Flight-type warewashers are critical to the success of the large kitchen operations they support, so it makes sense to take care of yours. Training staff to perform daily and periodic maintenance properly and scheduling regular tuneups with an authorized technician will help your machine run longer and require fewer service calls. It’s ironic—but true—that some of your lowest-paid employees operate one of your most expensive pieces of equipment. Ongoing training is mandatory if you expect your flight-type warewasher to last.
“Dishmachines are the single most important piece of sanitation equipment for any operator; they provide sanitary dishes and utensils to guests,” notes Johnita Anthony, COO for Consolidated Appliance Services, Mt. Vernon, N.Y. These machines represent a substantial investment as well.
Some of the most common complaints from operators about dishmachines, Anthony says, are that the final-rinse temperature isn’t hot enough, the conveyor belt has jammed or the machine is not cleaning wares well.
Your dishroom crew needs to completely drain the prewash and wash tanks between meal periods or at the very least, at the end of the day, depending on your volume. Keeping your tank water relatively clear will ensure clean dishes and make effective use of your detergent. If your staff fails to change the water when needed, they will be washing your wares with dirty water.
Empty and wash the scrap screens or baskets in each wash section daily, and make sure the crew knows where and how to put each screen and basket back in place. These filters capture and keep bulk food soil out of the water and the warewasher’s mechanical workings. If soil gets into your tanks and pumps, it can jam the works and clog wash arms so they won’t clean your dishes properly.
Inspect and clean the wash arms daily. The nozzles on the wash arms are engineered to spray in a specific pattern so the wares get optimal water coverage throughout the machine. Check the nozzles by opening the tank and pulling out the wash arms. If you see food particles inside, clear them out.
Inspect the conveyor belt. Replace any damaged links as they can cause jams.
Part of your daily routine also needs to include washing the strip curtains at the load end, hosing out the machine, wiping down horizontal surfaces and leaving the doors open overnight so the interior can dry.
A note on curtains: It’s critically important to replace the curtains in their proper positions because some are longer than others. For example, if you attach longer curtains where shorter curtains are needed, the long curtains catch on wares as they convey through the tanks, block the water spray and prevent wares from getting washed and rinsed correctly.
Also, replace torn or worn curtains. They keep heat and water inside the machine. If they’re torn, heat is escaping, and the 180°F rinse water will have a tough time getting wares to the 165°F they need to be sanitized.
Beyond daily procedures, your dishmachine requires certain periodic upkeep. For starters, if you use a newer model with a heat-recovery system that improves efficiency and lowers operating costs, you’ll want to clean the extraction fan and heat exchanger for optimal performance, notes one manufacturer. Try warm, soapy water or a degreaser to clean the exchanger blades.
Regularly read your machine’s water-pressure and water-temperature gauges. Correct water pressure (about 20 psi) ensures the machine effectively removes soil from dishes. If your machine doesn’t include a heat-recovery system, “make sure the water comes into the machine at 140°F; if it doesn’t, the internal booster heater will have to work harder to bring the final sanitizing rinse to 180°F, and this may eventually cause the booster to fail,” Anthony notes. Machines using heat-recovery systems initially fill wash tanks with hot water but then run on a cold-water feed as low as 50°F and rely on a “smart” booster heater to achieve the 180°F final sanitizing rinse.
Depending on your water quality, your machine may require deliming. Ignore this step, and the lime scale can do a number on your unit’s heating elements and pump seals. Generally, a machine in a hard-water environment requires deliming once a month.
During the deliming process, make sure to remove the final-rinse wash arm and place it in the deliming solution. “Unlike other wash arms, the final-rinse arm pulls fresh water, so it doesn’t come in contact with the deliming solution unless removed and placed in the wash tank during the deliming process; this is often overlooked,” a manufacturer says.
Check for loose or missing parts on your machine. One operator ran into trouble when a magnet that affixes to the door of the wash tank fell off, rendering the dishmachine inoperable. When the door is closed, the magnet engages and connects two pieces of metal that enable electricity to flow through the machine. Once a service tech riveted the magnet back into place and hit the “on” switch, the dishmachine started right up.
Ongoing Service, Training
Hire an authorized service tech to install the machine correctly in the first place; then call them in for an annual thorough inspection of the unit. They’ll want to check all components, clean pump screens and replace seals as needed.
Meanwhile, keep your owner’s manual handy. “It’s one of the simplest but most important things an operator can do,” Anthony says. Don’t leave it unopened and buried in your office somewhere.
Don’t underestimate ongoing, hands-on training for your employees either; dishrooms have a high turnover rate. Invite a service agent or detergent provider to train staffers. Post step-by-step care instructions on the unit using graphics and oversized lettering.