Every two years, the biggest show in commercial foodservice takes place. NAFEM – the National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers – presents a unique opportunity for commercial distributors and manufacturing partners to come together to experience firsthand the latest trends and innovative technologies inspired by restauranteurs and foodservice operations across the nation. 2019’s NAFEM show was hosted at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida between February 7 through February 9, bringing together more than 550 manufacturers who did not disappoint.  

On display were thousands of new-to-market products spanning all foodservice categories, strategically designed to enhance operational efficiencies, match emerging trends, and offer invaluable solutions to make life better for the end user. In this post, we cover the latest and greatest in warewashing technology.  

Dishwashing Innovation 

Observing all the new commercial dishwashing units on display, two prominent trends surfaced: the introduction of energy recovery and a trend towards going ventless.  

Energy Recovery 

Manufacturers have long been striving to reduce energy consumption in their machines, a huge benefit to commercial kitchens because less energy consumption results in a natural correlation between less resource usage, adding up to significant savings. These models proudly boast a hard-to-earn Energy Star certification proven to reduce utility costs and applicable for certain rebates.  

Jackson Warewashing Systems, a leading industry producer of commercial undercounter and conveyor dish machines, showed off their latest undercounter units featuring their new SEER (Steam Elimination and Energy Recovery) technology. Jonathan Akin, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Jackson WWS, detailed why this is revolutionary in warewashing:  

“One of the things that has always been an occurrence with dishwashers is you’re washing with hot water at 160 degrees, and you’re sanitizing with 180-degree water. That generates a lot of steam, and when you open the door at the end of the cycle, you get a big blast of it. If that was only happening a couple times a day, it wouldn’t really be a nuisance, but the reality is with a busy restaurant, washing and sanitizing dishes only takes two minutes. Operators are doing this dozens of times a day, and the steam is coming out into a fast-paced work environment.  

“In some cases, operators even install these machines in areas where their customers are – like at the bar. The steam can make for an uncomfortable environment for the customer. SEER takes all the steam that has built up during the cycle, and at the end, a fan comes on, removing it from the chamber and cooling the steam to a point where it condensates and turns back into water. The water and heat energy are then transferred to be reused for the next cycle.” 

The Jackson Undercounter Dishwasher featuring new Steam Elimination and Energy Recovery technology (SEER), perfect for bars! 

Vented vs. Ventless 

One of the largest trends readily observed at this year’s NAFEM show, applicable in nearly all major equipment categories, was the emergence of more types of commercial equipment no longer requiring a vented hood. The reason, as it pertains specifically to warewashing, is that several of these newer units no longer produce excess amounts of steam. With the option to go ventless in the commercial setting, operators now have more flexibility in how they choose to set up and organize their layout, which can lead to increased efficiency during high volume times. Operators no longer need to worry about where in their operation they may have the space to install a hood, or if they need to specifically outfit the area to make room for their dishwashing unit. All of this would generally result in additional expenses and a larger footprint that new kitchens are not always equipped to deal with. Going ventless quickly resolves these inconveniences. 

At the show, Hobart featured a warewashing unit that combined both the benefits of ventless and energy recovery. Tim Christianson, a sales consultant for HRI, Central’s rep group for Hobart, explained, “With [Hobart’s] standard ventless machines, you essentially have a cold-water coil that knocks away the steam and sends it down the drain. The new ventless with energy recovery models take that water that would otherwise be wasted and heats it to 110 degrees. The steam is recaptured and used to heat the next incoming cycle. So now, if you’re running a high-volume operation, you’re taking pressure off the hot water heater so you can run off cold water only.”  

However, Tim was quick to point out that going ventless is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Much of this still depends on specific area regulations, many of which still require the use of a hood. Be sure to check the area codes and requirements unique to your zone prior to purchase.  

Additional Warewashing NAFEM Insights 

Though the two most prominent warewashing themes observed at 2019’s NAFEM revolved around a focus on energy efficiency and the removal of vented hoods, there were a few other insights worth sharing. 

First was Hobart’s introduction of a new soil removal technology now available with their Andvansys conveyor and flight type machines. This was inspired by an understanding that commercial kitchen operators frequently find themselves with less time to properly scrape soiled dishware prior to wash, thus neglecting to do so. The result is a high soil level in the pre-wash and wash tank, which could impact the quality of the overall clean. The traditional resolution requires constantly refilling the tanks, leading to an interruption in the wash process and increased detergent consumption. Hobart’s Automatic Soil Removal technology collects soil during the first stage of the wash process, catching it in a strainer to be removed later. The result is the water in the pre-wash section remains much cleaner, ensuring a more thorough wash. Direct benefits include: 

  • No refilling of the pre-wash tank 
  • No interruption of the wash session 
  • No extra water consumption 
  • No extra cleaning effort 
  • Reduced utility and operational costs 
  • Reduced risk of blocked nozzles or drain system 

A second innovation that caught the eye were the new hinged doors on Jackson’s conveyor and flight type units. These allow for quick and easy access to the inside of the machine, which can be a great benefit if an item should fall out of the dish rack or a specific area requires service. The doors are also insulated, remaining cool to the touch on the outside, even as the cycle heats up to 180 degrees on the inside.  

The Jackson FlightStar Flight Type Dish Machine, ideal for high volume institutions like universities, hospitals or correctional facilities.  

The Jackson RackStar 66 Conveyor Dishwasher 

Dishwashing Type by Segment 

There are different types of commercial dish machines on the market. For your reference, this chart breaks down the most common types, their specific benefits, and which environment they’re best suited for. 

Type Benefits Segment 
Undercounter Small Footprint Easy to fit underneath bars, saving space Adds to ease of maintaining steady supply of glassware on hand Bars  Quick service restaurants  Low volume kitchens with limited space 
Door Type More compact than conveyor machines Automatic start Quickly cleans a variety of dishware Restaurants  Standard commercial kitchens 
Conveyor Uses a conveyor belt to quickly clean and sanitize a large amount of dinnerware and flatware Many units ensure proper pre-wash, wash and sanitization High Volume Institutional Facilities like: University Food Courts Hospital Cafeterias Correctional Facilities 
Flight Type Similar to a conveyor type, quickly cleaning and sanitizing even more dinnerware and flatware   Doesn’t require a dishrack High Volume Institutional Facilities like: University Food Courts Hospital Cafeterias Correctional Facilities 

For more information about commercial dishwashers, check out our warewashing buying guide

Final Thoughts 

The future of warewashing has arrived. With the continuous development of new technologies designed to emphasize operational efficiency, achieving higher production output using less resources is now the reality. One can naturally conclude that this will only continue as commercial dish machine manufacturers strive to produce more equipment that requires less energy while providing the end user more flexibility.  

As far as where the industry is heading, Tim Christianson offered some food for thought on where the conversation needs to shift. “One of the misperceptions in our industry is a current focus on capacity [dish machines have traditionally been rated based on number of racks per hour] where really the conversation needs to focus on throughput. The faster the production of a commercial dishwashing unit, the quicker you can get done with everything, resulting in possible labor savings. How do you really outsize the right dish machine, and why does everyone think capacity when all you really want to do is get your work done as fast as possible?”  

Tim Christianson discusses the latest and greatest in warewashing technology. 

To view our continuously increasing assortment of commercial dish machines from the top brands in the industry, click here. For more information on which machine is right for your specific needs, call 800.215.9293 to speak with a foodservice product expert.