Foodservice Equipment Reports

Basic Warewasher Care

When you stop and think about it, it’s totally illogical. Most operators pay less attention to the dishroom and its equipment than any other area of an operation. But “the dishwasher may be your most expensive piece of equipment and
should be treated as such,” says Bruce Peeling, general manager
of EMR, Rosedale, Md.

Warewashers, for the most part, are built like tanks. But your investment in that piece of equipment alone (even on a lease cost basis) should make you pause and think about how it’s used and sometimes even abused.

Fact is, you need a dishwasher to meet health codes as well as serve customers on clean and sanitized dishes. So keeping it running is crucial no matter how you look at it.

“The most important thing an employee can do is make sure the scrap trays in the bottom of the machine are in place and clean them out regularly so things like food and straws don’t get into the pump,” says Peeling. “The pump is about the most expensive part to fix. You need to set up one in-house person to monitor the machine to make sure the scrap screen and pump intake strainer are always clean.”

Typical complaints from operators are that their dishmachines don’t run hot enough or don’t do an adequate job of cleaning. Here are some tips for improving performance as well as maintaining your machine and preventing costly service calls.

Daily Performance
• Startup. Let the water heat up before using the machine. It will wash better and recover faster if it starts out at the proper temperature.

• Water temperature. Rinse water in high-temp sanitizing machines must be at least 180°F at the manifold to meet NSF specs and most local health codes. Rinse water above 195°F, however, can start vaporizing and do a poor job of rinsing.

Also, wash water that’s too hot will bake food on the dishware before it’s removed, Peeling says. And, of course, water that’s too cool won’t do a good job of removing soils. Wash temp is typically set around 140°F.

• Curtains. In multitank machines, make sure curtains are in place to prevent water migrating from one tank to another. Not only will this help maintain water temp, but it also will prevent detergent in wash water from becoming too diluted
and will prevent rinse water from getting too dirty. (Final rinse water, of course, is always fresh water.)

• Change the water. “Change the water every two hours,” Peeling says. While that may seem counter-intuitive to dishroom employees who are trying to keep up with demand and don’t want to take time changing the water, the warewasher will actually do a better job of cleaning with fresh water and properly diluted chemicals, reducing the need to run racks through twice.

• Use TLC. “Train employees not to slam doors because it could damage safety switches,” Peeling says.

• Check the belt. Inspect the conveyor belt daily. Broken pawls or damaged links can cause jams. Though most machines have safety switches that stop the conveyor if it sticks, jams do happen and can burn out the conveyor motor or further damage the belt—both expensive repairs.

Daily Maintenance
• Drain and clean. Each day, clean and inspect removable parts like spray arms and curtains separately. Make sure spray-arm nozzles are clear, and then reassemble properly with the correct arms in the right places. A lot of machines now color-code removable parts so they’re easier to reassemble correctly.

• Inspect the interior and heating elements. “Look for lime or scale buildup on the sides of the element or heat exchanger in the bottom of the machine,” Peeling says. “The machine should look like new inside when it’s clean.” De-scale the machine when necessary.

• Check the O-ring. Make sure the O-ring is in place for the drain standpipe and inspect it for wear. A bad or missing O-ring can mean hundreds of dollars of hot water down the drain.

• Look for leaks. Sure, the floor in the dishroom can get wet, but after first starting up the machine when the floor is dry, look underneath it for possible leaks in the pump area. “If the motor is running louder than usual, the pump might be going bad,” Peeling says. “A small leak can turn into a major pump repair if not taken care of immediately.”

• Check for loose parts. Before parts fall off and cause more damage, check for loose screws, door handles, panels, water connections and so forth.

Service Regularly
Finally, to keep your machine tuned up so it gives you troublefree performance, Peeling suggests service calls every two months or so, depending on usage. A service tech can check to make sure cycles are running properly, check all safety features, and lube and oil any motors or belts that require it.

FER thanks the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association for its
help with this story.

On The Cover: Frisch's Big Boy Restaurants

When it comes to equipment service, the Cincinnati-based Frisch’s Restaurants system, which includes Big Boy and Golden Corral restaurants, relies on an in-house maintenance department. Unit managers phone in to a dedicated maintenance call center when problems arise, and the call center tries to talk them through the issues before dispatching technicians.

Frisch’s technicians are trained to repair all types of kitchen equipment, including
refrigeration and HVAC systems, says Del Fugate, supervisor of maintenance. Techs also handle general building repairs. And the value of having a dedicated maintenance arm is clear: cross-trained techs are able to service several items when visiting a unit. This cuts down on the need to use multiple outside vendors for work on specific items.

Another benefit is round-the-clock access to service. “We have a technician on call
24/7 to assist with after-hour issues,” says Fugate. Plus, a system-wide preventive maintenance program performed every four months allows techs to visually inspect all equipment for proper operation.

When it comes to warewashing, Frisch’s understands the importance of sanitizing and food safety. Technicians perform a monthly inspection of all machines, during which detergent dispensing, water softening and hot water systems are all inspected. “We buy our own detergent and dispensing equipment,” says Fugate, “and we sanitize with 180°F water. We also have a daily warewashing
checklist for all managers to follow.”

FER thanks the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association for its
help with this story.

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