Nate Stein has his roots firmly planted in the food industry, working alongside his family to cater events. About seven years ago, his parents started Stein's BBQ & Catering Co. At the end of the night, Stein was usually stuck cleaning hundreds of dishes.
"One night, at a wedding at Still Waters Vineyards a couple of years back, I had a bus tub, a rag, and I was washing plates the exact same way I'd been doing it for the past four years," he said.
For Stein, the time spent on washing dishes took away from the time he could have been helping the rest of the crew clean up. He thought there had to be a more efficient way to wash the load.
Nearing midnight, Stein went to Food 4 Less, stocked up on dollar toilet brush scrubbies, and went home to make a gadget that would make the process more efficient.
About three years later and multiple prototypes thrown around, Platescrape was born. It's a gray plastic tub that holds about 4 1/2 gallons of water with two black brushes that touch in the middle. When a plate in stuck between them, the thick and sturdy bristles capture excess grease left on a plate.
The standard process for washing dishes at the end of the night, whether at a restaurant or catering event, boils down to the same thing: scrape off the food into the trash, spray the dish with pre-rinse water from a hose, send it to the dishwasher, and dry. Platescrape eliminates the need to use the pre-rinse hose. A dish is put right in between the brushes and into the water, getting rinsed of leftover residue.
"I've washed about 600 plates with the same 4 gallons of water. It's gross, but I felt extremely good about it because if I washed the same amount of plates the traditional way, I would have used about 70 to 80 gallons of water," he said.
Stein sent his product to the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC)—an agency that tests the commercial kitchen energy efficiency and appliance performance—to see its efficiency. FSTC ran a test on the Platescrape and found that the tub saved 93 percent of water and 48 percent labor time.
"All of that water that everybody is sitting there spraying off day in and day out is just going straight down the drain because those plates still have to go through the sanitation cycle," he said.
Aug. 28 marked the first day that Stein handed a couple of Platescrapes over in exchange for a check. The owner of Glenn's Repair & Rental bought a few tubs and donated them to the Kiwanis club, believing that it will help them with cleanup during their events.
Stein said he is hopeful that people will realize how efficient the Platescrape can be for their restaurants, catering events, and beyond.
"My goal is to spread the word of our new product and help build a community in the food industry that's doing our part to be mindful of water use," he said.
For now, Stein spends his evenings placing stickers on the tubs and packaging each and every Platescrape. To learn more about the Platescrape or to get a demo from Stein email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre received two grants from The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County totaling $7,500. The funds will go toward scholarships for students participating in the theater's Academy of Creative Theatre educational programs. It will also support the Repertory's sound system upgrade. Δ
Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tips to email@example.com.