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Restaurant Dishwasher: A Complete Buying Guide

Fagor Undercounter
Undercounter dishwasher

Deciding on the right dishwasher for your restaurant or commercial kitchen depends on a few important factors, and it’s vital to get the right machine for the job.There are multiple types of dish machines depending on what you plan to wash and how much of it you plan to wash in a given day.

The most common restaurant dishwasher types are:

Undercounter – these dish machines are similar to residential models and can handle up to 35 racks per hour.  They usually use a built-in heating element to flash heat dishes and ware to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for sanitization.

Door Type – these washers are larger than undercounter models and can handle up to 150 racks per hour.  Door type washers are most commonly used in most restaurants.

They have a large door that opens and allows racks to be easily moved in and out.  Some models even have a conveyor that allows the constant processing of dish racks.

Hubbell Booster Heater
Booster Heater

Booster Heaters – these stand-alone units pre-heat water to the NSF required 180 degrees Fahrenheit for proper sanitization.  They operate independently of the dish machine and insure that enough hot water is available for washing.

Booster heaters are typically used on large Conveyor or Flight dishwashers that process large volumes of dishes per hour.  Most undercounter and door type units have a built-in booster heater.

Check before you buy any dishwasher to see if you’ll need a booster heater or not.

Conveyor and Flight – these washers are for high volume applications like cafeterias or institutions and can process over 400 racks per hour.

High Temp vs. Low Temp

High temperature dishwashers:

  • Use heat to sanitize dishes and glassware
  • Must achieve 180 degrees Fahrenheit to meet NSF regulations
  • Use slightly more energy than a low temp dishwasher
  • Do not require the regular purchase of chemicals
  • Do not damage flatware and plastics
  • Is the most commonly used commercial dishwasher

Low temperature dishwashers:

  • Use a chemical bath to sanitize dishes and glassware
  • Are not as effective at removing grease
  • Are slightly more efficient than high temp models
  • Can damage flatware and plastics
  • Require you to purchase chemicals on a monthly basis

Some argue that the cost of chemicals for a low temp dishwasher is much less than the increased energy savings versus a high temp unit.

While this may be true, the main factor to consider when you are trying to decide between a low or high temp dishwasher is the damage to flatware, plastics, and dinnerware that might occur with a low temp model because of the sanitation chemicals used.

About Don Moyer

Don is a Sr. Online Marketing Strategist at Tundra Restaurant Supply where he specializes in pay-per-click advertising and marketplace marketing, specifically eBay. With over 11 years of food service industry experience, Don brings a great wealth of knowledge to Tundra and the Back Burner blog. When Don is not working you can find him skiing in the Rockies, watching Phillies baseball or enjoying delicious Colorado micro brews.

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  1. You should also know how hard the water is that you will be running thru the machine. Some models are better at dealing with hard water than others. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can install a simple filter to solve hard water problems. If you have bad water with a high mineral content you need to think very carefully about any machine in your kitchen that has water running thru it. The maintenance on these machines will be costly if you don’t insure the right equipment is bought on the front end.

    Famous quote of the repairman “you can pay me now, or you will pay me the big bucks later” (usually said while in the van leaving with your check in hand–LOL)

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas (where the water is hard but the temperature is NOT)

    • Hello,

      We need to buy an undercounter commercial dishwasher for our tavern, but we re in Colorado with extremely mineral laden water. I read your informative post and am wondering if you can suggest a few reasonably priced brands that are best for meeting the needs of hard water with high mineral content.
      Thanks so much.

      • Tundra Restaurant Supply

        Hi Nova,

        Without knowing the exact levels in your water and how that would affect various machines, we’d suggest setting up an appropriate filter inline just before the dishwasher to mitigate any issues. If you have any other questions we’d be happy to help: drop us a line at 888-388-6372 or contact us online.

        – Tundra Team

  2. Commercial dishwashers

    Matching the capabilities of various commercial dishwashers to your business needs is essential, whether restaurant, catering or hospital kitchen . Commercial dishwashers vary significantly in their capacity (total dishes per hour). To understand your needs you must have an idea of how many dishes will be washed daily in your commercial kitchen, allowing for seasonal differences (Christmas etc).

  3. We have a fagor dishwasher f I 43w and it won’t drain out it washes and fills up ok but wont drain drain is clear

    • Willy, is there a drain pump on this unit? That could be the problem. If not then the drain it goes into might be backed up. Check those drains and see if you can unclog them.

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