One of the most important elements to running a successful restaurant kitchen is food safety. Failed health inspections have serious consequences, pest infestations are a nightmare, and beyond that, you just don’t want to expose your customers to foodborne illness. That’s why you need to have the right cleaning regimen — as well as a combination of commercial kitchen sinks and dishwashers — to keep your kitchen up to code and your food safe.
Commercial kitchen sinks
What material should the sinks be made of?
The standard for commercial kitchen sinks is stainless steel. It’s durable, easy to clean and keep sanitized, and resistant to high temperatures. This is also why restaurant prep tables are made from stainless steel.
What types of commercial kitchen sinks should I have?
A three-basin scullery is there to ensure all three steps of the cleaning process can be completed easily for your various plates, utensils, and pots. One end will be for washing, the middle will be for rinsing, and the last will be for sanitation. Having some kind of metal dishtable (either separate or part of the scullery sink) to put the clean dishes is also important.
Also keep in mind that even if you decide to invest in a commercial dishwasher for your restaurant, you still need the scullery sinks. For one, your cooks might need to quickly clean a knife or pan on its own. They might not have the time to run a load in the machine when they can easily clean it by hand. The scullery sinks are also your back-up if your commercial dishwasher breaks down in the middle of a shift!
Prep sinks are all about preventing contamination. You don’t want food prep done at the scullery sinks or hand-washing stations, so this is where your cooks will go to drain orzo, rinse leeks, and scrub potatoes.
Some commercial kitchen sinks used for prep include drainboards — attached tabletops you can set items on — allowing any dripping water to flow into the sink instead of onto the floor.
It’s very important to have separate commercial kitchen sinks for hand-washing, for prep, and for cleaning. Health codes require hand-washing stations in professional kitchens, and they should be placed close to your work stations; if you put it at the far end of the kitchen, your chefs will get into a habit of not rushing over there when they need to clean their hands during their shifts.
Make sure to check your local health codes so you’re following all the rules to the letter when it comes to this station and how many there should be in your kitchen.
Bar rinse sinks
If you have a bar in your restaurant, you’ll need an underbar sink system. Fitting underneath your bar countertop, these sinks allows your bartenders to easily wash glassware, rinse off dirty glasses before sending them to your back-of-house dishwasher, and get rid of any overpour while making drinks. Depending on the size of your restaurant and bar, you could have one underbar basin or several. You might also look into a model with an ice bin area and drainboards.
If your restaurant specializes in beers, you might consider investing in a star sink. This is the glass rinser you’ll see bartenders use right before pouring beer; the glass is flipped upside down and a mist covers the inside of the glass for a couple seconds. This is used for beer glasses is because it cools down a freshly cleaned glass and gives the bartender a cleaner, more even pour.
A very popular type of commercial dishwasher, the door model has a level that lifts up the doors of the washer so you can slide the racks of dishes in. Then pull down on the lever to close the doors and start the wash cycle. Door dishwashers are usually paired with dishtables at both sides of the dishwasher to make it easy to organize the line of racks.
If you’re lacking the kitchen space for a full door dishwasher, an undercounter dishwasher is a more compact unit that is still appropriate for commercial use. If you have a smaller kitchen (or a restaurant with less table turns, thus using less dishes), then an undercounter model could be the right cleaning appliance for you.
On the other end of the spectrum is the conveyor model. Like the name implies, the conveyor dishwasher uses a conveyor belt to move dirty dishes through without having to start and stop the process to switch out racks. This is best used for cafeterias, banquet halls, and other spaces that go through a large number of dishes every shift.
Glasswashers, as the name suggests, are specifically for glassware. They have a low-pressure spray compared other washers in order to minimize glasses breaking. If your restaurant features wine glasses and other more delicate glassware, this could be a good investment.
But why does my restaurant need a dishwasher?
A big reason to buy a commercial dishwasher for your restaurant is efficiency. Washing dishes by hand takes time, and it’s so easy for dishes to pile up during your busiest shift. You need to hire more dishwasher employees to keep up the same workload.
But washing dirty dishes, utensils, and glasses by hand isn’t just time consuming. Not only do piles of ignored dirty dishes make your kitchen unorganized and potentially risk you running out of clean dishes, but they’re also a serious sanitation issue. Dirty plates mean leftover food particles, and leftover food particles attract pests.
Plus, when your dishwasher employees are rushing to get all your dishes cleaned by hand, it’s much more likely that those dishes won’t get properly scrubbed and sanitized. It’s pretty unappetizing for a guest to be served their entree on a plate with crusty food bits still on the edge.
Investing in a dishwashing machine might streamline the cleaning process and allow you to have less dishwasher employees for any given shift, but that doesn’t mean you can bypass hiring dishwashers. Dishwashers (the person, not the machine) are the ones to properly scraping off any food and spraying them, organizing and running the dishwashing machine, and neatly putting away the clean dishes. For a busy kitchen, that’s a busy job and it’s a mistake to leave those tasks for your servers or cooks to get around to.
What do I use sanitizer for?
Sanitizer is not just for your dishwasher or your commercial kitchen sinks. Your cooks will also use sanitizing solution to periodically wipe down their prep areas and their cooking stations. While cleaning surfaces with soap and water gets rid of any leftover food particles, sanitizing combats unsafe pathogens that may still remain and fester on those surfaces.
Your kitchen should have special separate containers specifically for your cleaner solution and your sanitizing solution. Your kitchen staff should get used to cleaning and sanitizing every few hours — and in fact, have a proscribed schedule per shift to make sure it gets done — but also whenever switching from one task to another to avoid contamination.
The most obvious example is finishing cutting raw chicken and then moving on to prepping vegetables for the salad. You must completely sanitize the area before you work on the produce.
What kinds of sanitizer should I get?
Most kitchen sanitizers are either iodine solution, quats (quaternary ammonium compounds), or chlorine-based. No matter what kind of solution you choose, make sure to carefully read the instructions on how to use it and any hazards. Your employees will be in direct contact with these chemicals and you want to ensure their safety.
Want some tips on how to properly schedule cleaning and maintenance for your commercial kitchen?