Broken dishwasher causes slowdown in Commons

RWU students had to use paper plates, bowls, cups and plastic utensils for six days due to a kitchen machine malfunction. 

The kitchen’s large dish machine went down because a condensing coil broke due to the freezing temperatures. 

Students’ hushed complaints and confusion filled the dining hall for days, with many wondering where to find bowls and asking where the real plates were.

A “coil” system sits on top of a machine that’s used to recover the steam, condense it to water, then circulate water back into the system to reduce the overall water consumption of the machine, according to Josh Hennessy, café manager in Upper Commons.

The system sits on top of the dish machine. The cold air was coming down through the HVAC system and froze the remaining water in it causing it to crack. 

“That strain and stress touches many folks in many different ways,” Hennessy said. “Luckily, we have a smaller dish machine along with a three bay sink in the production kitchen that allowed us to keep up with all kitchen equipment like pots, pans and utensils during the time it was offline.”

The machine was down for six days, according to Hennessy. This included breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. Because of the extreme cold Polar Vortex weather in the Midwest, the dining staff had issues with shipping, which made repairing the machine take longer than expected.

Hennessy said that Upper Commons serves 3,600-4,000 meals daily on average. 

“You can imagine that is 4,000 plates, cups, etc.,” he said. “Luckily, we were able to utilize compostable paper products.”

Hennessy said that they did have some dishes hanging around while the machine was broken, but the utility team hand rinsed them. Once the machine was back online, they washed and sanitized the dishes.

“Imagine the dish machine as the ‘heart’ of a kitchen,” he said. “When the machine stops working, this affects everything from the person using a whisk stirring a sauce all the way to a student or guest looking for a glass for their juice.”

The dishwasher is up and running again, so it’s out with the paper plates for now and back to the familiar blue and green plates and cups.

“Thank you all for your patience and support during the time our machine was offline,” Hennessy said.