Are you a restauranteur planning to buy a commercial dishwasher?  Perhaps you’re battling to keep up with demand, need to save on staffing costs or better serve your customers? Are you a café or hotel owner who wants to increase the efficiency of your operation?

Many businesses like your own, have opted to take the plunge and invest in a commercial dishwasher solution and reap the rewards.   For those who have made a decision to purchase a dishwasher, the next step is choosing the right machine for your business.

However, buying a commercial dishwasher for your restaurant, hotel, or café is a decision you do not want to take likely as you will be investing a considerable sum. Your purchase decision will weigh heavily on the volume of crockery, pots, glasses and utensils you will be washing daily.  Depending on the state or country you reside, health codes will vary and at times considerably, so this too may affect your decision.

So, to help you more easily decide what solution is best for your business needs, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions most restaurateurs ask before purchasing a commercial dishwasher.

Are dishwashers as effective as hand washing?

The talk around dishwashers vs hand washing has debated since the ’50s, however, with advancements in technology, the case for dishwashers is indisputable, below we highlight ten reasons why dishwashers do a better job than hand washing;

  1. More hygienic – to effectively kill bacteria water temperatures need to reach at least 77°C for 30 seconds during the wash cycle, making it virtually impossible to maintain a consistent tub temperature when hand washing
  2. Easier on hands – dipping your hands in detergent solution, day in and day out is not exactly great on your hands, and wear gloves for long periods is not only uncomfortable but limits blood flow to hands
  3. Fewer breakages – less handling equals fewer breakages
  4. Increased time savings – spending less time at the sink provides more time to dedicate to other duties around the kitchen
  5. Save on staffing costs – busy commercial kitchens will see significant reductions in staffing costs
  6. Water savings – not only do dishwashers uses way less water than hand washing, but there is no longer a need to pre-wash dishes, further reduces water usage and environmental impact
  7. Energy-efficient – commercial washers have become increasingly more energy efficient over the years, with improved operational efficiency and reduced cycle times
  8. Less detergent – less water, better washing efficiency, and less soap to get the job done and lower environmental impact
  9. No linen required – no more hand drying and polishing, no only frees up staff time, but prevents cross-contamination through dirty linen
  10. They do a better job –  you get better results, faster with no watermarks or stains and reduced breakages for less cost.

How long is the average dishwasher cycle?

Although the benefits of commercial dishwashers are numerous, perhaps one of their most saleable points is speed.  The majority of Norris machines, in particular, have wash cycles of less than a minute—compared with the long run times of domestic dishwashers, commercial washers are a must-have for businesses in the foodservice industry. Capable of washing between 20-200 racks per hour, speed does come at a cost with increased energy consumption, especially in models with high-capacity and turnover rates. Why are commercial dishwashers so fast?

Why are commercial dishwashers so fast?

Due to the sheer size and competitiveness of the hospitality industry market, today’s commercial kitchens are under significant pressure to serve an increasing number of customers during peak periods.  High customer turnover requires a constant demand for clean dishes to plate and serve customers.  Dishwashers have met the needs of restaurants, bars and cafes by answering the dilemma of capacity vs customer satisfaction perfectly.

High capacity dishwashers now hygienically wash and sanitise racks of dishes within a minute compared with slow wash cycles of domestic washers which can take up to 2 hours. The benefits are ever-present for business owners which reduced operational costs, improved customer satisfaction and fewer breakages.

Are dishwashers high on energy consumption?

Modern commercial dishwashers are more energy-efficient than washers a few decades ago; however, they do consume more electricity than their domestic counterparts.  This increased energy consumption is due to their speed of operation, they are required to clean and sanitise in a short timeframe (within one minute) and thus use a lot of power. In commercial applications, electricity consumption will vary greatly depending on the machine’s wash capacity and drying options.

Cost savings can be achieved by plumbing hot water directly into the dishwasher, lowering the time and energy required to bring the water up to temperature with each wash cycle.  An example of how some manufacturers are striving to solve the need to clean fast and safely while using less power is the Norris AP series; ‘connect to cold’ feature.  And, finally, significant cost-savings can be achieved through the installation of solar panels in your place of business.

Are dishwashers more water-efficient than hand washing?

Generally, commercial dishwashers consume less water than hand washing. A typical dishwasher uses up to 2.2 gallons per rack (GPR). Meanwhile, the high-efficiency models consume as low as 0.95 GPR. Water consumption in hand washing could be nine times higher than your dishwasher’s usage. Putting these figures into perspective for commercial applications; dishwashers save more than 100,000 gallons of water annually when compared to hand washing.

Is hand washing more hygienic than dishwashers?

As commercial dishwashers use water at high temperatures to kill germs and sanitise your dishes, they are considered more hygienic than hand washing. In typical dishwashers, temperatures reach between 65–71 °C (149–160 °F) during the wash cycle. The final rinse reaches at least 80°C (180°F). Combined with the use of a chemical sanitiser during the wash process, commercial dishwashers provide far greater adherence to food safety compliance and the cleanliness and safety of the dishes—something which a kitchen hand will find hard to replicate.

How do I know my dishwasher is washing dishes hygienically?

With over 5 million cases of food poisoning occurring in Australia, each year alone clearly establishes the case for all commercial dishwashers to meet washing and sanitising compliance standards.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Safety 2016 cites the US Food Code 2013, which requires all utensils and food contact surfaces to be immersed in water at a minimum temperature of 70°C for at least 30 seconds. The Australian Standard AS 4674-2004 recommends sinks used for sanitising, that water reaches at least 80°C.  International standards have provided uniformity of operating temperatures for commercial dishwashers.

According to Comark, the best way to ensure your dishwasher is maintaining the correct temperature during its wash cycle is to place a thermometer inside your commercial dishwasher. Variations to the Comark product are readily available and, it’s best to choose a product to suit your use application and budget, expect to pay around $100 for a quality product.

What chemicals are used in commercial dishwashers, and are they safe?

There are several chemicals used in commercial dishwashers, each with specific tasks;

  1. Limescale removal increases machine longevity, reliability and wash results by preventing and removing limescale buildup in your washer
  2. Detergents remove dirt and grime, clean and sanitise your dishes
  3. Rinse-aid reduces surface tension and ensures your dishes emerge streak and spot-free
  4. Surface cleaners to clean the exterior of your dishwasher, in particular, stainless steel surfaces.

All chemicals are subject to compliance and are safe when used as instructed.  Read the manufacturer’s safety recommendations and labels, know the substances you are using, the dangers and the safety measures you need to take if you or a co-worker has direct contact with inhales or consumes these substances.

Many of the chemicals used in these solutions are incredibly toxic to multicellular organisms; this means they are harmful to humans, animals and the environment.  Wear necessary eye, hand and protective clothing when using chemicals, direct contact, can cause skin irritation, burns, swelling, breathing and eye damage.  Swallowing these chemicals can result in death.

Consider using eco-friendly products where possible.

Can dishwashers remove baked-on grease and grime?

Commercial dishwashers are effective in eliminating the majority of stains and baked-on grease on pots and baking dishes as long as you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use the recommended detergents and rinse-aids. In some cases, stubborn baked-on fat may require pre-soaking.

For busy commercial kitchens, large volumes of pots are washed daily and require dedicated pot washers.  Pot washers have high-powered wash cycles and are far more efficient at removing stubborn baked-on grease and grime than some multi-purpose commercial appliances.  If your kitchen has a high turnover of pots and pans, we advise discussing your needs with a professional before making any purchase decisions.

Do glasses or dishes require drying or polishing when the wash cycle ends?

As part of the wash cycle process, some commercial dishwashers have heating elements to dry dishes and glasses. If you have used a rinse-aid during the wash-cycle, polishing or drying is not necessary — your glasses and crockery will be immediately ready for use. However, it is always advisable to spot-check results to guard against watermarks which may occur due to hard water or a variety of other reasons.

Do dishwashers resume their wash cycle after a power outage?

During a power failure, commercial dishwashers with mechanical controls will resume their cycle once electricity is restored, providing power to the machine that has not been switched off during the outage. For electronic models, when power returns, the majority of appliances will return to their previous setting and resume the cycle automatically if not cancelled. However, some models do not resume operation when power is restored for safety purposes and require the wash cycle to be restarted.

As there are differences in how brands handle power outages, it is essential to refer to your manufacturer’s owners manual for information on how power interruptions affect your machine’s wash cycle.  If your machine does not operate after power has returned, check your switchboard, as a power surge could trigger your circuit breaker.  If power to the socket is present, but your machine has no power, it is likely damage has occurred to your machine’s control board and a technician will be required to resolve the issue.

Do glass washers clean differently to dishwashers?

Glass washers’ mode of operation is similar to that of commercial dishwashers. However, glass washers are designed primarily for washing and rinsing glassware.  Racking glassware is very different for glassware as is the washing and drying actions.  For this reason, glass washers are unsuitable for washing dishes. These appliances are ideal for business enterprises with high drink orders like sports bars and pubs.

Are pot washers too harsh to clean dishes?

Generally, pot washers are designed for the cleaning or washing of large kitchen utensils like pots, pans, containers, and bowls. Pot washers are heavy-duty, high-powered machines certain types of dishware suffer damage, the best protection is to talk directly with the manufacturer or supplier about any limitation your machine may have.

Are there any kitchen items which should not be placed in the dishwasher?

Although commercial dishwashers can wash dishes and other utensils carefully and effectively, there are some items which are more prone than others to damage.  Items which can be easily damaged are lead crystal glassware, nonstick cookware and hand-painted ceramics. You should also avoid washing hollow-handle knives, wooden cutting boards, plastic items, copper cookware, utensils made of cast iron, and sharp knives in your dishwasher.

The best insurance is to talk with your supplier about any limitations, warnings and recommendations the manufacturer suggests to enable you to get the most from your machine and avoid unnecessary damage to expensive or cherished goods.  Alternatively, the spruce has a great article which covers things you should never place in a dishwasher.

What commercial dishwasher is right for me?

There are several factors you should consider when selecting the right dishwasher for your business, including the number of crockery, glasses, pots and utensils to be washed during your peak hours, the size of your premises, the price, warranty, and the reputation of your supplier.

One of the first steps is identifying your needs, some questions you might like to consider are;

  1. Do you need a good all-rounder or something task-specific like a glass or pot washer?
  2. Do you have high-volumes of washing and need a machine capable of washing up to 200 racks per hour and have the kitchen space and budget for a rack conveyor.
  3. Or perhaps you have smaller requirements, limited space and need the compactness of an under bench solution?
  4. How long is the product warranty, and what does it include?
  5. Are there technicians available in your area with the necessary skills to maintain and service your machine if the machine fails?
  6. Does the brand have a reputation for reliability and longevity?

As you can see, there are quite a few questions which need to be answered. Fortunately, we have covered these questions and more in a recent article, where we discuss factors you should consider when buying a commercial dishwasher. We recommend you take a look.

Are commercial dishwashers easy to use?

Generally, commercial dishwashers are very easy to use, and for very good reason — the role of the kitchen hand has one of the highest staff turnovers in the hospitality industry. So ease of operation has always been a primary consideration as your dishwasher will be frequently handled by inexperienced staff.

Most manufacturers have made starting the wash cycle very simple with easy loading and one-button operation.  Just follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid any issues, use the right detergent and wash cycle to receive brilliant results every time.

Should dishes be pre-rinsed before loading into a dishwasher?

There is often a lot of debate around this issue, for the majority of a commercial dishwasher, pre-rinsing isn’t necessary; a bit of common sense should always prevail.  It would be unreasonable to load your washer with plates loaded with dinner scraps and expect great results. Often, all that is required is to scrape excess food from dishes and load the machine.

What’s quite revealing is pre-rinsing dishes can quickly offset one of your dishwashers primary benefits, which is water savings. Pre-rinsing can waste between 8 to 28 litres of water for every minute you leave your tap running. The amount of water consumed running your tap is considerably higher even if you had to run your dishes through the washer a second time.

Are commercial dishwashers easy to maintain?

Generally, commercial dishwashers require you follow a simple maintenance procedure to keep them working correctly. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s manual before cleaning your machine. Treating your appliance with the care it deserves will go a long way. The majority of dishwashers recommend end-of-shift and end-of-day cleaning procedures to ensure your washer continues to run faultlessly.

What to do when your machine stops working during a busy shift?

It is a good idea to train staff on how to use, maintain and troubleshoot your washer should your appliance stop working during a busy shift. For the majority of businesses in the hospitality industry, dishwashers are mission-critical appliances, so, if your fault can not be resolved, calling a technician is your best option.

It’s advisable to have your service technicians phone number readily available for all staff to ensure the designated repair technician is notified, and your issue is resolved as quickly as possible. Finally, but by no means least, ensure you have systems in place for your staff to follow when your dishwasher fails. Displaying clear instructions in a prominent position in your kitchen for the cleaning and sanitising of all crockery, pots, and utensils will avoid unnecessary anxiety while ensuring health code compliance.

Are there options for businesses who can’t afford to purchase a dishwasher right now?

Although the benefits of commercial dishwashers are clearly defined, it’s by no means compulsory. In fact, the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code still provides hospitality businesses clear outlines for manual cleaning and sanitising of dishes and utensils.

If you cannot afford to buy a new commercial dishwasher, there are at least three viable options for small businesses and startups, they are;

  1. Continue to wash dishes the old-fashion way by assigning staff to wash dishes and other utensils manually. You will need a 3-compartment sink to comply with sanitary regulations. Make sure to instruct your workers not to towel-dry the utensils to avoid possible contamination.
  2. Purchase a used commercial dishwasher, a cheaper alternative which could save you thousands.
  3. Leaserent or rent to own a commercial dishwasher; there are fixed price package options which help you save money by extending machine warranty—so speak to your accountant for the option which best suits your needs.

Everything your commercial dishwasher should be.

What’s right for your business will be different from what’s right for another, but to summarise, here are the key things you need to consider before purchasing your dishwasher;

  • Substantial warranty period – preferably with the option to extend – some machines carry a five-year complete machine warranty—covering your machines control board, cabinet, parts and labour for five-years. Warranty options like these offer customers incredible piece-of-mind, knowing they are covered in the advent of downtime; without any further cost.
  • Energy-efficient – without loss of performance
  • Connect-to-cold – machines which reduce the strain on your kitchens hot water service
  • Right size and shape – the right wash capacity and most space-efficient solution for your kitchen
  • Match your washer with what you wash – interior capacity is often misunderstood; it’s essential to select the machine which best matches the range and item sizes you regularly wash
  • Match your washer with your premises – select a machine which will require the least electrical installation work as possible—if a 10amp machine does the job it will run on domestic power. If there is 15amp power to the premises, a wider range of options is available
  • Water quality – let suppliers know if you are operating in a hard water area
  • Water pressure – water pressure has a massive impact on the ability of some machines to perform at optimum levels, so let your supplier know if you are aware of any issues.

Last thoughts.

Buying a commercial dishwasher for your restaurant, café, hotel, or store provides substantial cost and time savings for business owners. If you feel a little out-of-depth about deciding which dishwasher to purchase, consider seeking the advice of an experienced restaurateur or industry professional like Norris.

Norris has been manufacturing dishwashers for over sixty years and can provide your business with professional guidance, making it easier for you to choose the machine right for you. We hope we’ve answered those questions frequently asked by so many restaurateurs when considering a commercial dishwasher and welcome your feedback.