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How to Store China

Maximizing the Life Of Your China

The destruction of dinnerware in the food service operation is the result of breakage, metal marking, and/or glaze abrasion occurring during use. With proper china care and china storage solutions, you can get the most of your dinnerware purchase and years of service. Here is ONEIDA’S step-by-step guide to maximizing the life of your china

To maximize the life of the china, the following must be considered in the design and operation of the ware handling system:


The In-Use China Inventory
Breakage, the occurrence of metal marking, and glaze abrasion are directly related to the in-use inventory levels and the rotation of the china during use. Suggested inventory levels should be out and in use. Storage space should be available at the food preparation areas to store the china. Storage areas should be set up to insure continual rotation of the china. If the suggested in-use inventories are not maintained, there will be a shortage of china during peak cycles. This will result in delays of service to the customer, poor customer service (hot salad plates), and excessive demands on the soiled dish area.
The Backup Inventory
The back-up inventory quantities will be dependent on the quality of the vendor’s distribution system, coupled with the inventory control systems and the inventory investment policies of the individual food service operation. Studies by the “American Restaurant China Council” show a yearly china replacement of approximately 33%. If we look at a 100-seat restaurant, it should have around 200 dozens of china in its in-use inventory. Breakage of two pieces of china per day will equal the 33%. Allowing time for ordering, processing of paperwork and transportation, a minimum of 8-12 weeks of back-up inventory should be kept on hand. If the pattern is a custom or an extended delivery pattern, back-up inventories of 4-6 months should be kept on hand. These quantities will insure the maintenance of the in-use inventory at the proper levels, and will minimize china consumption.

Physical inventories of both the in-use and the back-up inventory must be taken periodically. These inventories will provide an early warning if china consumption starts to increase. When the inventory is completed, any shortages in the in-use inventory should be replaced from the back-up inventory. Orders should then be written to replace the back-up inventory. The consumption of china can be tracked from these periodic inventories. If consumption does increase, checks should be made to determine if this is from increased customer count or from breakage.

The Layout of Food Preparation & Soiled Dish Area
75 – 80% of the breakage occurs at the soiled dish area. This can be attributed to two major factors. First, the soiled dish area is generally crowded into the floor space left after the dining and food preparation areas have been laid out. Second, this is generally the lowest paying job in the restaurant or it is the entry-level position, and the turnover is excessive with minimal training. The control of breakage in the soiled dish area starts with the bussing operation from the table to the soiled dish area.

The important considerations in the bussing of the soiled china are:

  1. Separating the soiled china, glassware, flatware and holloware prior to bussing.
  2. Providing separate bus boxes for each of the above. Bussing of the china with the metal items can cause metal marking on the china. Bussing of the china with the glassware can result in excessive breakage of the glassware
  3. Loading the bus boxes only to the point where the china will not fall from the bus box during transportation. If the bus box is overloaded, there is a high degree of probability that breakage will occur during transport or during sorting at the dishwasher. The soiled dish area should be laid out in an “L” shaped configuration unless it is being manned by two or more operators. The “L” shaped configuration will reduce the amount of walking required to service the dishwasher. This will give the operator more time to scrape and rack the soiled china. The soiled dish countertop must provide adequate storage for bus boxes during the peak operating hours. If floor space is not available, a larger size dishwasher should be installed.
The Storage System For China Holloware Items
The soiled dish area should contain angled shelves above the service counter to hold racks for the holloware and glassware items. These racks should be solid plastic, not plastic-coated metal. The plastic coating will wear off from the metal frame of the racks during use. Metal marks will then be deposited onto the ware. The racks for the glassware and china holloware must have minimal partitions. Excessive partitions will decrease the volume and pressure of the water reaching the soiled surface. This can result in coffee and tea staining inside the holloware. As the bus boxes are unloaded, the operator should place the holloware and glassware in the dishwasher racks. When the holloware or glassware rack is filled, it should be immediately processed through the dishwasher. When the rack of holloware or glassware comes from the dishwasher, it should be immediately transported to the storage and use area. The use of the dishwasher rack as the storage rack will eliminate two or three handlings and the probability of increased breakage.

Once the china flatware has been scraped, it should be loaded immediately into wash racks. Solid plastic racks should be used. If it is necessary to stack the scraped china, do not stack the china over 12 pieces high. The smaller items are unstable in stacks over this height and can be easily knocked onto the floor. If the china must be stacked, it should be stacked to the back of the soiled dish counter. If there is a scrap hole for the food soil in the dishwasher counter top, it must be protected with a plastic ring. This will prevent metal marking on the edge of the ware when the operator hits the china on the edge of the scrap hole to remove food soil. After the china flatware is loaded in the plastic wash racks, it should be pre-rinsed, front and back, prior to placing in the dishwasher. The pre-rinse temperature should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water temperature is higher than this, it will bake the food soil, especially egg yolk, onto the surface of the plate. This will increase the amount of washing action required to remove the food soil and probably will require a rewash. The pre-rinse will decrease the amount of food soil carried into the dishwasher. This will increase the amount of detergent available to remove the food soil from the china. All soiled product should be washed within 30-45 minutes after it is removed from the table. Soiled dishes should never be allowed to stand overnight. The food soil, coffee, and tea will dry onto the surface, creating stains that cannot be removed with normal dishwashing. Once staining occurs, time-consuming pre-soak operations will be required. If the pre-soaks are not done properly, they can chemically react with the glaze, etching the glaze surface. Once the surface is etched, it is more prone to glaze abrasion, metal marking and food staining. If pre-soaking is required, it should be done in off-peak hours. Careful supervision of the preparation of the pre-soak solution is recommended. If the wrong pre-soak is used on the stainless flatware, it can etch the finished surface. Food soil should never be removed with scouring powder or a scouring pad. The only product we recommend for removing food soil deposits from the china is the 3M Scotchbrite(R) 9030 pad. A separate soiled dish area must be used for utensils, pots, pans, and cutlery. Most of these items are made with soft metals. If they make contact with china, they will leave metal marks. Dishwasher preventative maintenance guidelines

The dishwasher should be covered by a periodic preventive maintenance program. The detergent dispensers, drying agent dispensers, pumps, washer arms, and temperature gauges must be checked and maintained. If these components are not functioning properly, staining of the china will occur. The major points to check daily are:

  1. The wash water temperature. This must be maintained at 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will not loosen the oils and food particles. Higher temperatures will bake the oils and food particles onto the surface, causing staining.
  2. The rinse temperature. This must be maintained at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will not sanitize the ware and will cause poor drying and water spotting.
  3. The amount of detergent. The alkalinity of the wash water should be between a pH of 10.5 to 11. Lower levels will result in poor cleansing. Higher levels can cause etching of the glassware. Higher levels will give higher operating costs with no direct effect on the performance of the dishwasher. The detergent supplier can provide litmus paper to check the pH.
  4. The wash and rinse arms. Most of the single tub washers have rotating wash and rinse arms. The bearings and bushings supporting the arms will wear out. Once they wear, the arms block up and the wash solution is not properly dispensed. Coffee and tea staining and food soil carryout will occur if the arms do not rotate properly.

To test for proper operations:

1. Place salad dressing inside five cups

2. Place the cups in the corners and center of the wash rack rim down
3. Run the cups through the standard dishwasher cycle
4. Check the inside for any deposits of salad dressing
5. If there are salad dressing deposits in the cup, the wash and rinse arm bearings should be replaced

5. Wash arm tips. The tips of the wash arms can become plugged with food soil or paper products. They should be removed and checked daily. If they become plugged or are broken, they will not direct the wash water into the load; food soil deposits will be left on the ware.

6. Wash water pressure. The wash water pressure should be maintained at between 35-45 pounds. Lower pressures will result in poor removal of food soil. If the china holloware or the glassware is washed in open racks, higher water pressures will lift and drop the pieces against each other causing chipping or breakage.

7. Strainer baskets. The strainer baskets should be removed and cleaned at least once per day. It is recommended that they be removed and cleaned after each peak cycle.

Once the china flatware comes from the dishwasher, it should be checked for any food soil carryout. If food soil carryout is occurring, one of the managers should be notified.

They should have adjustments or repairs made to the dishwasher. Once the china is clean, it should be transported directly to the food preparation or use areas. We recommend carts or portable Lowerators for transporting the ware. Hand carrying of the ware on the slippery kitchen floors will result in catastrophic breakage. When the clean china is placed in the use area, the stock should be rotated to use the ware already at the station. Rotation will minimize wear of the glaze from abrasion during handling. The food preparation area must contain adequate storage space to store the in-use china inventory at the point of food preparation. Storage shelves should be at or below the level of the food preparation surface. Overhead storage can result in excessive breakage, as it is not readily accessible to all employees.

The Grade Of Stainless Used For Countertops & Ware Storage
Stainless countertops and shelving are normally manufactured from 302 or 430 stainless steel. We recommend that all countertops and shelving that will contact the china be made from 302 stainless with a #3 or #4 finish. 430 stainless should not be used, as it is less resistant to attack by food acids. It will require more maintenance to insure that the residue from the reaction with food acids is removed before it is transferred onto the china. (430 stainless can be identified by the fact that it is magnetic.) Both grades of stainless are susceptible to attack by food acids. If the stainless surfaces are not cleaned frequently with a commercial stainless steel cleaner, a residue will build up on the surface. The residue forms when the food acids react with the surface. The residue is softer than the original work-hardened surface. It will be picked up on the foot of the dinnerware when the glazed surface contacts the corroded stainless surface. During normal handling, the residue will be transferred from the foot to the face of the ware. This will result in a grayish stain on the face of the piece. The mechanical and surface bond between the residue and the glaze surface is strong enough that normal detergents in water cannot wet the contact area. Thus, normal dishwashing techniques will not remove these marks. The use of any other metallic shelving – i.e., steel, galvanized or aluminum – will result in the direct deposit of metal on the foot.

The metal will transfer to the face of the china after a short period of use. The glaze coat has been designed to be hard enough to resist cutting by knives made from 410 stainless. The metals listed have a lower surface hardness and the glaze will abrade the metal, resulting in a metal deposit on the ware. Again, the mechanical and surface bond is great enough that the detergent and water cannot wet the contact area. Thus, the metal particles will not be released by normal washing. The use of plastic-coated wire racks for either washing or storage racks will result in metal marking of the ware. The weight of the dinnerware will crush the plastic coating, exposing the wires that are steel or a low grade of stainless. We recommend that all Lowerators be lined with a white plastic or a 302 stainless sleeve. If 302 or 430 stainless is used for the sleeves, they must be cleaned periodically with a commercial stainless steel cleaner. Again, the humidity plus the food and fatty acids in the kitchen environment will attack both grades of stainless. A residue will be formed that will be picked up by the glaze. If steel, galvanized steel or aluminum is used, metal marking of the edge of the rim will occur as the Lowerator is loaded or unloaded. If colored plastic sleeves are used, the plastic should be tested to insure that as wear occurs, a permanent stain is not left on the china. All stainless shelves in the food preparation area, the soiled dish area, and all Lowerator tubes should receive a periodic cleaning with a good stainless steel cleaner.

The residue from the reaction of the food acids with the stainless or metal marks on the china can be removed with either of the above products. Metal marking also will occur when the china is bussed with metallic flatware or holloware. Flatware should be separated from the dinnerware when the china is removed from the table or at the bussing station. The flatware should be placed in a separate bussing container. In addition, all holloware should be placed in a separate container for transportation to the kitchen.

The Grade Of Stainless Or Silverplated Flatware
To minimize the possibility of metal marking from the flatware or holloware, all forks, spoons, and hollow-handle knives should be made from 301 or 304 stainless. All solid-handle knives or knife blades should be made from 410 stainless.

The above recommendations are directed at minimizing the handling of the china. By minimizing handling, both breakage and glaze abrasion will be minimized. The glaze coating on the china surface is only 2- to- 3/1,000 of an inch thick. This is about the thickness of a human hair. Excessive and rough handling can cause damage to the surface. Once the surface is broken, the rate of abrasion increases dramatically. The best indicator of rough and excessive handling is to listen to the noise levels in the dining room and kitchen at the peak operating periods. If you can hear the china being hit together during the normal handling routine, examination of the china will probably show excessive areas of glaze abrasion. The glaze coating is a glass. All glasses have a high coefficient of friction. The coefficient of friction is the force required to cause one surface in contact with another surface to slide across each other. A dinner plate requires a surprising amount of force to slide one plate across the other. The high coefficient of friction between the two plates increases the probability of glaze abrasion. If proper in-use inventories are not maintained and the ware is not rotated during use, glaze abrasion can, and will, occur.

By initiating and following the above practices, the appearance of the china will not diminish over the normal service life. The service life will be extended because handling with its resultant breakage will be minimized. In turn, the investment in replacement china will be lower.

Contact us for more information on how to store china properly.