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What Type of Plate Dispenser is Right for You?

When setting up a foodservice operation, many owners pay the closest attention to elements like the menu, food sourcing, and staffing. However, one piece often gets overlooked, despite being one of the most critical parts of a self-serve serving station, and that's where everything begins for diners -- getting a plate.

Plate dispensers can set the tone for the entire mode of service. When a diner is served warm foods on a cold plate, for example, it can be a reflection of the entire experience. Using the right plate dispenser can help start foodservice the right way, and as a follow-up to a previous piece we did on the different types of plate dispensers, this blog will help operators determine which type will work best.

A Brief Overview of Types of Plate Dispensers

The first question to ask is whether the food station will be mobile or not. If the point of service will be relocated to different areas of the property or operation, considering a mobile plate dispenser is likely the best bet for the operator, as it will provide versatility. Drop-in plate dispensers are also highly valuable for certain types of service, and they come in a few different varieties. Let's walk through the different types of dispensers and break down what to expect from each.

Mobile Plate Dispensers

Because these dispensers are mobile, they are designed to make moving (and stopping) easy. Each unit comes with durable casters for movement, as well as locking wheels so employees can safely secure plate dispensers during times of service. As for the plates themselves, there are a few factors to consider when picking a mobile plate dispenser, such as:

Square or Round Plates: Trying to fit a square plate into a round hole won't end well, nor will the opposite. With square plates common for banquets and catering, having flexibility can be critical.

Number of Stacks: For food stations requiring high-volume service, having multiple dispenser stacks can make the line go much faster. Most models have two, but some can have four or more.

Heated vs. Non-Heated: Warm plates are essential for hot food stations, but it's crucial not to overheat the plates so guests can't hold them. Mobile food stations can use radiant or convection heat to ensure consistent and reliable results with every dish.


A drop-in plate dispenser is a semi-permanent installation that works best for restaurants, hotels, and other foodservice operations that remain stationary. As with mobile machinery, the operator has to determine whether a heated or non-heated option will work best. With drop-ins, there are actually three variations: open, shielded, and heated.

A shielded dispenser works best if the counter is exposed because food particles and other items won't damage or dirty dishes before they're removed. Open dispensers allow for quick access. And heated units will dispense plates at the ideal temperatures of heated, center-of-the-plate meal service.

Why Selecting a Plate Dispenser is Crucial for Your Operation

Plate dispensers make foodservice operations run a lot more smoothly than they would otherwise, literally beginning someone's experience. They can also be critical for operators, too, by reducing the burdens placed on staffing in today's labor-challenged foodservice industry. Without a dispenser, workers would have to stack plates constantly throughout the service window. Also, because it's not safe to stack plates too high, they would need to make multiple trips to deliver the same number of dishes as a dispenser.

How to Select the Right Plate Dispenser

It can be valuable for foodservice operators to discuss their own set of unique goals and challenges before deciding on any type of foodservice equipment purchase, plate dispensers included. From walking through the different types of features to discovering the benefits of those features, the team at Lakeside can help deliver the right plate dispenser solution to meet your objectives. Our recommendation is to start by reviewing the different types of options available for both mobile and drop-in plate dispensing units.

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The 3 Types of Mobile Plate Dispensers

When it comes to buffet and self-serve foodservice, it all begins with the plate. Whether it’s corporate dining or an all-you-can-eat restaurant, most self-serve consumers will be influenced by the size and storage temperature of dinnerware, and that’s why it’s important for operators to consider the different types of plate dispensers and the benefits that come with each.

In many types of operations, it’s also important to be able to move foodservice from one area of a property to another. As a result, considering a mobile plate dispenser could be the right option, so let’s dig into the different types of units and why one might work better over another.

Regular, Express-Heat or Convection: Which Plate Dispenser Is Right for You?

Understanding a few basic factors before selecting a plate dispenser is critical to choosing the right one. As we mentioned, it’s important to know where plates will be dispensed, as this could factor into whether a mobile dispenser is needed. Operators should also consider things like plate size and whether or not plates will be heated.


Regular plate dispensers from Lakeside deliver heated or non-heated plate options with economical flexibility. Each unit can be modified to accommodate different dispensing levels without the use of any complicated tools, and a smart, durable design makes Lakeside’s regular plate dispensers suited for day-to-day use in a wide range of operations including hospitality, healthcare, corporate dining, and more. With Lake-Glide casters, units move across surfaces quietly and without sticking on surfaces.


Lakeside’s award-winning Express Heat plate dispensers use forced air to decrease the amount of time it takes to heat up a collection of plates while continuing to offer the classic Lakeside component of mobility for easy transport and plate distribution. With these units, plates are heated to 150ºF in about 90 minutes while still accommodating different dispensing levels with spring tension. Express Heat units are ideal for banquets and on-demand meals where less time is provided for set-up and the heating of plates.


For operations that require high-volume dispensing applications, the Convection Plate Dispenser is the ideal solution. Designed to evenly transfer heat to all plates within the cabinet, convection dispensers ensure faster, consistent, and efficient plate heating with a single control that operates two or three dispensers in a single cabinet. Self-leveling dispensers are self-lubricating for smooth, accident-free operation. With Lakeside’s convection options, it’s also possible to take advantage of Duo-Therm™ options to heat both plates and pellets within the same unit providing the ultimate in flexibility.

Looking for more information on plate dispensers to meet your unique challenges? Talk with an expert at Lakeside.


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Improving the Guest Experience with Beverage and Food Stations

No matter what type of foodservice setting, one of the most desired factors that customers look for when consuming foods and beverages is the idea of convenience. Making things accessible is a great way to leave an impression that will enhance the reputation of the overall operation and lead to return visits, and beverage and food stations are an easy way to achieve these goals.

Here are a few scenarios to consider when looking to enhance the guest experience in hotels, convention centers, and even in corporate dining applications:

Everyone Loves Coffee

In pretty much every sector of the global economy, employers are looking at deficits in attracting and maintaining staffing. This is true in foodservice, and it’s also true in the corporate world where the labor force is currently coming back into the workplace and into the office. So how can corporations entice people to not only work for them but to do so in the office? By making the workplace more enjoyable and more convenient.

Consider coffee stations placed strategically around the office. People always appreciate access to coffee, and employers gain the benefits of a caffeinated workforce that benefits from the points of inter-office interaction created by self-serve coffee stations.

Starting the Day with OJ

Today’s hotel and resort industry faces many challenges. As we mentioned, staffing is certainly one of the issues that many hotel companies are facing. At the same time, guests are also looking at home-stay options like VRBO and Airbnb to satisfy their vacation and accommodation needs. This means it’s important for hotel operators to go out of their way to make guests feel welcome with hospitality-driven initiatives while reducing the burdens placed on staff.

Consider morning juice stations to add that extra level of hospitality. With a self-serve juice bar, minimal staffing is required to add a high-value benefit for hotel and resort guests. After all, everyone should start the day with a glass of OJ.

Provide Brain Food

As the world emerges from the pandemic, we’re seeing a return to pre-pandemic events like conventions and conferences, two important profit-makers for resorts, hotels, and convention centers. Again, there are also labor challenges that go with this return to normal, so the more services an operator can provide while using the least amount of labor possible, the better the results for the operation.

Consider a self-serve snack service for attendees at conferences and conventions. With a nutrition station strategically placed amongst the conference rooms, guests can get much-needed nourishment without the need to overuse hotel or convention center staff.

Enhance the Guest Experience Using Hydration and Nutrition Carts from Lakeside

Self-serve hydration and nutrition stations from Lakeside are designed to move from one location to another, easing the burdens on staff while providing high-value benefits for guests. Units are designed to fit within a wide range of aesthetics and décors, making their placement in just about any area of a hotel lobby or convention center common area eye-pleasing and easy.

There are many hidden benefits to hydration and nutrition stations, and whether you're using a self-serve station or a full-serve station, Lakeside can help. Take a look at the full range of Lakeside hydration and nutrition carts today.

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The Hidden Benefit of Self-Serve Hydration and Nutrition Carts

In hospitals, senior care communities, and other types of healthcare facilities, the goal is always to ensure better health. Whether that’s helping a patient recover and improve or maintain a healthy lifestyle that already exists, food and beverage go a long way toward ensuring wellness.

As we’ve discussed in the past, one way to help patients and residents stay hydrated and nourished is to strategically place foods and beverages across a property, on a particular floor, or within a certain space that may otherwise go as unused. This helps encourage impulse food and beverage consumption that can contribute to good health practices, and while this is particularly important and is seen as the primary benefit of establishing hydration and nutrition carts, it certainly isn’t the only one.

The Hidden Benefit Is Choice

When it comes to recipients of foodservice in healthcare settings, those diners are often the ones who have health challenges. With health challenges often comes the lack of choice as it relates to food and beverage. And with a lack of choice can come the deterioration of mental health.

We’re not saying that setting up a water hydration station on a hospital floor will lead a patient to achieve optimal mental health, but what we are saying is there’s a correlation between recovery and wellness and providing choices to patients and residents. Even if it’s just one small moment in the day, having the ability to choose what to eat or drink, to decide whether or not to pour a refill, can be liberating for patients and residents in healthcare settings.

There Are Benefits for Operators, Too

Aside from promoting wellness, which is clearly the top goal of healthcare foodservice, there are other benefits for operators, as well. First is the elimination of food waste. Rather than bringing a tray with items into a patient’s room only to have them go uneaten, unconsumed, and discarded, operators that provide hydration and nutrition carts allow patients to only take what they want to eat or drink.

Setting up self-service stations can also contribute to higher reviews and ratings, which can go a long way toward securing higher reimbursement rates. And in today’s labor-starved workplaces, self-service stations are a great way to make the best use of the people on staff, providing a wider range of service with fewer resources.

Solutions from Lakeside That Deliver

Self-serve beverage service carts from Lakeside can help deliver patient and resident choice in healthcare and senior care environments. This often overlooked aspect of self-service can only be achieved with the proper equipment, and Lakeside's units are designed with both convenient storage and serving areas within the cart. Learn more about how self-serve hydration and nutrition carts can benefit your healthcare foodservice operation today.

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How to Choose Self- or Full-Service Beverage Carts in Healthcare

As we’ve highlighted recently, it’s important to provide hydration for patients and residents in healthcare facilities and senior care communities. Water and important nourishment from healthy foods are a great way to promote good health and recovery, but what are the best ways to achieve this?

Essentially, there are two ways to get foods and beverages to patients and residents. First, diners can come to the source of the food and water and serve themselves. The other way is to bring foods and drinks to them as part of a full-service operation. The next question, then, is how do you choose between the two? And the answer is one that has generally been skewed over the last few years as we’ve traversed the Covid pandemic.


Self-service is generally designed for patients and guests that have greater mobility and can move around within a particular property with relative ease. Adding self-serve hydration and nutrition carts are a great way to help make the most out of underused locations while also encouraging impulse food and beverage consumption that promotes wellness. They can be easily loaded in a kitchen for transport to a serving area, and they also eliminate the need for serving tables and linens that can eat resources. With self-serve carts, the impacts on staffing are minimal.


Full-service carts are designed to either bring foods and beverages directly to patients and residents, or they can be used to create patient/staff interactions in underused locations of a hospital or senior care community. Like self-serve carts, they also create opportunities for impulse fluid and food consumption in communal areas, as well as being ideal for room service and in-room meal deliveries. Though full-service carts are designed to be operated by a staff member, they can still reduce the burdens on staff by eliminating repeated trips to storage areas.

Hydration and Nutrition Carts from Lakeside

Based on the above criteria, it’s possible to narrow in on a selection for which type of serving station would work best for a particular type of healthcare facility or foodservice goal. Self-serve beverage service carts from Lakeside are designed with convenient storage underneath and ample serving space on top of the cart. This makes it easy to display an array of items while hiding backstock. Full-service hydration carts from Lakeside are great for mobile hydration and nutrition. Designed with features for dispensing and convenient drawers for operation, these units are great for providing vital hydration and nutrition to patients and residents in an efficient manner, while also delivering much-needed points of interaction.

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How to Encourage Hydration in Your Healthcare Foodservice Program

The benefits of drinking water are well-documented and well-understood, though you could make the argument they’re not always considered and followed. Before we delve into drinking water in a healthcare setting, let’s take a step back and review what we all like know about water:

  • Water helps to carry food and oxygen to our organs and cells.
  • Water helps our bodies get rid of unwanted bacteria
  • Water helps with digestion and waste removal.
  • Water stabilizes our blood pressure
  • It regulates our body temperatures
  • It cushions our joints.
  • And on
  • And on
  • And on

Now, if we can all recognize how important the consumption of water can be for normal, healthy humans, what about its importance in a hospital or clinic, or senior care center where patients or residents are in even greater need. Water is an absolutely critical component of recovery and wellness.

The next question becomes, how much water should one drink in a day? According to the study from Harvard University linked in the top paragraph of this article, the daily rule is four to six cups of water per day. That translates to between 32 and 48 fluid ounces each and every day. Keep in mind, though, that daily water consumption rates vary from person to person, and it’s always wise to consult a doctor to determine the right number.

Getting Water to Patients and Residents Quickly and Efficiently

There are two ways to get water to patients and residents. They can come to the water source, or healthcare foodservice operators can bring the water to them. Hydration carts and beverage service carts from Lakeside are an ideal way to help ensure hydration within the facility or community.

Hydration carts provide operators with the ability to bring hydrating beverages directly to patients or even to a particular part of a facility where water might be strategically placed. This is a great advantage that comes with mobile service that is durable and capable of covering a wide range of surfaces. In addition, hydration carts from Lakeside are also equipped with the ability to serve healthy snacks, making it even more useful

Beverage service carts provide similar capabilities as hydration carts. They’re created with stainless steel and laminate, and they allow operators to transport and serve both foods and beverages for a visually-appealing unit that can be loaded in the back-of-the-house for transport to patient rooms or other areas of a facility.

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Are Ghost Kitchens Here to Stay?

The foodservice industry has changed quite a bit in recent years. One of the more recent trends is the increasing popularity of ghost kitchens. Ghost kitchens existed in the food service industry before the COVID-19 pandemic, but they've taken on a life of their own since the early days of 2020, as many restaurants and foodservice operators adopted ghost kitchen models as they sought to adapt to the new realities of foodservice. Simply put, restaurants were forced to close dining rooms, and they needed new ways to get in front of their customers. The result was a drastic increase in off-premise dining, which speaks directly to the ghost kitchen model of foodservice.

Let's start by discussing what a ghost kitchen is and how it operates.

What Exactly Is a Ghost Kitchen?

People may think of something spooky when they hear the term ghost kitchen, but it is quite ordinary. A ghost kitchen is an operation that doesn't include a parking lot, dining room, or waiters. Simply put, a ghost kitchen is a restaurant that has essentially no public presence at all. It provides touchless ordering via an app or online menu, and meals are either delivered or picked up on location.

Ghost kitchens can be found in a variety of food delivery services. These services include DoorDash and GrubHub. Customers may see a restaurant listed on DoorDash or GrubHub that makes food in a ghost kitchen without even recognizing it. Ghost kitchens are quite important for food delivery services.

What Are the Benefits Of Ghost Kitchens?

Ghost kitchens provide a number of benefits. One of them is the fact that ghost kitchens have minimal overhead costs. Whoever runs the ghost kitchen doesn't have to worry about front-of-house expenses since those expenses don't exist for a ghost kitchen.

Additionally, ghost kitchens allow owners to operate without customizing the building for the convenience of dine-in customers or hiring servers. Also, a ghost kitchen provides the possibility of outsourcing delivery to services such as GrubHub and DoorDash. It is important to realize that one has to pay commission fees in order to outsource delivery to these services.

Another benefit of ghost kitchens is that they are quite flexible. One can quickly adapt them due to customer demand and new market trends. Everything about the ghost kitchen is online and one can alter it quickly across every platform they use. This provides those who run ghost kitchens with more leeway to test different approaches during the beginning stages of the business. After all, if one approach fails, it is fairly simple to pivot to another approach and go from there.

Will Ghost Kitchens Remain in the Foodservice Industry in the Long Term?

The easy answer is, yes. Given how the foodservice industry has changed in recent years, it seems likely that ghost kitchens are here to stay. They provide a variety of benefits compared to traditional food preparation operations. They can save a restaurant money it would have spent on overhead costs. With all this being said, one would expect that ghost kitchens will remain a part of the foodservice industry moving forward.

New Equipment Helps With Ghost Kitchen Operations

Another reason why ghost kitchens sprang up is to meet off-premise demand. New equipment can make ghost kitchen operations easier. Carryout food carts and curbside food carts are two examples of such new equipment.

These carts are durable and include all-swivel casters so that they are easy to move. Additionally, these carts make sanitation and cleaning easier, since their construction makes it easy to clean and sanitize them. Carryout food carts and curbside food carts also include an all-weather cover to protect them from the elements.

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How to Improve Your Meal Delivery Efficiency

There are many keys to successful meal delivery. One of them is to ensure that meals delivered are fresh and of high quality. Another key is to deliver meals quickly and efficiently. Consequently, these goals often go hand-in-hand, and there are several ways for operators to help achieve them.

Here are three ideas for operators to consider when looking to improve meal delivery efficiency, while also preserving quality.

Transport More Meals At The Same Time.

It might seem obvious, but transporting more meals at once can make meal delivery more efficient. Delivering fewer meals at the same time means that the entire process is less efficient, and less efficiency can reduce profitability because, yes, time is essentially money. Breaking up these meals into separate deliveries increases the transportation costs.

For this reason, it makes more sense to transport a greater number of meals at the same time. this can also help improve meal quality as prepared foods won't need to wait as long in the kitchen for the next wave of delivery.

Make Sure To Deliver Meals Securely and Safely.

Another method one can use to improve meal delivery efficiency is to ensure that all meals are delivered securely and safely. There are a number of things one can do to make sure this is the case. From ensuring that packaged items arrive intact to keeping food at proper serving temperatures from the kitchen to the fork, food safety is ultimately the most important aspect of any operation, from senior care communities to schools and corporate cafeterias.

Again preserving quality is a byproduct of safety. When items are kept and served at proper temperatures, not only do they remain safe for service, but they also retain the desired qualities that make food appetizing.

Utilize High-Quality Meal Transport Carts.

One more way to make meal delivery efficient is to use high-quality meal transport carts. Ideally, one would use delivery carts that can be easily moved, are durable, and can be moved outside across a variety of surfaces. Consider the types of surfaces over which they will move. Sometimes bumpy tiles and even elevator thresholds can be obstacles to food delivery, and Lakeside's team of experts can help.

The Lunch-Time Meal Transport Kiosk is suitable for this delivery. It is made from stainless steel for easy cleaning and sanitation. This kiosk is also made to accommodate a combination of coolers or thermal bags to handle various changing menus.

Curbside foodservice carts are another good option. The Curbside Pick-Up Cart is one such cart and it includes a durable stainless steel construction. It also has an all-weather cover, so one can use it in a variety of weather conditions. The Curbside Pick-Up Cart comes with all-swivel casters so it can move easily. All this, combined with its convenient push handle, makes it one of the top-notch curbside foodservice carts available today.

Meal delivery solutions are key to effective meal delivery. One can choose from a variety of different curbside and pick-up carts in addition to other products like drying racks. Steam tables are one more example of the meal delivery solutions that are available. All of these solutions can make it easy for one to deliver meals effectively.

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Be the Strongest Advocate in Senior Care Dining Rooms

At the end of the day, foodservice in senior care communities is just a form of hospitality. Rather than guests going home after a weeklong stay, though, residents are there for much longer periods of time, often for the rest of their lives. This makes it even more important for foodservice to have a strong advocate in senior care dining rooms.

But why?

Mealtimes are often some of the most important moments of the day, not just because they provide important nourishment for senior care populations, but also because they create space for socialization. With socialization comes the all-important mental health benefits. It’s important for senior care foodservice directors to understand the impacts their service can have, and the best way to realize this is to be in the dining room with guests and residents.

Simply put, registered dieticians and senior care foodservice directors don’t get into the dining rooms enough because they are drowning in paperwork, charting, ordering, staffing, regulations, scheduling, and so much more. Maybe it’s simply a matter of being too busy. Maybe it’s because you can’t measure the impact of being face-to-face with residents. Maybe it’s because walking the floor doesn’t fit on a spreadsheet. Either way, it doesn’t diminish the impact a director can have in the dining room, observing what is actually going on, speaking to residents about their preferences, and creating positive change. You can’t overestimate the impact of an end-product meal, but you have to be present in order to observe it.

So how can directors stay in front of residents at mealtime?

Service is something done to you. Hospitality is the way you make someone feel. When foodservice directors in senior care communities take a hospitality-driven approach, it means they’re committed to seeing the impacts of their service. Getting into the dining room is important, but it isn’t always easy.

The SuzyQ meal delivery system by Lakeside is a unique solution that allows operators to serve meals tableside or in the comfort of a resident’s room. Carts are heated for preserving food quality, but even more important, this type of function allows residents to self-choose their own meals. Not only does the element of choice provide much-needed control for residents, but it also reduces the amount of food waste by up to 50 percent.

For operators and foodservice directors, this is the perfect opportunity to get in front of residents by being the one to literally serve their meals tableside. If a personal connection is the goal, it doesn’t get any easier than with a SuzyQ meal delivery system.

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How Meal Delivery Presentation Impacts Your Bottom Line

How Meal Delivery Presentation Impacts Your Bottom Line

Here's a little puzzle: What part of the body does a person first use to eat? The answer might not be obvious at first, but people first eat with their eyes. Whether that's in a fine dining restaurant when a plate is placed in front of the guest or when people are at home enjoying the convenience of delivery, presentation that appeals to the eyes by being attractive is an essential part of customer satisfaction and operator revenue. Presentation draws people to food and entices them to select it.

Defining Meal Delivery Presentation

More specifically, the way the food is arranged, the photographs and designs that are on the package, the color and shape of the food, and so much more -- all those elements definitely are part of meal delivery presentation. Just as importantly, the cart or other equipment and supplies on which food is served also contribute to happier customers and more successful operators.

There are some key reasons why food presentation and appearance are so important. For one, when food is attractive, it communicates the message that the restaurant or operation offers quality. Also, meal delivery presentation influences what food customers select. People gravitate toward food choices that are pleasing to the eyes. In addition, presentation enhances customer perception of the food they are getting. Ultimately, all of those affect the bottom line as a result of increased sales.

Meal Delivery Carts

Meal delivery carts can be the perfect solution for successful meal delivery, while at the same time matching the preferred aesthetic. That includes unique colors, designs, and configurations. Various carts from Lakeside are available for hospital room service, steam tables, tray delivery carts, tray starter stations, and curbside & carry out. Those carts provide a great way to conveniently and stylishly deliver many types of food and beverages. Even better, Lakeside's units are sturdy, fast, efficient, and quiet.

Many Foodservice Environments

Lakeside's team understands and serves all types of foodservice environments, including K-12, colleges and universities, B&I, healthcare, hospitals, assisted living communities, nursing homes, rehabilitation homes, and more. The company helps by providing innovative, sustainable, and efficient food service equipment combined with extensive online resources to ultimately help enhance customers' experiences and so much more.

For any business, the goal is to boost the bottom line. There's no doubt about the fact that meal delivery presentation increases sales and improves the bottom line. With so many appealing choices available when it comes to meal delivery carts, there is a smart solution to meet any meal delivery presentation need. The challenge is narrowing down from all those excellent options and choosing the perfect configuration.