Versatility is key when it comes to dishwashers. Why is that? What are customers really looking for now as kitchen spaces and staff requirements have changed, and how are manufacturers responding? Jane Ram reports.

Dishwashing is the least glamorous yet perhaps most crucial single operation in any kitchen.

Today a mechanical dishwasher is well-nigh essential as it provides the high temperatures (82 degrees C in the final rinse) required to minimise the growth of micro-organisms that cause food borne illnesses, and thereby ensure food safety standards.

As with any capital outlay, selection criteria must include price, reliability, energy efficiency, size and versatility.

Small kitchens are the norm in Asia, but today’s gourmet restaurants worldwide are generally small operations with limited kitchen space, says Claus Pedersen, business unit manager Asia-Pacific for German manufacturer, Hobart.

“Customers are looking for real value, they want to save money and reduce operating costs while making the life of the operators easier and avoiding malfunctions and downtime.

“Our intensive market research has shown that customers require appliances that are economical and ecological while still producing first-class results.”

Hobart provides several solutions that help to improve the room climate and prevent the escape of hot humid air into the room.

“The special needs of bars are met by Hobart’s compact glasswasher Premax GCP,” Pedersen says. “Dry, warm air combined with an innovative airflow system removes the moisture from the glasses and channels it out of the wash chamber.”

Move with the times

Changing times mean changing requirements, Annie Chen marketing director Meiko China points out.

“A decade ago water, land and labour were much cheaper than today. To many hotel and restaurant owners a dishwasher was still not considered important as they could hire many cleaners to hand wash the dishes in a big, dirty washing room.

“However, costs have more than doubled and it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire cleaners. So many hotel and restaurant operators are looking for mechanical dishwashers which can reduce labour costs, improve hygiene and save space – which can then be used to make a larger dining area.”

The demand for dishwashers in the mid- to high-end market has increased, according to Chen.

Earlier this year, “Meiko moved fast by introducing our Upster range of machines specifically for this market segment.

“Designed for customers with great ideas, concerned about quality, but with a limited budget Meiko China is producing a full range of products in this series for the regional market at fair entry-level prices.”

Adapt and overcome

Versatility is the key characteristic of an ideal dishwasher, says Andrea Genoni, export manager, Comenda Ali.

“Scullery areas are generally getting smaller and certainly are not the most attractive area of the kitchen.

“Warewashing is still perceived as a cost to the business which generates no direct income, therefore, we need to condense features and benefits in units able to wash crockery, utensils and glasses in the smallest possible footprint.

“To that end Comenda supplies a turnkey solution for hospitality and large scale foodservice operations.”

Among other unique features, Comenda offers a key activated electromechanical emergency function that bypasses the PCB in the event of an electronic-related malfunction.

“This allows the machine drive system, wash pumps and heating elements to continue to operate with the benefit of no downtime in the case of a faulty PCB.”

“In Finland chefs often do the cleaning, as cleaners are as expensive as chefs – or perhaps it is that chefs are as poorly paid as cleaners,” says Jaakko Sorsa, group executive chef, GR8 Leisure Concept.

“But in Hong Kong, it seems that chefs would not be comfortable washing dishes in addition to their cooking duties.”

Rising labour costs are driving the shift towards automated dishwashing in the region, but particularly in Hong Kong where monthly wages for a (human) dishwasher are around US$2,500. This is almost 10 times the going rate in Thailand, 15 times the rate in Indonesia, 26 times the rate in Vietnam, 20 times the rate in Fiji and 30 per cent more than the rate in Australia.

Instead of buying a machine, some Hong Kong restaurants rent one from their detergent supplier.

Only two years ago Hong Kong had some 50 dishwashing factories, nowadays only about 15 large companies survive.