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Contents At A Glance

FE&SEditorial Archives2003 — July — E&S Spotlight

Scrapping & Dishrooms
The Dish On Warewashers And Scrapping Rooms

Effective cleanup is a messy job and, obviously, absolutely essential in every type of foodservice operation. It won't really matter how good the food is if the tableware isn't clean, and properly sanitized servingware is the first step in an operation's food safety program.

Warewashers are available from manufacturers in just about any capacity and configuration that operators could require, so there are important considerations for them to review when making decisions about this equipment investment. Available space, flow in and out of a dishroom and storage locations of soiled and cleaned dishware are all variables that need to be addressed before purchase. Also important to proper dishroom setup are determining labor needs, the types of items that an operation will be washing and installation issues such as ventilation, utility needs and water and wiring connections.

Waste management also raises important clean-up issues. For example, where and how will scrapping duties be performed? While pricey, foodwaste disposers such as pulpers, which remove water and compact food waste, can drastically reduce solid-waste volume, control odors and vermin in a kitchen and, ultimately, reduce operating costs.

A special flatware basket is loaded onto the warewashing conveyor by a staff member in UCLA Medical Center's dishroom.

UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles will be moving to completely new facilities in 2005, which are currently under construction. In the meantime, foodservice staff here, who serve three meals a day to about 500 patients, handle warewashing duties with dishroom equipment originally installed in 1978.

Maria Shipkova, manager of patient services at UCLA Medical Center, commented, "Our conveyor-type dishmachine is obviously a reliable workhorse, because it still performs just fine handling our facilities' dish and tray cleaning duties, with only a few minor problems. With the long, hard usage on this machine, the plastic valves do wear out and have to be replaced. Our engineer, who is adept at keeping the machine running properly, said that metal valves might have been better for our warewashing machine."

Patient meals at this medical center are assembled on plastic trays in a service kitchen and then loaded into wheeled "trucks" for service. After mealtimes, trays and dirty dishes are re-loaded onto the trucks and transported via a special service elevator directly back to the dishroom area, which is located off the service and production kitchen. "That special elevator is incredibly convenient for our whole foodservice operation," said Shipkova. "It facilitates speedy service at mealtimes, as well as making the task of getting those dirty dishes and trays back down to the dishroom for washing much easier."

The large, flight-type conveyor-style warewasher in UCLA Medical Center's dishroom, originally installed in 1978, remains a dependable workhorse, despite the occasional need to replace worn-out plastic valves.

When dirty trays reach the dishroom, waste is first sorted and disposed of in two large-wheeled trash bins located there. "There was a pulping system for waste disposal in our dishroom at one time," related Shipkova. "However, it broke down in the early '90s and the cost of repair was prohibitively high, so management decided at that time to disassemble the system. We do have direct access from the dishroom to the back loading dock area where trash is stored for removal from the medical center, so we don't have a problem disposing of trash after each washing cycle." After waste is removed from trays, two dishroom employees load trays, glassware, soup bowls and cups into appropriate racks for washing, while plates are placed directly on the conveyor. Dishware then automatically runs through the machine's cycles of scrapping, washing, two high-temperature rinse cycles and a final rinse and dry cycle. To make sure it is spotless and completely sanitized, flatware is initially soaked in pans with soapy water and then washed twice - first in a flat rack and then again in flatware baskets, according to Shipkova.

"Our new facilities' dishroom will contain a state-of-the-art warewashing machine," said Shipkova as she looked over the available specs for the new unit. "Our specs claim a 47% savings for us in water and rinse-aid usage, as well as a 16% savings in energy. The new machine will be able to handle up to 14,000 dishes per hour, and is constructed with a double-wide conveyor, so we will be able to increase the number of plates going through by 100%. The new machine also has an improved drying system, and my information states that it will be able to dry even difficult plastic trays. That feature will be great for us because now, in our machine's automatic dry cycle, the trays don't really get completely dry," she added.

As in many other urban restaurant locations, the dishroom area at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago is tight and very busy. Dishes for 400 to 650 la carte covers every night must be loaded into appropriate racks and run through the warewasher.

Completely renovated in 1999 as a food court-style dining center, the Silver Plate award-winning dining services at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio, caters to about 2,400 students daily. The '99 renovations included the opening of a centrally located, contemporary dish and scrapping room, designed by Ashland's foodservice in conjunction with a local equipment dealer. To accommodate an expanded conveyor design and an added pot washing system, the dishroom area was enlarged at that time thanks to the relocation of small administrative offices. The dishroom conveyor system in Ashland's dining center includes a constantly rotating tray accumulator, a scrapping water trough with a waste pulper and a flight-type warewasher. Soiled trays are deposited by customers through an open window into vertical racks, each capable of holding four trays, as the tray accumulator conveyor slowly rotates into the dishroom. There, staff members pull the trays from the racks and remove waste from dishes at the water trough, using either spatulas or simply the strong water flow. Wastes then pour into the system's pulper, which removes water and compacts the waste product, which can then be disposed of in the dishroom's waste bins. Dishes, glasses and flatware are then loaded into appropriate racks for their trip through the high-powered warewasher.

"Our dishroom system is a real labor- and time-saver," said Matthew Porner, director of auxiliary services at Ashland University. "Before, we used a flat conveyor belt to hold soiled trays and, as soon as one tray was dropped off, we had to have a staff member in the dishroom remove it. Now, our automatic tray accumulator can accommodate up to 140 trays, which continue to rotate until dishroom shifts begin and staff members begin to pull trays for dish scrapping and cleaning. The only problem that we ever have with our dishroom system is that, occasionally, a conveyor motor might burn out," continued Porner, "but our physical plant staff is dedicated to fixing such problems quickly."

Ashland University's dishroom also includes a power sink for cleaning pots and pans. The deep, three-compartment sink contains a screen system that removes debris from the water, and operates via a high-pressure pump that re-circulates and reheats water in the sink. "We can place pots and pans with caked-on foods in our power sink and, generally, in 10 minutes those pots and pans are completely clean," commented Porner.

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab was opened by Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enter-prises in 2000 in an "icon partnership," (a subgroup of the company), with the original Joe's Stone Crab in Miami. Like most urban restaurants, Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago has a more limited dishroom space than those available to foodservices at medical centers or universities. Nonetheless, because this popular dining spot serves 400 to 650 covers a night la carte-style, there are plenty of dirty dishes that must be properly washed.

Key Equipment
  • Conveyor-type warewasher
  • Flight-type warewasher
  • Tray accumulator
  • Power wash sink
  • Pulper
  • Ware racks
  • Plastic trays
  • Wheeled service trucks
  • Wheeled trash bins
  • Spatula
  • Plates
  • Glassware
  • Bowls
  • Cups
  • Flatware
  • Pots and pans

Bussing staff at Joe's are responsible for collecting dirty dishes from tables and transporting them to the dish drop-off area, where trash is dumped into one of three large bins lined with plastic garbage bags. The bins sit on wheeled carts so that trash can be easily moved to the garbage pick-up dumpster behind the restaurant when necessary. Staff then load dishes, glasses and flatware into racks at the drop-off area, where the staff member in charge of running the restaurant's conveyor-style warewasher grabs the racks and loads them into the machine.

"Actually, we do have a problem with the model of the warewasher that we installed in the dishroom off the kitchen at Joe's," said Mike Rotolo, managing partner at the restaurant. "Right now, a kitchen coordinator has a timer that goes off every hour and, at that time, we have to stop the dishmachine to change the water. It would be much better if the machine could shut down when the tank reached a certain water volume, then drain and refill automatically. This process takes about 10 minutes, which means the dishwashers hate to do it because the dirty dishes get backed up. Possibly, we should have specced out a different model of warewasher that included an automatic drain and refill feature, considering our needs."

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