Spec Check: Warewashers

In foodservice operations, it is not unusual to overlook the warewashing component of the business because it does not generate revenue. In an odd contrast, though, the dishwashing area typically consists of the foodservice operation's most expensive equipment.

Because these warewashers are a major investment and contribute to creating a safe and sanitary environment for guests, it's important to specify the proper type and size to get the most out of these systems.

Warewasher types range from the small undercounter models to the large flight-type units. The quantity and type of food, along with the type of ware being used, come into play when specifying these units. Foodservice operators can clean almost any item in a warewasher but it is still important to understand the different washing methodologies and their impact on various materials and composites.

For example, dedicated glass washers will have a longer wash cycle and lower water pressure. This helps ensure that the fragile glassware is not damaged during washing. By contrast, dedicated pot-and-pan washers and tray washers use higher water pressure and longer wash cycles to more effectively remove heavier soiling.

Both utility hook up and availability should represent key factors to weigh when considering the type and placement of a warewasher, which generally requires incoming water and drain systems.

Proper ventilation and air circulation is necessary for certain units. For the exhaust system to be compatible, both the fan size and cubic feet per minute (CFM) air circulation need to be adequate for the room size.

Four Considerations for Specifying Warewashers

Capacity: Compare the ratio of usable cubic inches of wash area versus the unit’s overall footprint. Tank sizes are measured in 6-inch increments. The machine’s throughput will determine how fast the system can wash the items required. Exactly how much throughput is necessary will depend on the estimated volume of the foodservice operation.

Space Constraints: Keep in mind that it may be best to purchase a unit that is larger than necessary for increased efficiency, flexibility, capacity at peak periods and future expansion of the operation.

Location of Wash Jets: Examining this area will provide a better picture of the wash action consistency.

Filtering System: Water conditions have a direct impact on the unit’s operation and service life. The better the water, the better the washing results will be.

When specifying warewashers, it's important to determine whether a high- or low-temperature model is preferable. High-temp warewashers, recommended for operations cleaning dense proteins, such as eggs, cheese and lipstick, have a final rinse temperature of 180 degrees F to sanitize the contents. In most cases, these units utilize a booster heater that requires additional electrical capabilities. Low-temp warewashers don't require as much electricity, but utilize chemical sanitizers. Be aware that many local codes require warewasher water temperature to reach between 160 and 180 degrees F at minimum.

Because some models offer the option of electric, steam or gas water-heating systems, it is necessary to decide which type is preferable when deciding on a unit.

Units may offer either a fresh-water rinse, which helps increase energy efficiency, or a fill-and-drain system for operations that don't have exposure to scrapping or prerinsing.

If the foodservice staff will wash a variety of items in the unit, look at the model's flexibility for accommodating various ware types and materials. If the ability to wash varied loads that are intermixed is important, consider a system that offers random loading capabilities. When delicate items are in the mix, determine how gentle the washing system is. Warewashers that add significant premature ware to the items being washed, or shorten service life, will be more costly to operate over the long term.

Several environmental factors come into play when specifying a warewasher. For example, noise levels can be an issue with some warewasher types. If the dishwashing area is by the dining room, for example, consider specifying a quieter unit with heavier insulation. It is also important to understand how employees will load and unload the unit to specify an ergonomically appropriate warewasher.

Heat recovery systems and ventless warewashers represent two new types of technology on the market. Heat recovery systems capture the warm air the units exhaust and redirect it out of the space to assist in heating water for the warewasher or other uses. This saves on air conditioning and electricity costs. In the door machine category, ventless warewashers negate the need for exhaust hoods.

Variable speed units that correlate the water to the belt speed for conveyor warewashers can offer increased efficiency for seasonal operations or those with varying volume.

A tray dryer option for rack and flight warewashers can help save labor in high-volume operations by automatically drying trays as they exit the unit. This system is similar to the dryer at a car wash.

When specifying warewashers, it is important to determine if a garbage disposal or an alternative waste handling system will be used in conjunction with the unit.

Other products in this category that are getting increased attention are waste management systems, such as pulpers, digesters and composters. In many instances, this additional equipment is needed to effectively manage the by-product of foodservice operations.

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