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 – Chain Restaurant Challenges and Solutions

Americans love dining out. Sometimes it’s for a quick bite and other times it’s a leisurely meal with friends and family. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Pocket Factbook, restaurant industry sales are expected to grow to $782 billion in 2016. Many of the fastest growing restaurants are part of multi-unit operations, or chains, and they have unique challenges. For the March Expert Interview I spoke with Andrew Paton, Dade Paper’s Director of National Accounts. Andrew has 15 years of experience working with restaurants, including chain headquarters, helping them improve operations.

LC: You have been working closely with multi-location restaurant operators for many years. What is one big change you have seen recently?

AP: There has been a surge in new fast-casual concepts that focus on fresh and natural food served fast with a focus on the lunch crowd. These QSR-Plus concepts often start locally and then, when successful, expand nationally. The elevated “fast food” menus appeal to today’s diners who are looking for a good meal, on the go, at reasonable prices.

LC: What are the current challenges for these QSR-Plus restaurants?

AP: Uniformity across franchised locations can be challenging. It is important that their branding remain consistent regardless if the store is in New York or Miami. For example, it can be difficult to ensure that each location is able to buy the same products at the same prices throughout the franchise concept. This is where a multi-location supply chain program can help. An experienced distribution partner can facilitate the entire process beginning with sourcing and inventory management of branded items and all the way through to store-door delivery and management reporting.

Food safety is another current hot topic. Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster. In the age of the internet one bad health inspection or outbreak could give a franchise concept a black eye system wide. My advice is to create a food safety audit for franchisees to utilize on a weekly basis. Keep it simple. You don’t need fifty cleaning chemicals to get the job done. Again, use the knowledge of an experienced distributor partner. They can help create an inexpensive and effective cleaning protocol for new and existing franchisees to follow.

LC: What are current opportunities for these companies?

AP: Focusing on catering is great strategy for organic growth in sales. A small investment in good quality catering packaging and promotion of a catering menu to current customers can have a positive result on the bottom line. Every type of restaurant, from pizzerias to BBQ restaurants, has the capacity to offer a catering menu. The opportunity is there and at little risk.

LC: What additional advice can you share?

AP: Separate takeout/delivery packaging from your left-over packaging. Customers appreciate the value of good quality takeout packaging that keeps the food looking and tasting great. How many times have you spent $50 or more on takeout or delivered meals for your family only to open it and find wet, soggy food in a leaky container that was delivered in a thin plastic “thank you” bag. It is not very appetizing! Bottom line is that the right packaging can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction resulting in repeat business.

If cost is a concern, find one inexpensive container that is used only for dine-in customers’ leftovers and make the investment in takeout packaging to increase sales.

LC: What trend should restaurant operators consider now?

AP: Environmentally-preferable packaging is becoming more and more prevalent. Years ago, when the green movement was catching on, the products were limited and very costly. Over the years they have become more affordable and there are an increasing number of options. Recycled and recyclable packaging are popular and in some instances compostable packaging is a great fit. Depending on the situation and the type of food there are a variety of solutions.

Andrew and his team of restaurant-segment managers are available to consult with businesses about improving restaurant operations through both packaging and sanitation products and procedures. Andrew can be reached at apaton@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 .