Buffetware encompasses any serving or display items primarily designated for the front of the house.


Custom Serving Solutions: Serving/Buffet Equipment

Custom serving solutions can encompass a variety of equipment, but common items include serving/buffet equipment, underbar/undercounter refrigeration, and hot and cold food wells.

Foodservice operators use serving/buffet equipment for both self- and full-service applications that span a variety of segments, including K-12, college/university, business and industry, healthcare, and military. Each market requires a different style and setup. For example, utilitarian setups help move large volumes of people through lines in the shortest amount of time. Because corporations often position foodservice as an amenity, the design of these units will seek to keep staff members in the building during lunch hours. In addition to serving students, colleges and universities also utilize serving/buffet stations as marketing tools during open houses or parent weekends.

Serving/buffet stations can be configured in a galley or long-line format, which is traditional, or with self- and full-service stations scattered in different areas. Modular setups allow the space to be utilized for a multitude of purposes or events.

Like the format, the equipment can vary, being as simple as a stainless-steel cart with a couple of pans or more sophisticated with custom hot tops for holding, cold pans, steam tables, food guards, lighting, refrigeration and storage systems.

Buffet and serving counters can include equipment on top and below as a complete unit or be separated with a platform or pedestal below a table surface. The majority are custom fabricated to include components for individual applications and operations.

There are various types of custom serving solutions, dependent on construction, including modular unitized, modular frame with a custom fabricated worktable base, stationary with millwork/casework, custom frame made of steel or stainless steel as either angle iron or tubing, and millwork frame.

Multiple finish options are available from plastic to stainless steel to millwork. Galley styles are offered in molded plastic. Solid surfaces, such as Corian, quartz, stone, wood and copper, provide an upscale look.

Table lengths can vary from 10 feet for a small facility up to 250 feet for a more substantial operation. Standard heights are between 34 and 36 inches, although elementary schools typically specify 30-inch high-tops for student access. Special widths from 24½ to 44 inches are also available.

Operators can purchase a basic box line, adding shelves, doors and drawers as needed. Custom units can include anything from backlit plate shelves to hidden storage and high-end refrigeration.

Options include food guards, tray slides, decor panels, casters or legs, kickplates, various countertop materials, inclusions or drop-ins, and a choice of stainless-steel gauge. Newer innovations, such as hot/frost merchandising platforms and refrigerated overshelves, can be added. Rolling refrigeration or steam tables are gaining favor for added flexibility in these stations.

Appropriate lighting to merchandise food is key. Other considerations for serving/buffet lines include reach and accessibility, adjustable food guards, changeovers for full- and self-service use, electrical needs and load centers to distribute use, and components for exhibition cooking. Operators need to consider the aesthetics of the front-of-house as well as back-of-house support to ensure menu flexibilities are accommodated.

Operators need to determine how they will use the serving/buffet equipment. For multiple functions, flexibility with tables and designs as well as cooking stations is recommended. This can include raw bars, action stations, chafing dishes, carving stations, soup bars, hot and cold stations, and dessert bars.

The number of stations is dependent on the expected volume, price point and menu offerings.

Along with style, it’s important to consider electrical power needs.

Although one flat table is most common, tiering or building it up can create more interesting food presentations. Tables that fold and can be easily stored are best for buffets that are not permanent.


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