Most kitchens would struggle to function without their trusty kitchen porter, especially when it comes to the organisation and running of their warewashing areas. FEJ shines a light on some of the warewashing solutions designed to make this aspect of the operation more comfortable and easier, focusing specifically on features and technologies designed with the user in mind.
Enough chefs have proclaimed the role of the kitchen porter over the years to know that without them many kitchens would simply fall apart at the seams. While a restaurant or catering establishment will ultimately be judged on the excellence of its food or the quality of its service, it is invariably the unseen work of the KP in the back-end that helps to grease the cog and keep the wheels moving.
But in a world where most kitchens understandably direct more attention towards the cooking suite or the prep area, it can sometimes feel like equipment that makes the lives of KPs easier only attracts a fleeting thought. Yet the truth is that within areas such as warewashing there has never been such an array of innovative hardware to choose from, meaning foodservice operators can invest in solutions that truly make a difference to the ability of a KP to perform their duties.
Any KP that has encountered a dishwasher breakdown, if only for a few hours, and has had to deal with the washing process manually will know only too well the importance of warewashing machines that can handle what’s thrown at them. “Without doubt, the kitchen porter would rank reliability and performance at the top of their ‘benefits and features’ list,” comments Bob Wood, director of DC Products.
While the finance department will be delighted with the cost savings, the KPs will be happy with the temperature”
With most establishments needing to rotate crockery, cutlery, glassware, pots and pans several times during a busy service, warewashing manufacturers have been working hard to develop machines that are as robust as they are effective. At Maidaid, much of the R&D has gone on creating machines that are as user-friendly as possible.
“Kitchen porters must have warewashers that are simple to use, reliable and easy to clean at the end of service,” asserts sales director Julian Lambert. “Our warewashers offer straightforward three-button control — ON/OFF, Cycle Start and Cycle selection. With as little as 10 minutes training, a KP can be operating and carrying out effective daily maintenance on any Maidaid Halcyon warewasher.”
With the ever-increasing use of technology in the kitchen environment, it is easy for product designers get carried away with what they consider to be must-have features, but which actually leads to machines with busy control panels and unnecessary options. Lambert is of the opinion that manufacturers need to embrace technological advancement, but only where it delivers a tangible benefit, not where it is just deployed as a marketing feature.
“The Maidaid Halcyon equipment portfolio has been designed to be some of the easiest machines to use in the market place. This aids the KP in their daily duties by having a machine that operates at a touch of a button,” he adds.
Smeg has been focusing on making its digital touchscreen control panels as user-friendly as they can possibly be. The new Topline and Greenline ranges of warewashers, due for launch this year, will all feature the revamped panels.
“The new controls have been developed for ease of use, enabling a KP unfamiliar with these Smeg warewashers to access the wide range of wash options and settings available,” explains commercial channel director, Phil Coulstock. “The other added benefit is that these machines are wireless internet- and Bluetooth-enabled with a web-based app developed in-house by Smeg. The digital controls have intuitive symbols to access the multiple wash programmes and wireless control and data feedback from Smeg’s bespoke operating app. We looked closely in research and development at how we could make warewashers easier to operate and also to have features like remote updates and fault diagnosis, even when the premises are closed.”
The evolution of commercial warewashing systems over recent years has resulted in the development of efficient, user-friendly equipment capable of offering a consistent high quality wash, time and time again.
Wexiodisk is one manufacturer that believes it can make a real difference to the lives of KPs after devising an automatic pre-rinse system that solves the age-old problem of needing to re-wash dirty items multiple times.
“For the KP, it is often the case that cutlery, crockery and pots and pans will have to be re-washed due to an in-efficient use of archaic pre-wash methods, such as the hand shower system, thus resulting in unnecessary labour time,” says John Shepherd, UK & Ireland country manager at Wexiödisk. “Our PRM system is designed to replace the traditional hand shower system, which combines an overhead spray and sink unit, uses an excessive amount of fresh water and only washes from above. This often means water splashes up the wall, onto the operator or on the floor, creating an unpleasant working environment and wasting significant amounts of energy.”
KPs can clearly understand which elements of the dishwasher require removal, such as wash arms and filters, thereby reducing the time it takes to clean the machine”
Shepherd says the advantage of a pre-rinse machine, such as its WD-PRM7 model, is that it increases the capacity of the warewasher, delivering significant savings on electric, water and chemicals by virtually eliminating the need to re-wash dishes that remain dirty from the initial cycle. “Of course, for the KP not only is it a great time-saver and is less labour intensive, but the working environment remains dryer and safer,” he adds.
Tim Bender, sales director, warewash, at Hobart UK, agrees that catering sites stand and fall on the synergy between the equipment and human operator, meaning modern machines must be intuitive as well as being easy to operate. “Hobart’s latest AUP hood-type warewasher offers the perfect mix of both,” he insists. “The machine is the most economically efficient machine of its type on the market and employs a patented Automatic Soil Removal (ASR) system that eliminates the need for rigorous and time-intensive pre-treatment, meaning dirty plates can be stacked directly in the rack.”
He also notes that rigorous manual pre-washing of heavily soiled ware can be one of the most time- and resource-intensive kitchen tasks for operators. “Hobart’s system makes this laborious practice a thing of the past, offering caterers perfect, hygienic results, no matter how long the soiled items have been in situ,” he says, pointing out that the patented technology it uses employs steam washing to remove even the hardiest of food residues including dried proteins and starch residues. Even knives and forks can be washed without prior soaking, claims Bender.
In a busy commercial kitchen, fast cycle times, a high level of throughput and quality of finish are all important factors to consider. That has prompted many manufacturers, including Miele Professional, to hone their offerings. It has expanded its range of commercial warewashers with the launch of three new undercounter tank models that produce “top quality” results,” insists sales and marketing director, Les Marshall.
“Not only are the machines easy to use, they have been designed to adapt to the needs of different loads, crucial in a fast-moving kitchen. Miele Professional’s new Tank range has a special feature which tailors each programme to deal with specific loads and degrees of soiling. Users can choose from cycles designed for wine and beer glasses, mixed crockery or pots and pans. Adjustable spray pressures and flexible cycle times and temperatures mean items ranging from glassware to tableware are cleaned thoroughly but gently.”
Over on the larger rack transport and flight dishwashing side, companies such as Meiko have introduced simple but effective features to make the lives of KPs easier. Such systems typically require daily cleaning by KPs in order to maintain wash quality and efficiency, so Meiko has brought in ‘Blue efficiency’ colour coding to help identify the components that need washing, whatever the language of the kitchen porter.
“KPs can clearly understand which elements of the dishwasher require removal, such as wash arms and filters, thereby reducing the time it takes to clean the machine,” says managing director, Bill Downie. Colour coding was first introduced on Meiko’s new generation M-iQ machines. Now all of its new generation rack and flight M-iQ machines, as well as the latest UPster rack transport dishwashers, feature this innovation.
“The machines are also self-cleaning, removing another irksome task for KPs, while ensuring maximum hygiene,” continues Downie. “At the end of the working day the machine is cleaned automatically using tank water already in situ. The heat recovery system is also automatically cleaned. Food particles and other debris are completely flushed away using just one single filling of the pumped final rise zone. Only areas with large blue plastic markers need to be cleaned manually.”
Additionally, Meiko has introduced hinged doors on its UPster rack transport dishwashers to ensure enhanced visibility of the wash zone and make it easier for staff to access the top and bottom sets of wash arms. “For the KP, the colour coding of items that require removal for cleaning provides a logical workflow through the machine, making the KPs job simpler, quicker and more organised,” he comments.
Over at Winterhalter, the company’s PT ClimatePlus pass-through warewasher has been described as a game-changer for KPs. Working conditions for KPs can be hot and sweaty, but the PT ClimatePlus has been engineered to act as both a dishwasher and an air conditioner.
“The PT ClimatePlus not only re-uses the energy contained in the steam in the machine’s interior but it also extracts the energy contained in the hot atmosphere of the kitchen,” explains marketing development manager, Paul Crowley. “It uses this energy to heat up the incoming water supply. This reduces energy consumption by 53%, but that’s not all, it can also reduce the amount of extraction that a kitchen requires and improve the working environment. In addition, when the air in the kitchen reaches 25°C the PT sends its exhaust air, cooled to around 18°C, back into the room to keep the temperature down. So while the finance department will be delighted with the cost savings, the KPs will be happy with the temperature.”
The notion of improving the working conditions of KPs is a theme that DC Products also visits. It already offers a steam heat recovery system on machines and is shortly set to launch a double-hood version of its PD1300A pass-through dishwasher that contains features designed to improve working conditions in the kitchen. “It removes and utilises nearly all of the steam created during the wash cycle into the energy required to heat the incoming cold water supply of the dishwasher. The condenser is built into the top of the hood, eliminating the need to install a separate extraction canopy or condense hood,” says director Bob Wood.
Electrolux Professional, too, has worked hard on the steam utilisation aspects of its commercial dishwashers.
Steve Bowler, category manager for warewashing at Electrolux, insists the ‘Energy Saving Device’ (ESD) on its green&clean hood-type dishwasher is a huge benefit for back-of-house staff as it means that even without an extraction canopy the dishwash area remains at a suitable temperature and humidity.
“The ESD works by utilising the steam generated during the rinse cycle,” he says. “This steam is drawn through a heat exchanger where it is used to preheat the incoming cold water supply. The steam condenses and the machine emits cool air with reduced humidity. This feature was principally developed for sites that have no extraction canopy, but also to reduce the amount of electricity used by running off a cold water supply. This means a large hot water tank is not required, offering up to 30% savings in running costs when compared to major competitors.”
Additionally, says Bowler, while other dishwashers may slow down if the hot water tank runs out of hot water, the continuous nature of the water supply used by the green&clean means it can wash up to 80 racks per hour. “This makes it one of the quickest commercial dishwashers around,” he claims.
It would seem that while KPs will forever have their work cut out, the warewashing solutions now on offer in the market should at least make life easier and less unpredictable.