What is in this article?:
- How to buy holding and serving equipment
- Considerations for holding units
Just about every restaurant needs to hold food for some time before it’s served to customers. Here are some equipment options that will ensure that the food you hold will be preserved at the highest levels.
Using heated holding units and serving cases that offer moisturized heat in a humidity-controlled cabinet should be considered for many food items.
Considerations for holding units
If you want a holding unit, be sure you purchase induction units that are warmers, not for cooking. You’ll then avoid a possible requirement for an exhaust hood. You should be aware that in many locations a hood is required over units capable of cooking.Use an induction warmer that limits the temperature at the maximum setting to just over 180°F. Also, it’s important to remember that any induction unit must be used with special chafers with an iron base.
For back-of-house applications, mobile holding cabinets are the most flexible units. There are units made to hold plated meals that can be used in banqueting. These mobile banquet carts can be purchased with different shelf configurations to hold uncovered plates or covered hot food plates in special carriers. Probably the most economical and flexible arrangement is just plain shelves that can be loaded with varying sized covered plates or bulk containers.
If your needs include transporting and holding bulk hot product, there are a large number of these carts on the market as well. The bulk food carts have a variety of internal shelf and pan slide options. For bulk food some models can have angle ledges that hold 18” x 26” pans, but if you want to use 12” x 20” steamtable pans, a special universal angle ledge will be required. There are some great new units that can be very useful for operations doing a lot of outside catering. They are heated either by plugging in for regular indoor use or run off of propane for outdoor use. One can even be purchased with an optional solar panel, which charges its control battery for a truly green machine. These holding cabinets can be fitted with semipneumatic tires for rugged outdoor use.
Using heated holding units and serving cases that offer moisturized heat in a humidity-controlled cabinet should be considered for many food items. Delicate foods keep longer and will not dry out as rapidly in a high-humidity environment. Along with humidity control some display cases have the option of a forced-air glass defogger to prevent condensation build-up. The defogger is an important aid to merchandising.
The warming drawer is a product that is effective at holding food, but not for display. Warming drawers are a good back-of-house option for taking advantage of space since the units are typically only 20” to 30” wide and don’t use countertop space. Up to three six-inch deep, stacked drawers will fit under a typical tabletop. The drawers can be purchased with three individual thermostats and temperature dials so different products can be held in each. Some makers also provide moisture control for their drawers.
There are many types of food holding and serving units out there and almost certainly one to fit your needs for your products. Prices range tremendously because of materials and special features. If your needs include specific holding requirements for delicate products or longer holding times, you will do well to invest in a model with more advanced features. Match your needs with the product you buy and you and your customers will be safe and happy.
Dan Bendall is a principal of FoodStrategy, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in planning foodservice facilities. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.