Browse our articles on storage and handling equipment and find primers on a wide variety of specific product categories, including articles on how to specify, when to replace products and much more.
Walk-in coolers are easy to maintain when following simple best practices and regular maintenance. The parts that tend to wear out, such as condensers, fans and motors, are inexpensive compared to the total cost of a new cooler. These can be fixed, rather than having to replace the entire unit.
Walk-ins make it easier for foodservice operators to store large amounts of food items on-site and can be more efficient than multiple reach-in coolers or freezers. These units also can serve as large auxiliary rooms for prepping ingredients.
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.
Heat lamps, classified in the warming equipment category, hold baked, fried, steamed or broiled foods at safe temperatures for short periods of time without compromising quality or taste. This equipment was originally used in conjunction with meat-carving displays in the front of house, but today heat lamps are often a part of kitchen food stations.
Heat lamps keep hot food warm for short periods of time. Foodservice operators mainly use this equipment with pass-thrus, where production is on one side and serving is on the other. In addition, operators can use these units with either plates or pans of food in a variety of applications, including quick-service restaurants, stadiums and arenas, and convenience stores.
FE&S: Do heat lamps require significant maintenance?
JS: This is simple equipment, so there’s usually not a lot of maintenance or upkeep with heat lamps, other than regular cleaning.
Foodservice operators can use refrigerated prep tables in a variety of settings, from retail foodservice operations to restaurant kitchens.
To get the longest service life out of a refrigerated pizza prep table, proper usage is key. While some units can provide longer-term food storage, others should only be used for production. The typical service life of a refrigerated prep table is six to ten years. Operators that follow manufacturer recommendations for cleaning and maintenance will get the most use out of the unit.
Serving kiosks are subject to local health department requirements, but as in a traditional kitchen, operators should regularly clean and sanitize all equipment, components and materials. While some kiosks may require a three-compartment sink for washing utensils and/or a prep sink for production, others may utilize a nearby kitchen or commissary for these tasks.
Douglas W. Huber, principal, Foodservice Consultants Studio, Montpelier, Va.
FE&S: What is a key consideration when purchasing a serving kiosk?
DH: One of the biggest challenges with this equipment is hand washing. In a kiosk situation, plumbing may not be available and a self-contained hand washing unit will be needed. This is typically the case for portable models that don’t have a water hookup or facilities located conveniently nearby. Operations serving only prepackaged food, rather than cooking or assembling items on site, may not require a hand washing sink.
FE&S: What are the general requirements for prepping product in serving kiosks?
DH: In some jurisdictions, a small three-compartment sink may be required by health codes for prep work. For example, if a spoon or other utensil is dropped on the floor and needs cleaning, this sink is required for washing and sanitizing.
FE&S: Are there other equipment considerations when setting up a kiosk?
DH: Operators need to decide if there will be cooking on site, as with an omelet or stir fry station. In this case, induction cooking equipment will be needed. Again, each jurisdiction has different requirements, so it’s important to know the local code requirements, which will determine if a ventilation hood is needed.
FE&S: What about power requirements for portable kiosks?
DH: Utilities can be a challenge. Operators need to confirm if electricity will be used and how this will be obtained. Generally, kiosks that use hot food tables require 3,000 watts of power, since each well is 1,000 watts. In this case, a 50-amp plug and receptacle will be needed.
FE&S: What are the storage considerations operators should be aware of with serving kiosks?
DH: All three kiosk levels, including the top, counter and undercounter, should be considered for storage. Airports, in particular, are notorious for having small footprints. These formats can always go vertical, so it’s important to assess the entire space to determine what can be stored where. Accessibility also is an issue, so everything needed for the shift should have designated space in the kiosk. Hot holding locations also should be evaluated.
FE&S: Are there requirements with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that operators should take into account?
DH: ADA requires 34-inch countertops, but it can be difficult to find undercounter refrigeration that is lower than 32 inches for backup refrigeration.