In my seven years as a Human Resources Director in the Hospitality industry, one of the toughest jobs to fill was one of dishwasher/utility. That may not seem so surprising, since one might think—who wants that job? Up to your elbows in dishwater, handling used plates and cutlery, sweating in a hot kitchen?
The dishwasher/utility position in a restaurant has gotten a bad rap. This person is a key part of the restaurant team. Think about it. If the dishes, glassware and utensils aren’t clean and sparkling, the $35 entrée on the plate doesn’t look appetizing, either. The condition of the tableware has a lot to say about the cleanliness of the kitchen, pantries, freezers, refrigerators and cookware. How many times have you unwrapped the cutlery from the napkin and examined the cleanliness of the forks and knife? You won’t get a look at the kitchen staff at work, but you get to examine the work of the dishwasher every time.
It takes a dedicated person who has attention to detail, some mechanical aptitude, a team spirit, the ability to multi-task, work quickly under pressure and a sense of urgency to be successful in this position. Modern restaurant kitchens use dish machines that are high volume and require the right combination of chemical cleaners to wash dishes properly. There is a proper stacking, spraying and rinsing process for optimal efficiency. They are also responsible for cleaning, routine maintenance and troubleshooting. If the dishwasher goes down or the plates aren’t loaded properly and dishes aren’t clean, the whole service process comes to a halt.
Cleaning and sanitizing is a big part of this position, which includes trash, kitchen, tables, prep knives, and other areas. If you have ever watched Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” you know what a huge emphasis he puts on cleanliness in the kitchen. Dishwashers go through the same safety and sanitation training and certifications as the rest of the restaurant staff. Most kitchens are tight spaces with a lot of people working quickly with sharp knives, multiple open burners and hot cooking utensils. Another responsibility is to break down boxes and other packaging materials and dispose of properly. Keeping the floors and aisles clean and free of trash, boxes and other items is essential to the whole crew’s safety.
Dishwashers/utility persons often have the opportunity to assist with food prep and plating salads and starters. A person in this position has the opportunity to observe and learn kitchen operation, cooking techniques, food safety, sanitation, inventory control, kitchen flow and the order completion process. It’s a great ground-floor opportunity into the restaurant and hospitality business.
Horst Schulze, the former Founder and President of Ritz Carlton Hotels, started his career at 14 by bussing tables and washing dishes. Today he is the CEO and founder of West Paces Hotel Group, with luxury hotels under the Capella and Solis Brand all over the world. Every position in hospitality is an essential part of the team that serves the customer and makes them return again and again. A job as a dishwasher/utility person can be the first step to an exciting career.
Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Hospitalityjobsite.com. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients discover what they love and spend their life on it. You can read more of her blogs at hospitalityjobsiteblog.com and view additional job postings on Nexxt.