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Is Stainless Steel or Aluminum the Right Choice for Your Cart?

stainless steel vs aluminum

Aluminum and stainless steel are two of the most popular materials used to make foodservice equipment for the commercial kitchen today. While they have many similarities, they also have several key differences that may make one better than the other depending on your needs as an operator, chef, or foodservice director. When it comes to foodservice, there are perks to both materials as well as some downfalls to note in the comparison of the two. Let’s look at both aluminum and stainless steel so you can choose which one makes the most sense for your kitchen space and cooking needs.

Stainless Steel:

This material is one of the strongest metals used for everyday foodservice equipment. Not all stainless steel is the same though. There are different grades with each having minor, but notable, differences making them unique from each other. Two of the more commonly used stainless steel grades are the 304 and the 304L. The variation between the two comes down to the amount of carbon in the metal. The grade 304 has a maximum of 0.08% carbon while the 304L grade has a maximum of 0.03%. The rest of the composition of these two grades is nearly identical with iron making up the difference. This may seem insignificant but makes a difference. 

The 304 grade of stainless steel is generally considered to be the stronger of the two. So why would the 304L be chosen then? The lower level of carbon in the 304L helps to minimize carbide precipitation during the welding process. This is particularly relevant for manufacturers. Using the 304L eliminates the need to anneal weld joints prior to final use. This allows time and money to be saved during the manufacturing process which can in-return allow a product to be shipped to you sooner. Stainless steel has proven its value to the foodservice industry for many years. 

stainless steel coils


“Aluminum is the third most common element in the Earth’s crust,” according to the World Economic Forum, making it a material that is often used due to its abundance. It has been produced in commercial quantities for industrial applications for just over 100 years and is now being used across many different industries. Aluminum is lighter in weight when compared to other metals while still having a considerable amount of strength. It also has various grades with slight variations in their performance that are suited for different applications. Aluminum alloy 1100 is commonly used in chemical and food processing. Aluminum alloy 2014 on the other hand is a copper-based alloy with very high strength making it commonly used in aerospace structural applications. But there is one grade that is most commonly used and that is 3003. 

3003 aluminum is completely pure but with added manganese that helps to improve the strength of the material to 20% stronger than the 1100. The 3003 also has great workability and corrosion resistance that helps make it one of the most common alloys. Aluminum has many benefits of its own in comparison to stainless steel, but its most notable difference is its lightweight characteristic. 

aluminum coils

Foodservice Application: 

Now that the basics have been covered, we can go into more depth as to which is better for foodservice applications. Both stainless steel and aluminum are used in the industry and the choice between the two comes down to what tasks the piece of equipment will be used for. “While stainless steel and aluminum are both strong materials, steel is typically stronger,” according to Tamp Steel. If the piece of equipment you are looking to purchase will be used to carry various heavy loads a day, stainless steel is usually the better choice. However, it is important to remember that aluminum is lighter than steel and has a higher strength to weight ratio. If a piece of equipment is needed for lighter loads, aluminum may be the better choice. Both stainless steel and aluminum have corrosion resistant properties which is crucial in this industry to ensure operations are sanitary. Making the decision between the two can be difficult, so take a look at the application it will be used for as your starting point. Lakeside manufactures a wide selection of utility carts to help operators transport with ease. Explore our selection here!

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Rack Up Insights on our Top 3 Industrial Drying Racks

Rack up insights on our top 3 industrial drying racks

After being in business for over 75 years, Lakeside has been able to rack up industry insights on which products foodservice directors have found the most valuable, and which pieces of equipment have made the greatest difference in foodservice operations across the country. While Lakeside has a wide variety within the pool of our most popular products, three of our industrial drying racks have consistently been making a difference in back-of-the-house operations for many years. So how do these carts really make a difference and help gear up for more efficient operations? 


Drying racks provide so many benefits from avoiding wet-nesting dishes to helping reduce the time it takes staff to get through all the dirty dishes after a busy night of service. Whether you are working in foodservice at a hospital, school, casino, or resort, dishes always need to be washed and dried. In last week’s blog, we highlighted the main things to look for when purchasing a drying rack, but this week we will dive deeper into the top 3 most popular Lakeside drying racks and why they fly off the shelves. There are so many benefits to Lakeside drying racks with their ability to not only serve as a drying rack, but also as a storage unit. 


No matter which model you decide will works best for your operations, you’ll be sure to find these features in your drying rack. All Lakeside industrial drying racks have a stainless steel frame and “L” supports to increase the stability of the rack while also preventing accidents and spills. The all welded stainless steel bases on Lakeside drying racks ensure superior strength and balance. So rest assured, these drying racks will offer a durable, secure, and stable home for your pans, trays, and domes. Below we will take a deeper look at the top 3 industrial drying racks. 

The 848 Sheet Pan and Tray Rack: 

So many kitchens find themselves running through loads on sheet pans from the start of prep all the way through service. Sheet pans are a vital piece of equipment that allow food to be cooked for diners in an efficient manner, but drying them can be a pain point as they are large and bulky. Sheet pan drying racks are specifically designed to hold these bulky sheet pans and ensure they are able to dry quickly so that they can be used for another round of prep within hours. The 848 not only accommodates for the drying of sheet pans, but also for the drying of trays. Behind plates, bowls, cups, and silverware, sheets and trays are probably the next highest volume dish type to go through a dishwasher in a kitchen. Here are some main benefits of the 848 industrial drying rack. 

  • All-welded frame of stainless steel square tubing 
  • Accommodates a variety of pan and tray sizes 
  • Stainless steel channel slides with spacing in between to speed up drying time
  • Pan-stop ledge prevents pans and trays from sliding off of the back side
  • Easily maneuverable with all-swivel casters 
  • Three shelves that hold a total of 120 pans or trays 

With this drying rack offering drying and storage for both sheet pans and trays, it’s fairly obvious why this is one of our best-selling trying racks. When versatility meets durability, equipment is sure to provide solutions for a kitchen for many years. 

industrial drying rack

The 898 Dome Drying Rack: 

The use of domes in  foodservice is very common as they help keep food warm not only for the enjoyment of the diner, but also for maintaining the food at a safe-to-eat temperature. Domes can be clunky and hard to store, but drying racks designed for dome storage help solve this problem. The 898 is a Lakeside top seller as it has provided drying and storage for hospitals, long-term care facilities, restaurants, and many other foodservice businesses. Here are some quick bullet points of the main features of this industrial drying rack. 

  • Dome cradles conveniently remove for easy cleaning and sanitizing
  • Holds most standard sized domes
  • Each cradle holds 10 domes 
  • Five shelves that hold a total of 100 domes 
  • Maneuvers easily around the kitchen and storage spaces

Domes play a crucial role in foodservice as they ensure all of the hours or prep work for a meal are not lost at the last minute to a cold meal that is not able to be served. Having a drying rack and storage space for these domes helps to improve kitchen efficiency. 

Industrial drying rack

The 867 Tray Drying Rack: 

This rack is designed specifically for tray drying and storage. Trays are an item that kitchens can never have too many of. Trays serve a variety of purposes in kitchens ranging from being used to deliver food to tables, to being used by guests to grab food from self-serve counters. With trays being used so often, it is important to have a method set up to be able to dry them in a timely manner so they can be restocked and used again. The 867 is Lakeside’s popular tray drying rack, and here’s why. 

  • Removable tray racks for easy cleaning and sanitizing
  • Tray racks have slant in the center and perforated bottom for quick and efficient drainage
  • Shelves also have drain holes for fast draining
  • Holds a variety of tray sizes for convenience and versatility 
  • Easily maneuvers around kitchen and storage areas
  • Four shelves that hold a total of 80 trays 

Having efficient draining in a drying rack is the number one feature to look for in drying racks. Without efficient draining, dishes will not dry as fast and there is a risk of mold and bacteria growth. The 867 has excellent drainage systems in various aspects of the cart to ensure dishes dry quickly and efficiently. 

Industrial drying rack


Drying racks play a key role in back-of-the-house operations as they provide a place for damp dishes to dry once they have gone through the dishwasher, but they also provide storage for your dishes when they are not being used. Lakeside drying racks have made a significant impact on kitchen efficiency for years. Chat with a Lakeside expert today to learn more about drying rack solutions.

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The Ultimate Checklist for Buying an Industrial Drying Rack

Ultimate checklist for buying industrial drying rack

Having functional storage within foodservice operations is crucial for ensuring everything runs smoothly before, during, and after service. Having multifunctional equipment is the cherry on top of functional storage. Being able to use one piece of equipment for two or more uses not only helps increase your ROI, but it also frees up space in the back of the house to allow for staff to shuffle around easily and place priority on dinners. At Lakeside, multifunctional equipment is the name of our game. When durability meets multifunction, you will see increased efficiency in foodservice operations. 

A piece of equipment that is known to take up lots of space are storage shelves. While they are necessary, sometimes it would be ideal to have that space open. When you combine two functions into one, your piece of equipment is using the space of one item while serving two purposes. Another item that is notorious for crowding a kitchen are drying racks. Both of these pieces of equipment are vital to the functionality of foodservice operations, but what if they were combined into one piece of equipment? 

That is exactly the functionality that our industrial drying racks offer. Having a place to dry dishes and not needing them to be transferred onto the storage shelves saves time. Instead, simply roll the drying rack into a storage space to continue drying while already being stored. Labor savings is beneficial to nearly any facility, whether that is in foodservice or not. Using multifunctional equipment saves the time it takes staff to perform the same tasks. So what should you be looking for in a multifunctional drying rack? Let’s take a look at the checklist below.

1. Stainless Steel Construction

For a piece of equipment that will see many splashes of water throughout its lifespan, making sure it is durable, while also being rust resistant, is crucial. While plastic drying racks can get the job done, they usually are not able to withstand the same amount of weight that stainless steel can. The higher weight capacity stainless steel is able to hold allows for more items to be dried and stored on a single rack. Pairing its ability to hold the weight of many dishes with its resistance to rust will be sure to offer you the ideal drying rack. 

industrial drying racks

2. Stability of Structure

While plastic trays may not weigh down on a rack much, metal sheet pans can add a large amount of weight onto a drying rack which is why stability is so important. Making sure your drying rack will remain stable while not in motion and also during transport is crucial to the safety of everyone. Not only does a stable drying rack ensure staff safety, it also helps avoid accidents and spills. Lakeside uses “L” supports and an all welded stainless steel base to ensure superior strength and balance while in motion and parked. 

drying racks

3. Mobility

Being able to move an industrial drying rack is a must. When loading a rack, it needs to be next the the dish washing area. When the rack is full, it needs to be moved out of the working area and into storage. In order to be able to do this, a drying rack must have wheels. While stationary drying racks still offer the drying space you need, they take up valuable space in the kitchen. Having mobile industrial drying racks allows your drying rack to also serve as storage and be moved out of the way. 

4. Easy Cleaning

These drying racks will be used heavily since foodservice operations are constantly using, washing, and drying dishes. With this, drying racks need to be cleaned to ensure clean dishes remain clean. Having a drying rack that has removable cradles or removable rack slants makes the cleaning process easier while ensuring every aspect of the rack is able to be cleaned efficiency and thoroughly. 

drying racks

5. Drainage System

Water will come into contact with the rack and there will be remaining water on dishes after they come out of the dishwasher. While rinse aids help decrease the amount of time it takes for dishes to dry, water still remains on the dishes for a period of time after they have went through their dishwasher cycle and taken out. Having a drainage system on drying racks helps to direct this water during the drying process. Drying racks that have perorated bottoms where the dishes sit or perforated drain holes on shelves help reduce drying time will also ensuring there is no water build-up. 

6. Versatility in Storage Abilities

Having a drying rack that can hold various sized items is an important factor to consider when purchasing an industrial drying rack. Unless you are planning to use the rack for only one tray model that you only have one size of, it most likely will be beneficial for you to have a drying rack that can hold various types of items. One meal your service might require a plethora of domes to be used to keep food warm, while the next meal might rely heavily on the use of lots of sheet pans to cook the meal. Drying racks that can hold items of varying size work best. 

7. Bumpers 

When transporting drying racks, you are bound to bump a corner or two. Having bumpers on the legs, bottom corners and perimeter help to reduce the impact the bumps have on furnishings. Bumpers offer an excellent safeguard for doors, walls, and furnishings. 

8. Braking Casters

For when your drying rack is serving its function of being used for storage, ensuring it will remain in place is very important. One of the reasons being the security of the dishes and the second being the safety of those who walk near the drying rack. An accidental bump to the rack could cause it to shift, but braking casters allow you to lock the drying rack in place while it is in the storage room. The same can be said while it is near the wash area. When staff are shuffling around taking dishes off the dishwasher racks and placing them on drying racks it is important that the rack remains in place. 


Drying racks are a great multifunctional investment that offers a place for dishes to dry while also offering a storage solution for those dishes. Having multifunctional equipment is key to successful foodservice operations today. When looking to purchase an industrial drying rack, be sure to look for these features to make sure you are investing in the right equipment. Lakeside offers a selection of drying racks to help improve your back-of-the-house operations. Learn more about Lakeside drying racks here!

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5 Benefits of Industrial Drying Racks

Benefits of Industrial Drying Racks

It’s peak hour at a restaurant, they are hauling out plate after plate of delicious appetizers, entrees, and desserts. You walk into the bustling restaurant with smiling faces and chatter coming from every table. The servers are delivering drinks and food while checking in with customers. The hostess brings your group to a table, you all take a look at your menu and decide on your main dishes. Your server swiftly shifts from the neighboring table to yours to take everyone’s orders. With drinks in hand, time passes quickly and you suddenly see your food nearing the table. It’s time to eat. Let’s pause now. This is what the front-of-the-house looks like, happy customers and attentive staff, but let’s venture back into the kitchen at this same moment. 


The kitchen consists of laughter and chatter. Chefs are plating dishes and servers are coming in and out to deliver plates. As tables are finished, the bussing team is sure to clear tables quickly and efficiently to allow the next group to have a seat. All of the dirty plates, bowls, flatware, and glasses are being dumped into the back of the kitchen near the washing sink. These dishes are piling up as service continues to speed up and the bussing team does not have the capacity to clean and dry all of the dishes while still tending to tables. Some dishes have been washed but are in piles waiting to be dried while the one side of the sink has a heaping stack of dirty dishes. How can this problem be solved? Industrial drying racks can be the ideal solution.

Purpose of Industrial Drying Racks:

These drying racks are built for efficient and convenient drying that also provide storage all in one. Having to dry each item by hand takes lots of labor and time. Drying racks allow you to reduce the time your team puts into washing and drying dishes. Once a dish has been washed, it can simply be put on the drying rack to air dry on its own. Not only do these industrial drying racks serve as a place to allow airflow around dishes, but it also serves as a storage. Your trays, pans, and dome lids can remain situated on their drying rack until the next day’s service begins. The convenience these carts offer benefits the entire back-of-the-house staff and can save valuable time, especially in the current labor crunch the foodservice industry is experiencing. Below we will outline the main features and benefits drying racks offer. 


Eliminating the need for human labor in one portion of the washing process saves a lot of time for staff. When you only need to run your dishes through the commercial dishwasher and no longer need to dry each item, the time it takes to get through post-meal dishes can be reduced tremendously. After dishes come out of the dishwasher, they can quickly be placed onto drying racks and let time do the drying for you. 


Not only does this help eliminate the time it takes to wash dishes, it also provides mobile storage that can be easily moved out of the way when a drying rack is full. Drying racks help ease the strain on your staff. In AHF’s recent study, the top three concerns for their members were

  • Staffing
  • Training, development and employee engagement 
  • Budget financials 


While a drying rack can not solve all of the main concerns in the foodservice industry, it can help  staff as they are able to remove one of the manual steps in their back-of-the-house operations. Industrial drying racks are also budget friendly as they offer a drying solution as well as a mobile storage solution.


Being able to move your storage around can make a world of difference in the foodservice industry. Dishes, trays or pans that are not needed at the moment can be pushed out of the way to offer up more space creating better flow within your kitchen. In one instance you may need the drying rack right next to the sink or dishwasher to quickly load clean items onto the rack, but as soon as that rack is full it can easily be transferred to a storage space. 

Lakeside drying racks come with No-Mark polyurethane casters that help offer a smooth ride to keep items in place during transit. Easy maneuverability within all aspects of kitchen operations allow you to keep up with your fast paced back-of-the-house operations.


As we have discussed above, Lakeside drying racks are multifunctional by offering your dishes not only a place to dry, but also a place to house them while they are not in use. GlobeNewsWire predicts that foodservice operators are “shifting toward smaller-sized kitchen equipment to optimize their space and perform multiple functions at the same time.” Multifunctional equipment is going to be the new name of the game in the years to come as it offers the same functions which means less pieces of equipment are needed to serve the same functions. Lakeside drying racks are not only a multifunctional investment, but also an investment that will last for many years to come. 


With Lakeside drying racks being constructed from stainless steel, the lifespan of these racks spreads far and wide as they are able to serve a foodservice operation for generations. Investing in equipment that will only last 5-10 years may be a quick solution, but not a long term solution. Thinking down the line is crucial in the foodservice industry and investing in the right equipment will set your operations up for success for years to come. 

Lakeside racks are made from a 14-gauge stainless steel frame and an “L” support to increase the stability of the cart and prevent accidents. The stainless steel base ensures superior strength and balance so your rack is sure to hold up to the task. The stainless steel construction also provides for easy cleaning and sanitizing which helps extend its lifespan.


Ensuring your dishes remain mold free is crucial as food-safety is the number one priority when serving food to customers, patients, guests, students, or staff. Drying racks allow items to be spread out which reduces the risk of mold and bacteria growth. Wet nesting your trays or pans can lead to an unwanted surprise of mold the next time you use them. Lakeside drying racks help reduce the potential for mold with dividers on the rack as well as completely open construction. Some of our models have drain holes to help ensure faster draining while also reducing the possibility for mold build-up. 

Investing in an industrial drying rack may seem daunting at first, but the benefits they offer can help improve back-of-the-house efficiency in various ways. Lakeside drying racks are built to last and offer a durable solution that will stand up to your heaviest load of dishes. Are you ready to explore what drying rack will work best for your operations?

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Serving Trays and Flatware in the Same Unit Just Got Easier

Tray Dispenser Multi-Function

Pretend you’re a student in a college dining hall or a doctor in a hospital cafeteria for a second. You’re hungry. You’re probably short on time. And you’re probably not quite sure, at this point, what you will select for lunch. You grab a tray from the tray dispenser, and then you grab a fork and knife.

Let’s repeat that. You grab a tray from the tray dispenser, and then you grab a fork and knife.

The reality is trays and flatware go hand in hand. There are practically zero scenarios in which a diner will grab a tray without grabbing silverware, so for the operators serving those customers, it seems quite simple to consider foodservice equipment that will conveniently provide dining trays and flatware in the same location.

That’s exactly what Lakeside provides with their line of mobile tray dispensers that are also designed to serve as silverware carts.  By combining silverware and tray storage, operators can create a centralized location where guests can begin their dining experiences, and there are several different options to choose from.

Two-Sided Enclosed Frame

The Lakeside 403 two-sided enclosed frame can hold 10 flatware cylinders above a storage area for trays. Trays can be loaded or removed from either side, and the stainless steel design provides both clean aesthetics and durability that will stand up to the rigors of moving trays and silverware from the back of the house to the cafeteria serving line.

Mobile Tray and Silverware Dispenser

The Lakeside 986 mobile tray dispenser with silverware dispenser is similar to the 403 model, but it has a slightly smaller footprint. Slots are included for eight silverware cylinders, and trays are loaded and unloaded from the sides rather than the front and back. Like the 403, though, units can easily roll from the warewashing room to the serving line and back, making these units compact and convenient.

Tubular Flatware Frame

The Lakeside 213 tubular flatware frame has a 10-cylinder capacity above. Below the silverware storage area, the tray dispensing section of the unit allows for access from all four directions, making it a bit different than the other options listed above. Built for continuous use, the 213 has a load capacity of 400 pounds holding trays of various sizes.

Learn more about the convenience of combining tray and silverware storage and dispensing in the same unit. Check out our line of tray dispensers today.

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Handling Food Serving Trays in Two Ways with One Unit

Tray Dispenser Multi-functional


There are two main times to consider the importance of a serving tray dispenser in foodservice operations. The first is when customers take trays to start their dining experiences, and the second time is when those trays are no longer being used by the customers and are set for removal from the dining area. The good news is both processes can be served by the same unit.

With the right foodservice tray dispenser, operators can make sure customers have the trays they need when they need them, while at the same time making it easy to remove used trays to prepare them for cleaning and storage. Doing this in the most efficient way is important, and that often involves transporting trays across far distances, from a serving area on one side of a property to a kitchen or warewashing station on the other. The ultimate goal of a tray dispenser is to make service convenient for customers and make work easier for staff.

A 2-In-1 Unit Provides Convenience

A 2-in-1 tray unit can provide the ability to dispense serving trays and handle the used trays, all at the same time. These units have a cantilevered dispensing area that's open on three sides, so customers can quickly and easily grab the trays they need for their dining experience, but the base has a handy platform where used trays can be stored until they're taken to the kitchen for sanitizing. This keeps them separate from clean trays, and also eliminates the need for workers to carry stacks of heavy trays back and forth.

Using tray dispensers with an area for used trays, foodservice workers can provide both dispensing and bussing abilities in the same cart. This convenience helps staff be more efficient and can actually reduce stress during these labor-challenged times. Most important, customers will easily be able to get a clean tray when needed, and used trays can be quickly stowed away so they don't get mixed up with clean options.

A Serving Tray Dispenser For Multiple Locations

Whether it's in the dining hall of a college, a hospital cafeteria, or another event such as a corporate luncheon, mobility is the name of the game when it comes to a versatile serving tray dispenser. With classic features and benefits from Lakeside, serving tray dispensers are both reliable and multi-functional -- on-the-go. Both single and double-platform dispensers are made from stainless steel for durability, and operate on large casters for stability. They're easy to maneuver through doorways and hallways.

Walls are protected by corner bumpers to reduce the chances of scuffs and marks, and the design keeps the dispenser stable as workers steer it from the kitchen to the dining area. Whether that's in the next room, down the hall, or even in another building, the right serving tray dispenser is very important when it comes to handling both clean and used trays with ease.

With several models to choose from, businesses can select the serving tray dispenser that fits the size of trays they use and provides the biggest benefits for their operations. By adjusting the dispensing height as trays are used, it is easy for customers to continue grabbing trays even when the stack of clean trays is smaller. This also allows for more space underneath, where used trays can be stored. It's a winning combination for economical and convenient foodservice.

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The Importance of Ergonomics in Tray Dispensers

Ergonomic Tray Dispensers


Finding the needed staffing for any foodservice operation is currently very challenging. Keeping them there is an entirely different issue. One of the best ways to retain valuable team members is to create working conditions that make the job easier. By finding solutions that help workers do their jobs with less stress and strain, more workers will be interested in staying on the job. That, in turn, brings in new talent and helps retain existing staff simultaneously.

For foodservice operations where serving lines are part of the equation, considering tray dispensers can be an easy win with staff, eliminating the need for constant shuttling of trays from the back of the house to the serving area. While tray dispenser ergonomics is not something everyone thinks about, the workers who use these dispensers will certainly notice the difference. Here's why:

How Do Ergonomic Tray Dispensers Work?

For an ergonomic tray dispenser to work correctly, it requires spring tension that will raise the trays to the proper height for dispensing. Adjusting the height level is extremely easy, and workers can attach and detach springs as they need to make sure the dispenser is at the right height. It only takes a moment to make adjustments, and once the height is accurate, it will remain where it was placed until springs are attached or detached again.

There are several sizes and styles of ergonomic tray dispensers to choose from, allowing workers to have all the space they need for trays while still maneuvering the units through the kitchen and dining areas with ease. Choosing an open design can make loading and unloading easier, and there are cantilevered options that can also meet foodservice needs. The right ergonomic tray dispenser gives workers convenience.

Ergonomic tray dispensers

How Do Ergonomics in Tray Dispensers Help Workers?

By considering ergonomics in tray dispensers, operators minimize the need to reach beyond a person's capacity -- literally. This helps staff not only when loading units, but also when unloading trays, cleaning the dispenser, and preparing the tray dispenser for a foodservice event. Whether workers use the tray dispenser daily or it is needed infrequently, making sure trays can be easily accessed with a dispenser that requires little maintenance is a great way to show support for staff.

With adjustable tray dispensers, it's also easier to accommodate a wider range of physical abilities, making the pool of potential applicants larger because the physical stresses of the job will be easier. In addition, the chance of workplace injury will also be reduced. That benefits the workers who are operating the tray dispenser but also the company that employs those workers and needs them to be healthy and available for foodservice events.

Ergonomic Tray Dispensers

Do Ergonomics Matter to Customers?

Customers can also appreciate the value of ergonomics when it comes to tray dispensers. As they grab trays for use, they will not need to bend and stretch in ways that might not be comfortable for them. And because trays are literally the first thing a guest will encounter, they will set the tone for the entire dining experience. Whether they are in the hospital cafeteria on their lunch break, at school getting their education, or in a corporate setting at a banquet or catered event, being able to easily reach a tray and move on with their dining experience can make a big difference in their level of comfort.

Ergonomic Tray Dispensers

From workers to customers, and anyone who uses or interacts with tray dispensers, ergonomics have value. Adjustable tray dispensers are more convenient, and they reduce the chances of injury and discomfort for anyone who loads or unloads them, as well as anyone reaching for trays during their dining experience.

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3 Ways to Experience ROI with a Tray Dispenser

Tray dispenser ROI

Deciding on whether or not to invest in foodservice equipment can be a complicated calculation of the benefits and overall return on investment. This is true for ovens, ranges, and refrigeration, and it's true for tray dispensers, as well. Whether you're a corporate dining facility, a hospital cafeteria, or something in between, the formula is relatively simple. Will the benefits of a tray dispenser weigh more than the initial cost of purchasing one? Let's break down three benefits that factor into determining the return on investment of tray dispensers.

A Tray Dispenser Frees Up Back-Of-The-House Workers

It's been well documented that we're in the midst of The Great Recession, and one of the byproducts of our current situation is that foodservice operators are finding it very difficult to hire and retain staff. The more an operator can make labor more efficient, the easier it will be to alleviate staffing issues.

Among the largest benefits of tray dispensers are the freedom staff members will experience from not needing to run stacks of trays to the serving line. The back of the house can focus on food preparation, and the serving staff can focus on the guest experience. Not only are the stacks of trays heavy and cumbersome, but carrying them through crowded areas can pose a risk of harm to the workers and others.

With a tray dispenser, the need for carrying trays is eliminated, and the trays will not pile up in the back of the house, either. Everything can move more smoothly and efficiently, and it will be easier to achieve operational goals. There are various types of dispensers, including those that also hold flatware, so it's important to consider all factors when determining which tray dispenser will work best.

Tray dispenser

Get More Shelf Space With a Tray Dispenser

Investing in a tray dispenser provides the opportunity to free up shelf space that is currently taken up by stacks of trays. Those trays will be transferred to a mobile cart, and the resulting shelf space can be used for other things, such as merchandising other foods and beverages that will enhance profits. The dispenser also allows for storing trays in a manner that is both sanitary and safe, so they are ready to be used when needed.

When trays are stored on shelves, they can collect dust, take up too much space, and be in the way of other items that also need space. A tray dispenser solves those issues conveniently and provides a company with a specific place to store trays in a neat and orderly fashion. Having a designated location for those trays makes it easier to keep back-of-house areas organized and to help workers handle foodservice operations faster and with fewer concerns.

Tray dispensers

Buying a Tray Dispenser Heightens Mobility

The mobility that comes from buying a tray dispenser is extremely important. Being able to quickly move trays from one location to the next means it takes less time for workers to set up an event or prepare for any other foodservice operations. From feeding hungry school children to prepping a corporate banquet, foodservice takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Being more mobile makes that work faster, and allows workers to be more efficient at setup and take-down no matter the frequency of the event.

Depending on the layout of the space and the type of foodservice needs a company or organization has, the location where food is served may not be directly adjacent to the food prep area. Being mobile in those cases is vital to making sure trays reach their intended destination. There will not be a need to carry heavy trays back and forth or struggle with the time limits for setting up and removing the food and supplies when workers have the mobility that comes with a tray dispenser.

tray dispensers

Finding the right tray dispenser does not have to be difficult. There are several types and designs to choose from, so any company can locate the dispensers that work for their needs. The number of trays needed, the layout of the space where the dispenser will be used, and the options for storing it and the trays when not in use all matter, to make the right decision.

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Why Adjust-A-Fit® Plate Dispensers are the Ideal Solution

Adjust-A-Fit Plate Dispensers

Lakeside's Adjust-A-Fit® Plate Dispenser design allows operators to use a single plate dispensing unit for dinnerware that ranges in various shapes and sizes. There are several benefits to this. First, operators can use dinnerware from different China manufacturers or even the same manufacturer that might change or discontinue certain collections. Second, it can help facilitate menu diversity, even across different parts of the day. And third, adjustable plate dispensers can also help contribute to a more efficient operation.  Essentially, accommodating a wide array of dinnerware options ensures the right match and versatility for any buffet.

Why Might An Adjust-A-Fit® Plate Dispenser Be the Right Solution for You?

Adjust-A-Fit® plate dispensers can set the tone for meal service, and though customers and diners may not notice the difference, it can play an important role for operators. Not all foodservice operations consistently use the same size dishes, as variations in menu items can require various plate sizes, as can different types of service such as going from breakfast to dinner. Sometimes chefs will create food options that may require plating in vessels with non-standard sizes. In all these cases, using a plate dispenser that can accommodate different sizes can be extremely helpful.

It is also not uncommon for a dish manufacturer to discontinue certain plate styles or collections and replace them with sizes that are slightly different from the originals. Sometimes another dinnerware manufacturer will offer a higher quality product that is more cost-efficient, creating a situation in which an operator may want to change manufacturers. The problem might be those dinnerware sizes are different than what was previously used. Again, this is where Adjust-A-Fit® can help.

Adjust-A-Fit® plate dispensers provide serving options that can accommodate multiple sizes of plates and bowls throughout the unit's life. The dispensers are available in heated and non-heated styles and demonstrate the necessary flexibility to harbor solutions for virtually any china sizing issues that may arise. For instance, if the foodservice operator has not yet ordered China and does not know what the specific sizes will be, or if the service is to the type that requires frequent changes of styles or brands of China, the Adjust-A-Fit® plate dispenser can easily make the necessary changes for plate height and diameter without the use of tools.

Adjust-a-fit plate dispensers

The Right Plate Dispenser for Different Plate Sizes & Service Requirements

Adjust-A-Fit® plate dispensers are available in heated and non-heated styles.  All models are easy to transport and make the task of dispensing plates less stressful for staff.  Adjustable, detachable springs make dispensing easy, and no tools are required.  They come with welded stainless steel cabinets with bottom corner bumpers that protect the outer cabinet and nearby doors and furniture.  They come with the Easy-Glide® design that provides for smooth and quiet operations with its self-leveling mechanism, and a thermostatic control comes with a single stack heated design that provides temperatures between a minimum of  100 F (38 C) and 175 F (79 C) maximum temperature settings.

When it comes to a buffet and self-serve foodservice, or any other type of foodservice operation that uses china in varying sizes, there exists the perfect solution for any unique challenges that can present themselves during a given service event.  Our Adjust-a-Fit® design allows for flexibility in your foodservice operations.

Adjust-a-fit feature

Adjust-A-Fit® Available for Mobile and Drop-In Dish Dispensers

Our Adjust-A-Fit® design is available in select models of both our Mobile Plate Dispensers and our Drop-In Plate Dispensers. Learn more about which type of plate dispenser would work best for you here. Whether you plan to keep your dish operations stationary with a counter drop-in dispenser or take your plates for a ride from location to location, the Adjust-A-Fit® design allows for the ultimate flexibility!

Adjust-a-fit plate dispensers

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Crack the Code to Finding Your Perfect Drop-In Plate Dispenser

drop in plate dispensers

Trying to determine which plate dispenser is right for you can be like a complex game of formulaic choices and solutions. Simply put, it’s like cracking a code, and achieving the overall goals of the operation can depend on a few simple questions and answers. The good news is we’re familiar with those decisions, and we’re happy to walk you through them here.

Let’s take a step-by-step review of selecting the proper plate dispenser.

To Heat or Not to Heat

The first part of the code is to consider the menu being served. Whether it’s a self-serve buffet or a staff-served meal, if part of that service will include heated, center-of-the-plate type options, a heated plate dispenser can help those foods maintain temperature and provide an overall better experience for diners. Serving on a heated plate is generally recommended if heated food is served.

On the other hand, if heated foods aren’t part of the equation or will be a less-frequent method of service, standard plate dispensers might work best, especially considering they can be the more economical option for operators.

Heated drop-in dish dispensers from Lakeside can accommodate different plate sizes and counters of varying heights. In addition, units are available to meet ADA height requirements.

Open or Shielded

When using a non-heated model, drop-in plate dispenser wells come in two options: open or shielded. Shielded models have a covering surrounding the stack of plates similar to the appearance of a heated model, while open units do not. The shielded models can offer greater protection for China and dinnerware when compared to the open models, but shielded models aren’t always a necessity for operators.

Like the heated models, both open and shielded non-heated units come with the ability to accommodate different plate sizes depending on the options selected. They can also fit both standard size counters, as well as ADA-compliant counter heights.

Drop in plate dispensers open and closed style

Pick Your Plates

As mentioned, both options come with the ability to accommodate different plate sizes – or not. For operators who know the exact plate and bowl dimensions that will be used, a regular plate dispenser might be the best option, especially if China will remain consistent throughout the lifespan of the service. For operations that wish to accommodate different sizes, though, or if China might frequently change, using an Adjust-A-Fit® unit from Lakeside is the way to go.

The final aspect to cracking the code for your drop-in plate dispenser is what shape your plates are that the dispenser will hold. We have options for circular, oval, and square plates so you'll be sure to find one that fits your needs.

Drop in plate dispensers plate shapes

Need more information on selecting your drop-in plate dispenser? Check out the options available from Lakeside.