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What Type of Plate Dispenser is Right for You?

plate dispenser options

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.

mobile plate dispensers

Drop-Ins Plate Dispensers

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.

Drop in plate dispensers plate shapes

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 dish dispensing units.