SPECIAL REPORT: What does the rise of compact kitchens mean for warewashing design?

AUPT hood-type dishwasher

It is a well-known fact that as kitchens in general have become smaller, operators have deployed versatile and slimline cooking equipment to be able to maintain a high-volume offer. But how does that play out when it comes to cleaning, and is it possible to design a warewashing area for a compact kitchen? FEJ investigates.

While kitchen footprints have reduced in size over the years, the required output to meet the demands of a busy service has generally remained unchanged. This, of course, presents a challenge for those tasked with purchasing equipment, but one that manufacturers have endeavoured to make simpler by creating slimline versions of their equipment.

Cooking and refrigeration are two of the most obvious areas where an industry ‘space race’ has broken out, with the R&D departments of the leading brands working overtime to pack the power of conventional appliances into a smaller footprint. It hasn’t always felt that way in warewashing, though.

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“This is something that is less common in warewashers, because the industry standard size of the baskets they use are fairly restrictive,” suggests Steve Bowler, category manager for warewashing at Electrolux Professional. “Working around these standard dimensions — 350mm, 400mm, 450mm and 500mm sq for glasswashers, and 500mm sq for dishwashers — limits the capacity to reduce the size of the machines. Instead, reducing the overall space used for washing is the preferred option, with inlet / outlet tabling, sinks, and racking often modified with this in mind.”

Tim Bender, sales director at Hobart’s Equipment Division, agrees that with space at a premium in many kitchens, the quest for higher capacity machines with the same footprint is becoming increasingly desirable. He acknowledges that this will become an even bigger challenge going forward, but stresses that it is not insurmountable.

“There is definitely room for manoeuvre with regards to a machine’s size and footprint,” he argues. “In fact, extracting more capacity from a machine within the same physical space is at the core of Hobart’s thinking in terms of our latest innovation, the Two-Level Washer.”

Indeed, this newest machine, which is due to be released in the UK this autumn, is a perfect example of how warewashing designers are rethinking conventional wisdom to develop evermore innovative machines. It features two wash chambers that can be used on their own or simultaneously, offering twice the capacity per wash cycle but with the footprint of a regular model.


Recent design-led developments within the warewashing sector certainly mean that operators can get their hands on space-savvy units these days without conceding too much in the way of capacity or quality.

David Glover, UK and Ireland country manager for Wexiodisk, cites its undercounter WD-4S model as a case in point, insisting its sleek, compact design is ideal for slotting into front- and back-of-house areas.

“Add to this the fact that the door of the WD-4S can be placed in a space-saving hygienic position, which also prevents the growth of bacteria when the machine is not in use, and operators are left with a truly space-savvy warewasher,” he says.

Dishwash areas must be designed to be able to cope with a full capacity restaurant, on the busiest day at the busiest period”

Over at Classeq, the company offers a range of smaller machines, including a 350mm x 350mm line. Marketing manager, Adam Lenton, thinks it will be difficult to engineer systems that reduce the footprint even further. “Any smaller and they will not fit the wash racks in to be able to do the volumes required in commercial operations.”

Manufacturers are also using other methods to provide warewashing equipment that fits the denser kitchens that operators have become accustomed to. Meiko, for instance, has introduced integral reverse osmosis into warewashing machines primarily to offer improved washing results to its customers, but another effect has been to remove the need for water softeners, saving around one square metre of floor space for the operator.

Implications and challenges

Warewashing manufacturers are increasingly called upon to provide advice on how to make clients’ operations more streamlined and efficient. And almost all will agree that while owners of new or existing developments are seeking ways to reduce their footprint to create extra room for commercial purposes, you simply cannot compromise too radically on space for warewashing.

“Your warewashing equipment is the workhorse of the kitchen,” insists Bob Wood, director of DC Warewashing & Icemaking Systems. “It simply cannot be compromised because you are always going to have plates and glasses to wash. A well-planned, well-laid out, clean, tidy, organised kitchen speaks volumes about the way you run your business and the quality of the food and drink that your customers can expect.

“Attention should be paid to the ergonomics of the kitchen, focusing on ways in which staff interact with all the other elements of the catering system or service. The design’s aim should be to optimise system performance and enhance staff well-being while realising cost savings,” he says.

David Glover at Wexiodisk says that despite being an integral part of a kitchen set-up, warewashing can often fall behind in an operator’s list of purchase priorities, perhaps because it is associated with cleaning rather than catering.

“This failure to prioritise warewashing, however, makes creating an effective and efficient warewashing flow particularly challenging, especially within compact kitchens where space is at a premium.”

In order to avoid these issues, Glover recommends that operators elevate the purchase of warewashers to the same level they would — or higher — for any other integral piece of kitchen equipment, such as a refrigerator or oven. “In fact, some of the most efficient kitchens start by prioritising the warewashing area in which they can design a seamless warewashing flow according to the space and shape of their kitchen,” he says.

Paul Anderson, managing director at Meiko UK, is also of the opinion that foodservice operators need to think carefully about how to get the most out of the space available.

“The challenge is, was and will always be to create a functioning warewash area that works efficiently. Often this requires ‘out of the box’ thinking and, always, good use of new technology, such as undercounter glasswashers with remote RO and integral coloured lighting. These machines can help reduce the load on the main kitchen dishwash because they fit neatly under a counter, don’t need softeners and look great.”

Additionally, he notes, hood and rack machines with integral heat recovery can be sited in areas previously thought unsuitable for dishwashing because of the ventilation requirement. “Integral heat recovery makes more areas of the kitchen ‘usable’,” he comments.

Failure to prioritise warewashing makes creating an effective and efficient warewashing flow particularly challenging, especially within compact kitchens where space is at a premium”

Steve Bowler at Electrolux says a reduction in space may necessitate opting for under-sized equipment, but if the warewasher is ill-suited to the task it can have an impact on the overall washing time and put a greater strain on the operation.

“To avoid over-working washing equipment, commercial kitchens should consider the option of purchasing compact models. For example, Electrolux Professional offers a ‘compact’ variant of its green&clean rack type, which is aimed at the budget end of the market. It is just 1125mm wide, which makes it an option for those struggling for room.

“However, it is widely acknowledged that energy efficiency and optimum performance requires more space,” continues Bowler. “The green&clean rack type, for instance, has additional tanks inside the machine, which recirculates water for rinsing and washing. The total cost of ownership is therefore far less on larger machines, which makes finding space for these more energy efficient warewashers absolutely crucial.”

Throughput and volume

Kitchens and warewashing spaces are being reduced because venues want to maximise space for front-of-house dining, where they consider the real profit to be made. However, there is a tipping point where the wash area simply won’t be able to cope with the throughput.

“Dishwashing equipment has a maximum capacity — there are tweaks that can be made here and there,” suggests Paul Crowley, marketing development manager at Winterhalter UK. “Winterhalter has a speed wash function for example, but fundamentally there will be a limit to the amount of washing a machine can complete.

“Dishwash areas must be designed to be able to cope with a full capacity restaurant, on the busiest day at the busiest period. It’s important to avoid ‘shoe horning’ warewashing solutions into a pre-defined area without considering if they will cope with the demand.”

With washing areas becoming smaller, inlet and outlet tables for passthrough dishwashers are being utilised more than ever, according to Riccardo Scudetto, export managing director at Krupps. “More and more customers are choosing the corner installations with a frontal outlet table using the EL60TH model, a pass-through dishwasher with upper control panel. This model is arranged in a corner, making the user’s experience very easy, since the display is not covered by the tables. It offers the customer the best use of their compact kitchen with new warewashing lines.”

Maidaid has seen a substantial increase in movement on its Evolution Minirack machines, which offer a compact design with high throughput of racks per hour. “It has been further developed to reduce water, energy and chemical consumption resulting in reduced running costs. And it can also now cater for eclectic tableware due to a larger usable height,” explains the company’s sales director Julian Lambert.

Compact wash areas come with their own set of challenges, but with the right guidance and specification there are enough solutions out there for operators to ensure their businesses come up smelling of roses.

6 top tips for planning a compact wash area

1. Pre-plan and consider the workflow

This is critical when thinking about the warewashing area, especially one with limited space. The flow of wares needs to be established early on to avoid confusion during service, while unnecessary working steps within the wash-up area should be eliminated wherever possible.

2. Have a clear approach for dirties

Consider where the dirties are going to be ‘dumped’ ready for washing and make sure these won’t get in the way of service or come into contact or cross paths with cleans coming out of the machine.

3. Site the machine where it is not intrusive

Ensure the machine is away from the busiest or most used areas, such as the serving zone. In open compact kitchens, make sure the machine is away from the till area. Exploit corners in a smart way to maximise space.

4. Specify equipment with peak service in mind

Base machine choice on how busy a site will get at peak service times, what needs to be washed and the length and variation of the washing cycles available. Build in an additional margin for growth.

5. Make the most of current features

Look for warewashers that have features to reduce both acoustic and thermal pollution, such as insulated boilers, double-skinned hoods, insulated cabinets and doors, and selectable cycle times that will give you flexibility in the kitchen. This will save time and energy while boosting productivity.

6. Overcome extraction challenges

Extraction can be a problem in compact spaces as canopies can’t always be accommodated. In this scenario, warewashers that use heat pumps or heat exchangers and don’t require extra extraction come into their own.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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