Expert Interview – Warewashing for Shining Results

Foodservice and hospitality operators know the importance of warewashing, the process by which dishes, glassware, cutlery, and pots and pans are cleaned and sanitized. Not only is this process crucial to complying with health regulations, it also impacts the establishment’s customer satisfaction and reputation. For this month’s Expert Interview, I spoke to Terry Rogers, Chemical Sales Manager for Dade Paper. Terry has 40 years of experience in assisting foodservice operators with warewashing and other kitchen sanitation processes. He has been part of the Dade Paper team for 15 years.

LC:  Washing dishes seems like a pretty simple task. People do it every day at home. Why is this process more complicated for restaurants and other foodservice establishments?

TR: Warewashing, whether manual or automatic, is crucial to the sanitation of dishes and utensils which helps keep people healthy. Health Departments inspect foodservice operations on a regular basis and the warewashing process is part of those inspections. Three-compartment sinks, four-compartment in some states, are mandatory. Commercial dish washers are not required, but they are beneficial in that they provide labor savings and increase productivity. Both systems have strict guidelines that must be followed. Violations are costly and today they are made public.

LC: What are some of the challenges that operators have with this process?

TR: Space, or the lack of space, is a common challenge as is time during peak hours. Dishwashing staff may be tempted to rush through the process to keep up with the amount of dishes and other items they need to wash. But each step in the process is important and must be completed correctly to ensure everything not only looks clean, but is clean and sanitary.

The wash cycle requires time and detergent. The rinse cycle requires time and hot water, specifically 180 degrees or 160 degrees on the surface of the dish. Then the items must be sanitized in the proper parts-per-million solution to kill germs before drying.

Another common challenge is water spotting during the drying time. This has an impact on the patrons’ perception of cleanliness.

LC: I agree. If I see spots or even worse, lipstick residue, on a glass my opinion of that establishment is negatively affected.

TR: There is a fairly simple way to resolve this issue. A rinse additive can be used that allows the water to “sheet” off of the surfaces leaving spot-free results.

LC: If an operator invests in a commercial dish washer, does this eliminate the challenges you mentioned?

TR: A dish machine can be a good investment, especially for larger or busier establishments. The machine does complete the steps automatically but there are still proper procedures that must be followed. The correct chemicals must be used and the machine racks must be loaded properly. There are also procedures for handling and storage of the clean dishes to ensure they are ready for the next use. And, routine service is required to ensure the machine is operating according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Failure in just one area of operations can result in poor sanitation of the dishes.

LC: What advice can you offer an operator to help them better manage their warewashing program?

TR: Training is the key as well as reinforcement of that training by displaying multi-lingual wall-charts with pictograms. An experienced supplier partner will provide training to kitchen staff on the entire warewashing process, whether it is manual or automatic. The right type of equipment, the right chemicals, and the right steps in process must be explained. The supplier can help the kitchen manager select the best warewashing method and equipment based on volume, space, and other operational considerations. There are many options available today and one size does not fit all. If cost is a concern, there are equipment rental and leasing programs that are budget-friendly.

Also, if a dish machine is in use, having that machine properly maintained by a qualified technician is important as is the availability of emergency service. If the machine has a mechanical issue, the faster it is repaired the better.

If managed correctly, warewashing can become a smooth process allowing the operator to focus more time on their cuisine and delighting their guests.

Terry Rogers is available to consult with customers about warewashing program, equipment options and proper procedures. Terry can be reached at trogers@dadepaper.com.

Expert Interview – Improving Restaurant Operations

Restaurants are a huge part of the U.S. economy and according to the National Restaurant Association represent $700 billion in annual sales and employ 14 million people. They are the last stop in a complex supply chain of food products, supplies, and equipment before the finished product reaches the end consumer. Mitch Irvine has been part of that supply chain for over 25 years. He has held positions with a broadline food distributor, a manufacturer of foodservice disposables, and for the last 8 years Mitch has served as the Regional Sales Director for Dade Paper with a focus on the restaurant segment.

LC: You have been involved in supplying the restaurant market for a long time. What are some major changes that you have seen in recent years that impact restaurants?

MI: There are several major changes that have impacted restaurants in recent years. The economic downturn, corporate chain influence, local restaurateur pushback to that influence and the ever changing desire of the American palette for new and unique concepts and foods.

The economic downturn in 2008 reshaped the restaurant landscape and caused most all underperforming operations to simply shut down, leaving the strong, savvy operators to improve their game to attract the shrinking market share of Americans’ with discretionary income.  As we have seen the rise of higher-quality fast casuals begin to dominate, it began putting the large traditional fast-food operators against the ropes.

And, as we have seen the more popular concept chains grow, their influence in the market resulted in others try to mimic their success.  I personally have seen local operators take their shot and life savings to make their own dream concept a reality, only to be buried by incompetent work staff and low-priced products producing a mediocre experience.  This is a toxic blend of circumstances that yield a quick collapse of their concept.  This goes to the belief that it is imperative to bring your best to market and your customers will know the difference between a penny-pinching operator and one that sees value in growing their business with a quality approach.

As the successful local restaurateur sees their peers fail, they learn from those mistakes and sharpen their skills.  They offer locally-sourced, healthful foods that attract the consumer that is eager to support their local economy, yet demands quality over a cheap meal.

Finally, the consumer does know the difference between quality and those products that are pushed as a price point. The restaurateur that cannot see or understand that distinction is destined for extinction.

LC: What are the major concerns of restaurateurs today and what solutions are available?

MI: Some major concerns of restaurateurs are tighter health regulations and changing consumer behavior.

There was a recent e coli breakout that showed even the strictest of corporate mainstream systems implemented into the restaurant sanitation process are not foolproof and can have disastrous results.  Operators today need to dial in to their systems in a much more focused manner, especially their sanitation program. Their reputation hinges on delivering a quality experience and a deadly pathogen outbreak that reaches the news outlets can permanently destroy their reputation.

Recently, we were asked to assist an operator in the aftermath of an e coli breakout. We were able to provide a medical grade hand wash that was required by the local health department directly after their shutdown. That is an extreme case, so for those operators that have been fortunate enough to avoid a pathogen outbreak, implementing a strong and rigorous hand wash procedure is the best defense against these enemies.

Along with hand washing, cleaning the dining tables and surfaces that are touched by food with quaternary based products provide the pinnacle for success in deterring outbreaks.  And, sanitizing the dishware and glasses with either a chlorine or quaternary based product or high temperature sanitation, is not only a health department regulation, but also the only options to assure the health of the guests.

LC: Having a knowledgeable partner to help select those products is important.

MI: Yes it is. That’s our job.

LC: Tell me more about the changes you have seen from the consumer standpoint.

MI: Americans are becoming busier every day, resulting in an ever-growing take-home meals market.  Restaurateurs need to distinguish themselves not only with the quality of their food, but also the packaging. Destination quality is paramount in today’s “to go” orders. Quality packaging speaks to the pride that the operators put into their food. If the package works well, seals properly, fit into the bag, nests comfortably amongst the other packaging, etc., the customer experience will be positive and operational efficiencies will improve. Customers will return more often and not with a dry cleaner’s bill in hand due to a leaky container.

LC: What are a few things that a restaurateur can do today to improve their operations?

MI: Providing the cleanest possible atmosphere and environment will help edge out the lazy competitor who skimps on the level of quality required to deliver that experience.  By using the most modern tools and equipment such as microfibers and closed-loop chemical management systems, the operator will see improved productivity and higher levels of cleanliness.  And, best practices as a part of their systems will stretch out the returns even further such as a cleaning checklist that is followed closely and managed daily by the operator or someone diligent and trustworthy to follow through with the work.

Another immediate change a restaurateur can implement today is focus on their customer. They need to invest their time in ways to draw more customers into their establishment and repeat those visits as often as possible.  By delivering a top notch experience, quality food, sanitary facilities and pleasant staff, the restaurateur can build on each satisfied customer one at a time.  We often encounter the operator that spends time away from their business looking for low-cost supplies from cash and carry outlets rather than trusting an experienced supplier to help them identify the best product for their situation.  Cost is often a concern so we show them how to get the best value while ensuring that customers are happy and enjoy their experience.

Mitch Irvine and his team of restaurant segment specialists are available to consult with restaurateurs on a variety of topics. He can be reached at mirvine@dadepaper.com .

Expert Interview – Improving Food Safety Programs

September is National Food Safety Month. That said, it was fitting to speak with Rick Grandfield, Dade Paper’s Director of Janitorial Sales, for this month’s Expert Interview. Rick oversees Dade Paper’s growing janitorial sales program which includes the company’s exclusive EatSafe® Program. He spends a great deal of time working in the field with the company’s team of consultants helping foodservice operators ensure they meet the requirements of a sound food safety protocol.

LC: How many years have you been working with restaurants and other foodservice operators to help them improve their food safety programs?

RG: I’ve been in the cleaning industry for 30 years, the last 15 years with Dade Paper. Part of my role has been to develop consultative cleaning programs for our customers, helping them implement effective and safe processes.

LC: What changes have you seen over that period of time and what are the impact of those changes?

RG: In the foodservice segment there much are stricter government regulations as well as more stringent guidelines for voluntary programs such as HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point.) This places more focus on both the flow of food as well as kitchen sanitation. Operators need to ensure they are compliant or face potential fines and damage to their reputation.

There is also much more consumer awareness of food safety issues. The internet has made it very easy for customers to look up information online. If they see reports of health code violations or negative reviews or posts on social media about dirty restrooms they are likely to take their business elsewhere. The cleanliness of the dining room and restrooms is very important to guest satisfaction. Another trend is the open-kitchen concept where diners can view into the food preparation area.

LC: What steps should a foodservice operator take to ensure their food safety processes are effective?

RG: First and foremost, be sure to understand and comply with state regulations. Some areas to pay particular attention to include the parts per million of sanitizer in the 3-compartment sink, having proper hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer available for staff, and using a quaternary sanitizer which is more effective and safer than bleach. Another important area to focus on is the floor. Many restaurants have quarry tile in the kitchen which can harbor bacteria and become very slippery. Using bio-enzymatic cleaners and using grease resistant anti-fatigue matting not only helps keep the kitchen clean but prevents slip-fall accidents.

I also recommend having a well-planned training program for staff members. For anyone handling food, I recommend ServSafe® training. For those responsible for the cleaning of the establishment, training including the safe and proper use of chemicals is important. These training programs are available from industry associations and supplier partners such as Dade Paper.

LC: What are some areas that you have seen where food safety programs can be enhanced?

RG: A comprehensive food safety program goes beyond the kitchen. Proper cleaning of the front-of-the-house and restrooms are also important. Sanitizing surfaces including floors, dining tables, counter tops, high-chairs and even menus prevents the spread of bacteria. Restrooms are also critical. Make sure they are clean and stocked with towel and tissue products, hand-soap and hand-washing signage. These are all elements of Dade Paper’s EatSafe® Program which focuses on the patron areas of a restaurant or cafeteria.

Rick Grandfield and his team are available to consult with foodservice operators about the various aspects of a food safety program. He can be reached at rgrandfield@dadepaper.com.