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By: Eric Hahn

Restaurant Dishwashers: A Position You Should NOT Overlook

In all the years I've been in this business, I have seen dishwashers come and go. For the most part, they are generally unskilled laborers, foreign laborers, teenagers, or people who were looking for a simple job. But washing dishes is anything but simple. In fact, it's the last line of defense for the sanitation and cleanliness of most establishments, and the job they are generally required to perform can be overwhelming.

As a chef, I know this experience first hand. To be sure, all of my kitchen staff is a dishwasher to some degree or another. It's part of the cross-training experience I relay on down the chain of command. We must pull together at times to separate silverware, take the garbage out, scrub pots and pans, or just to get home at the end of the night. But dishwashers often have to go beyond this by sweeping the floor, mopping bathrooms, organizing the walk-ins, or putting stock away. Dishwashers go home at the end of the night soaking wet, smelling like a garbage disposal and simply worn out. It's a hard and demanding job that deserves the recognition and respect that only an industry professional can admire.

Let's study this job for a minute.

Is it accurate to call a dishwashing machine a "dish tank?" I've heard this term used frequently over the years, but is a dish machine really a "tank?" If so, then what is the dishwasher's title, "tank mechanic?" Let's see if this "tank mechanic" has the proper tools to complete his job: First, is she/he trained? Does she/he know how to empty the filters in the tank that are filled with lettuce, silverware and ramekins? Do they know how to change the water in the "tank" so things get clean? The mop sink, (a required component in the kitchen), many times is the last thing a "tank mechanic" wants to look at... Come on, it's a "dishwashing machine," not a tank!

Who's the last one out at the end of the night? Is it a manager or the dishwasher? Maybe both? The dishwasher is often the last person to leave your establishment, because he's the clean-up guy. So who put in the longer day, the salary guy or the hourly guy? Ever try to lift a garbage can from a dishwashing area? If not, try it once! The weight of wet food scraps and other debris in the dish area can be backbreaking.

The dishwasher gets your dishes, glass wares, small wares, and most everything else clean. He makes sure you have the place set for your customers' safety and protection. It's your dishwasher who represents your last line of defense, and it's your dishwasher who protects your food storage capacities.

Your dishwasher is a vital and integral component to your success. Discounting their contribution to your establishment is a mistake. Hire them, train them and utilize them to fit the needs of your establishment, and you'll have a foundation in the kitchen to rely upon. If you disrespect your dishwashers, and they in turn disrespect you, the sanitation maintenance of your establishment could suffer greatly, which ultimately could affect your customers' satisfaction and perception of your establishment. This is why the dishwasher is the position you should least overlook!

About the author:  Eric Hahn is the Founder and Research Developer for Hahn is a 25-year industry veteran with a diverse background in the restaurant business and a skilled research developer. produces a free monthly newsletter that provides insight to changes in the restaurant industry.

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