Taking Your Kitchen Into the Cloud

Technology helps reduce costs associated with dishwashing and other kitchen operations.
Technology helps reduce costs associated with dishwashing and other kitchen operations. Thinkstock

Here is how cloud-based monitoring systems enhance your operations.

Successful restaurants attract guests with impressive menus, great service, and an inviting ambiance. But what goes on behind the scenes can also make or break a restaurant’s business. In fact, a 2010 Harris Poll survey regarding experiences that would likely make adults not return to a restaurant found that unclean dishware was the top concern, with 86 percent of respondents citing this unpleasant issue.

Dishwashing operations have a big impact on the bottom line. In fact, 60 percent of what happens in the kitchen is related to the dishwasher, so efficiency is key. Today’s technology is transforming the dishwashing process. It’s important for restaurant managers to understand how real-time, cloud-powered monitoring systems can be used to improve and simplify dishwashing performance, increase uptime and guest satisfaction, and protect a restaurant’s brand.

The dishwashing cycle

There are several key factors that contribute to an efficient and effective dishwashing process, including temperature, time, cleaning product, and mechanics. These are known collectively as the “Sinner Circle.” Washing dishes at the appropriate temperature, for the right length of time, and with the proper amount of cleaning product and mechanical pressure is key to maintaining hygiene and controlling costs. It’s important to keep the Sinner Circle balanced by increasing one element if another is decreased.

This balance is key for several reasons:

  • Rewash: When dishes do not meet hygiene and cleanliness standards after a dishwashing cycle, they must be rewashed in the machine or by hand. Whichever method is used, it wastes time, energy, cleaning product, and water.
  • Machine lifespan: The right balance can help better maintain the dishwasher and reduce the chances of repair and replacement. When the dishwasher breaks, manual dishwashing is usually required.
  • Breakage: A high rewash rate or a broken dishwasher can lead to a high dish-breakage rate. If you need to rewash dishes more often or do not have a working machine, there is more requirement for manual handling, which increases the opportunity for breakage. A high breakage rate results in added costs for the restaurant.

If unclean dishes and cutlery go unnoticed and are presented to patrons, a restaurant puts its reputation at risk. A lack of cleanliness can suggest inattention to critical issues, including food safety, quality, and customer service. In these scenarios, it’s possible that customers will take their business elsewhere. It’s also not uncommon for patrons to discuss poor experiences with family, friends, and on review sites and apps, which in turn influences the decisions of other potential customers.

Technology at work

Thankfully, it’s now possible to achieve greater visibility of many key business processes, including dishwashing. This is due to the increasing availability of the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of connected devices. Sensors and cloud-based monitoring systems are now available that track and report real-time dishwashing machine information. Managers can have access to data, such as total number of wash cycles, water, energy and cleaning product usage, hygiene compliance information, and more.

In addition to sharing routine information, connected technologies can also send alerts about critical issues. These can warn managers when detergent and rinse aid supplies are low, if hard water has caused scale deposits that impact dishwashing performance, or if the machine is outside the optimum Sinner Circle boundaries. Even more helpful, sophisticated systems can send corrective information pertaining to these issues to advise managers on how to change processes to drive continued improvement.

Cloud-based monitoring systems provide numerous benefits for restaurants, including:

  1. Continuity of operations: By overseeing dishwashing machines 24/7 and collecting and reporting data, these systems improve visibility of the dishwashing process. The information available to managers allows them to correct issues as they arise or even before they manifest. By avoiding costly and serious issues, kitchens can dramatically increase uptime.
  2. Improved hygiene compliance: If the rinse temperature does not reach the required level, hygiene issues may arise because bacteria can withstand lower temperatures. However, elevated pre-wash temperatures can further bake food residue onto dishes and become harder to remove during the wash and rinse cycle. A monitoring system ensures the Sinner Circle factors and the optimum dishwashing process for the specific kitchen are in sync at all times. If they aren’t, managers receive alerts and recommendations to bring them back into balance. Doing so ensures proper dishwashing and removal of food and cleaning product residues that can impact hygiene and the safety of restaurant guests.
  3. Optimized water, energy and product usage: If the rinse temperature is too high or runs too long, cleaning product, water, and energy is wasted. By maintaining the Sinner Circle, restaurants can limit excessive water, energy, and cleaning product usage and reduce costs.
  4. Enhanced labor efficiency: In restaurants, labor accounts for a large percentage of overall costs and efficiency of a kitchen. Turnover is typically high among kitchen porters/dishwashers, and many individuals with little experience are recruited to cover a shift, which complicates training and adds to labor costs. Having a system that provides real-time visibility of dishwasher usage and status allows management to proactively identify issues and train workers on the spot. Straightforward videos and instructions show how to correct issues that arise. Simplifying and enhancing behavioral training can improve efficiency and reduce employee turnover.
  5. Reduce Rewash: In order to maintain hygiene and a high-quality appearance, dishes must be rewashed if they are unclean or stained after the initial wash. When the Sinner Circle elements are properly balanced, dishes come out of the machine clean. This reduces the need to rewash dishes, making kitchens more efficient and reducing costs.
  6. Less breakage: Commercial dishwashers are a large investment for restaurants, so it’s important that they’re cared for properly. When a machine is temporarily out of service or is not performing as it should, employees wash dishes manually, which increases the opportunity for breakage. A cloud-based system can identify when a machine needs to be descaled or serviced, allowing managers to keep machines running smoothly. In turn, this reduces the need for manual washing, which reduces breakage.

From cleanliness and customer satisfaction to food safety and productivity, restaurant managers are faced with numerous challenges. With intelligent IoT solutions, managers can rest easy knowing that their dishwashing operations will run smoothly. Greater insight into back-of-house processes will not only improve efficiencies and reduce costs, but it will help restaurants maintain their brand image and keep guests returning time and time again.

David Holden and Bert ten Voorden

Both with Sealed Air’s Diversey Care division, David Holden is a Global Innovation Project Leader, while Bert ten Voorden is a Global Food Service Sector Expert.

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