Consultant Q&A: Stephane Colombina, managing principal, FDS Design Studio LLC, Washington, D.C.

FE&S: When choosing a refrigerated prep table, what should operators keep in mind?

SC: The first thing to decide is if the unit will be used for displaying food or strictly for prep in the back of house. This will determine the look and design. Tables are available in one or two pieces, with or without separate rails. Typically, tables used in kitchens have one compressor for both the unit and the rail, while front-of-house tables have two compressors.

FE&S: How does volume impact what size prep table is needed?

SC: Operators need to figure out, for example, how many pizzas they will generate at one time. This will establish whether a four- or eight-foot table is best. Chains or high-volume restaurants typically go with a larger size, whereas specialty Italian restaurants can get away with a four- to five-foot table. Smaller tables generally need ingredient refilling more often,
depending on how ingredients are being backed up and supported.

FE&S: What should operators consider in terms of table height?

SC: Work surfaces are generally 34 or 36 inches high and can be adjusted with casters or legs. Raised legs go up to 40 to 42 inches, or bar height. Pizza rails can be raised, but this can impact the view of front-of-house displays if the location is too high up. Also, display prep tables will require removable covers so customers can see the different ingredients.

FE&S: What are the ingredient storage considerations?

SC: A 4- to 5-foot table can accommodate 10 to 12 different toppings. Also, some manufacturers have the refrigerated rail running the full length of the unit, which provides more storage space, while other rails stop before hitting the compressor.

FE&S: Are there accessories that are recommended with these units?

SC: It depends on the operation, but some operators add catch trays to the tables. This way, any ingredients that fall off the top are in the tray for easier cleanup and removal. Ideally, operators should put refrigerated pizza prep tables on casters, as this makes the unit easier to pull out and clean.

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