dishwasher to Kitchen Staff

Make yourself available for prep work a few hours a week. The path to chefhood starts with washing lettuce, peeling garlic and asparagus, shelling and deveining shrimp, chopping onions, celery, and carrots.

Nobody Likes Damaged Goods

“Warewashing mistakes – chipped, dirty or spotty dishes – lead to customer losses that make it hard for owners to recover from.”
– Ellin

Learning Patience

“You clean other people’s mess up. You do any grunt job that nobody wants to do… I was the oldest (professional dishwasher) that they’ve ever had. When you’re 30 years old and you’ve got 17-year-old kids telling you want to do, guys that have worked and cooked in restaurants since 12, that’s tough. You learn patience. And respect.”
- Chandler, who trained in London. 

Do It Right The 1st Time

“A restaurant in this day in age, cannot survive without some kind of dishwasher. The person who does the work is the integral part here, really. The machine is only his tool… The whole idea is that you’re not just cleaning the plates. You’re also sanitizing the plates. It’s a two-step process that in most cases, is done is 90 seconds.”
– Schneider

Ready to upgrade your warewashing equipment? Give your professional dishwasher a reason to smile at the same time. Stop by ACityDiscount’s showroom in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross or call 404-752-6715.

Related Products

CMA Dishmachines High Temp Undercounter Dishwasher Glasswasher 30 Racks/Hr - UC65E$4,042.00
CMA Dishmachines 26" Low Temp Vertical Commercial Dishwasher 40 Racks/ Hr - E-AH$3,690.00
CMA Dishmachines High Temp Single Rack Dishwasher w/ Hot Water Booster - CMA-180*B$8,676.00
CMA Dishmachines High Temp Ventless Dishwasher Single Rack 40 Racks/ Hr - CMA-180-VL$10,630.00
CMA Dishmachines 26" Low Temp Straight Thru Dishwasher w/ 20.5" Opening - E-AH-EXT$3,813.00