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For years, commercial dishwasher manufacturers have battled to develop machines that get plates spotlessly clean in less than 180 seconds.

And given such machines are usually buried away in the depths of the kitchen, manufacturers have happily forgone aesthetic design in pursuit of pure speed.

The Twin Star from Maidaid Halcyon goes entirely against that notion, drawing its inspiration from the way in which home dishwashers function.

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As we’ll come to shortly, this controversial new approach is all part of a strategy to provide smaller gourmet restaurants in particular — but also pizzerias, wine cellars, retirement homes and the like — with a compact offering that commands less labour, less handling and less ventilation.

The unit, which is built by Maidaid’s Italian manufacturing partner DIHR, can handle in excess of 400 plates if necessary, but there are also more than a dozen types of racks available that will hold anything from fragile crystal glasses to heavily soiled pots.

In the UK, Maidaid believes the appliance will be particularly attractive to restaurants that serve no more than 75 covers, are short on space and want to streamline the way they clean their tableware and glassware.

Julian Lambert, sales director at Maidaid Halcyon, notes that the machine is designed to be used outside of service. He says waiters or waitresses simply just need to scrape the plates and load the machine during service before starting the power at the end of the shift when they go home. The machine then operates on a longer cycle like a domestic dishwasher, but leaves the items bone dry so that they can be served straight to the table when service resumes the next day.

“This machine pre-washes from cold so they don’t need to pre-heat it,” says Lambert. “That is the problem with a traditional machine, it is switched on and elements are kicking on and off to keep it at the right temperature all day long. This is switched off until it is ready to be used.”

Lambert claims the cold water pre-wash function is more effective for cleaning plates that are stained with egg-based product, adding that while this process is taking place the machine heats up ready for the main wash cycle. By that time most of the debris should have been soaked off.

Instead of the three minutes that a typical commercial dishwasher takes to do its job, the Twin Star’s average cycle lasts around an hour and a half.

The real sanitising — or “thermal disinfection” — takes place during the long rinse stage, says Lambert, who insists plates come out “squeaky clean” like they do in a domestic machine.

“Unlike a commercial machine, once it has done that it then goes into a drying cycle,” he comments. “The drying cycle doesn’t just dry the plates, it removes all the moisture from the machine and all the steam, so that when the staff come back in the morning or before the evening service it has turned itself into a storage cupboard. Everything in there is spotlessly clean and dry, so they can load it straight from the machine to the tables,” he adds.

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As well as coming in single and double door formats, the TwinStar can be embedded in a wall to create a pass-through arrangement that provides a net separation between the loading area and the clean area.

With a list price of around £32,000 for a single-sided machine, it isn’t exactly geared up to be a volume seller, but Lambert believes there is a certain category of customers for which it will present a compelling solution.

“The big thing is the saving in the cost of staff washing dishes. Normally you have always got to have at least two kitchen porters working at any one time, but with this you don’t need KPs because the waiters and waitresses load and unload because there is no washing while they are in service unless they decide they need to do it.

“What the manufacturer of this also saw is that there are certain places where space is of an optimum. It is 1.3 metres wide, whereas a standard hood machine would take up around five metres with all the tabling either side of it. We calculated that the space for five square metres in London is £3,200 a year, whereas it’s £2,000 for the Twin Star. The other big thing is that because of the drying cycle and the pre-condense unit within it, it doesn’t need ventilation. A lot of commercial machines say they have got pre-heat units or condense units inside the machine, but there is still steam.

“I don’t care what anybody says, whenever you open those machines up, there is a certain amount of steam and moisture in there. This is bone dry. It is completely unique.”

Given the purchase price, Maidaid anticipates the Twin Star will prove more popular as a leased option. It calculates that a five-year lease package would cost around £21 a day. For a 75-cover restaurant, the total running cost would be around £32 a day.

The conventional alternative, it claims, would cost around £44 a day with wash-up labour expenses factored in.

In France, where the Twin Star was launched earlier this year, the concept has taken off far more quickly than the company expected. Lambert is hopeful that bodes well for its UK aspirations.

“It has gone really well in France and we are hoping the same thing will happen over here. Their restaurants are different — they have 75-seat gourmet restaurants in smaller towns whereas most of ours tend to be in the bigger cities. But I think for London, especially, there is a massive market place there. The Twin Star is not aimed at every single premises, but in certain cases it is a problem solver.”

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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