Skip to content
Home » Behind the Scenes: The Vital Role of Dishwashers in the Restaurant Industry

Behind the Scenes: The Vital Role of Dishwashers in the Restaurant Industry

  • by
The Vital Role of Dishwashers in the Restaurant Industry

Many aspects of a restaurant experience are widely admired and praised: fine food, good music, pleasant ambiance, and courteous servers. All these come together to create a wonderful night out — however, there is only one thing that can instantly ruin a dining experience — and that’s a lipstick mark on your glass.

While chefs and servers receive all the glory, there is one group of restaurant workers who don’t get the credit they deserve for helping to create an amazing restaurant experience. These are the dishwashers.

In this article, we will look at these unsung heroes and learn more about their behind-the-scenes role in the restaurant industry. We will explore the dishwasher job duties and skills and share some interesting dishwasher trivia.

What does a Restaurant Dishwasher do?

Dishwashers are members of the restaurant staff responsible for maintaining a clean and organized kitchen.

In general, their duties include setting up dish stations, operating dish-cleaning machines, and loading and unloading dishes. More so, restaurant dishwashers are in charge of washing dishes and utensils, removing food residue, and managing kitchen cabinets and shelves.

Working as a restaurant dishwasher may be an entry-level role, but it can serve as a stepping stone to higher-level positions in the industry. Thus, job seekers looking to join the restaurant industry should consider applying for dishwasher positions to get their foot in the door.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average base salary for a dishwasher in the US is $2,637.5 a month or $31,650 per year, though they can significantly vary based on experience, location, type of establishment, and other factors.

Dishwasher Job Duties & Responsibilities

Restaurant dishwashers have different tasks and responsibilities, including washing kitchenware, utensils, and kitchen tools, organizing cleaned items, and ensuring kitchen compliance with sanitation standards.

To be a good restaurant dishwasher, one should have a positive attitude, work efficiently, and ensure tasks are completed attentively and quickly.

Let’s take a deeper look into the duties of a restaurant dishwasher:

  • collect used kitchenware from the kitchen and dining areas
  • load and unload dishwashing machines
  • wash delicate items by hand, such as wooden cutting boards and delicate china
  • dry and polish dishes and utensils
  • organize cleaned items and store them appropriately
  • prepare workstations before meal prep
  • ensure enough clean dishes, glasses, and utensils
  • maintain stock of cleaning supplies stock, and place orders when necessary
  • oversee washing machines’ operation
  • remove garbage regularly
  • maintain the cleanliness of the dishwashing area and sanitize the kitchen area

Dishwasher Requirements & Skills

While there are usually no specific requirements to become a dishwasher, relevant experience can improve your chances of securing a position in a restaurant. Let’s explore what restaurants look for in potential dishwasher employees:

  • previous work experience as a dishwasher or on wait staff
  • previous experience with industrial washing machines
  • good time management skills
  • attention to detail and sanitation rules
  • willingness to work different shifts, such as during weekends and evenings
  • a high school diploma is a plus
  • efficient work pace
  • good physical stamina
  • adaptability to different dishwashing equipment and methods

Additionally, many US states require food service employees to obtain a Food Handler’s Permit, which demonstrates their understanding of safe food handling practices. First aid and CPR certification are also valuable in any workplace and should be included on a resume.

Furthermore, having certifications in courses related to the kitchen, such as kitchen safety, equipment operation, and basic culinary skills, can help stand out from other applicants.

Finally, these qualifications can help move beyond dishwashing duties and into other roles within the kitchen and propel a successful career in the restaurant industry.

Restaurant Dishwashers: Life in the Dish Pit

Dishwashers are restaurant’s behind-the-scenes heroes, working to ensure that delicious meals are served on clean plates and joyous occasions are celebrated with the clink of crystal-clear glasses.

Fortunately, not all dishwasher stories go untold.

In 2014, Mark Hoffe wrote and directed an interactive project called “Bubble Dancers: Life in the Dish Pit,” which provided insight into the lives of dishwashers.

Hoffe drew inspiration for the project from his own experiences working as a dishwasher in restaurants. “It was always interesting to observe how dishwashers come from various walks of life. Many of them are artists or have different dreams and aspirations,” said Hoffe.

“They’re not represented very much,” he added, “so we wanted to put that to the foreground and kind of battle some of the stereotypes I think that people have about dishwashers and those kinds of jobs in general.”

Brad Gover, one of the project’s producers, who also worked as a dishwasher for years, mentioned it’s common for restaurant dishwashers to work their way up in the industry.

“I’ve worked in restaurants where they actually have all the staff take a shift in the dish pit to understand what they go through and give them a little bit of respect that they deserve.”

Final Thoughts

Dishwashers are often underappreciated, yet they play a crucial role in ensuring that there is always clean tableware available and that dishes and utensils are not only spotless but also hygienic and sanitary.

Their work contributes not only to the appearance but also to the healthiness of restaurant establishments — and therefore, the safety and well-being of restaurant diners.

As the famous actor Kelsey Grammer said, “…you don’t realize how important dishwashers are until you do the job”.