Commercial Toaster Purchasing Guide
By Kinnek Knowledge Team | March 11, 2016
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For cafes, delis, restaurants, buffets, catering companies, and cafeterias, among others, a commercial toaster is frequently an important piece of kitchen equipment. Toasted breads have become a customer expectation in a wide variety of food service establishments. The prudent buyer will make sure to assess their specific production needs, their space limitations, and their menu/ingredients before approaching suppliers with a request.
There are three popular commercial toaster configurations: pop-up, conveyor, and bun grilling, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Before we go into further detail on each configuration, first consider your kitchen’s needs.
What are you going to be toasting?
How much space do you have for your toaster?
- If you are only going to be toasting bread slices, bagels, and english muffins, a pop-up toaster will suit those menu needs just fine, though it is worth noting that conveyor toasters and bun grilling toasters can also handle such items perfectly well. Pop-up toasters do vary in terms of the size of their heating chambers, so be sure to communicate to your supplier if you are interested in cooking particularly thick slices of bread, for example, as not all pop-up toasters will be able to handle it.
- If you are going to be making subs, hoagies, and other sandwiches with various specialty buns, a conveyor or bun grilling toaster is necessary, as a pop-up toaster will not be able to fit the items.
What level of production does your business require?
- Pop-up toasters have two great advantages -- they are easy to use (most employees have used a pop-up toaster before) and they are relatively small (most less than 13”W x 13”Z). For a cramped kitchen in a cafe or small restaurant, assuming that your production needs do not necessitate a conveyor or bun grilling toaster, a pop-up toaster is a good choice to save counter space.
- Conveyor toasters are mid-range in size (most around 18-20”W x 20-22”Z). They are larger than pop-up toasters, but on the lower end, it is possible to find conveyors that do not take up that much more space than some pop-up toasters. Certainly, for a cramped kitchen, although it may be more difficult to fit a conveyor toaster, it is doable.
- Bun grilling toasters are the largest of the toasters (most around 24”W x 16”Z x 29”H). Their height makes it necessary to dedicate a reasonably-sized section of counter space to them, which can cause issues in cramped environments.
Types of Toasters
- For small volume kitchens, pop-up toasters are most popular, but don’t let that fool you -- heavy duty pop-up toasters are available on the market and may be equipped to handle up to 400 or 500 slices of toast per hour.
- Conveyor toasters start on the low end at about 300 slices per hour, but high volume conveyors can be found that are equipped to handle up to 1500 or more slices per hour. Quite frequently, small kitchens seem to have trouble deciding on a low end conveyor vs. a higher end pop-up toaster. Besides the obvious cost differences, space limitation differences, and ease-of-use differences, the most important differentiator between the two configurations are the items that they are equipped to handle. Conveyors are far more versatile, and can handle everything that a pop-up toaster can at a range of thicknesses, as well as subs, buns, various specialty breads.
- Bun grilling toasters are expensive and large, but they have high production throughput. At the low end, bun grilling toasters can output 800 slices per hour, and at the high end, are equipped to handle more than 1700 slices per hour. Both conveyor toasters and bun grilling toasters can be equipped to handle such high volumes, so the choice between the two for a high volume kitchen is largely dependent on other factors besides production throughput (cost, effectiveness, space, etc.).
Pop-up toasters are most popular among smaller establishments with relatively low production needs, and they are easy to use and maintain. The bread, bagel, and/or english muffin slices are lowered into a heating chamber, and, depending on the toaster, heating elements on one or both sides will toast the bread. Suppliers offer pop-up toasters in 2, 4, and even 8 slice configurations. If you will be doing double-sided toasting, make sure to check with your supplier to guarantee that your pop-up toaster has double-sided heating elements.
Conveyor toasters are the most versatile toaster, which means that suppliers offer a wide variety of conveyor toasters with different production throughputs, sizes, and capabilities. Slices are loaded into a feed area on top of a conveyor belt, which then pulls the slices into the heating chamber for double-sided toasting. Afterwards, the slices are drawn into a collection area. For midsize establishments, conveyor toasters are the most popular choice, though conveyor toasters are also popular among smaller establishments who have a need to toast specialty breads, subs, hoagies, buns, and more. Growing kitchens sometimes find that conveyor toasters are a great starter toaster, as they can be stacked together to increase production throughput (thus, a kitchen can purchase one conveyor initially, and later, when they have the funds, can purchase another and stack them together. This may be financially more feasible than purchasing an expensive bun grilling toaster or a high volume conveyor from the start.)
Bun toasters are high production, and at the higher end, are higher production than conveyor toasters, which makes them a good choice for large-volume food services establishments. Bun toasters work by drawing the items into a conveyor-esque chute which pulls the bread onto a griddle plate for heating, and then drops the the bread into a collection area. Importantly, bun toasters have additional functions which may make them attractive for certain kitchens beyond the production benefits -- foremost among them the easy ability to wet toast. Rollers in the toaster can be used to apply butter to bread prior to toasting, which can really improve the kitchen process and save valuable labor time during busy kitchen hours. A busy burger shop that butters most of its burger buns before toasting, for example, could make fantastic use of a bun grilling toaster. Also, unlike the conveyor toaster, a bun toaster has much more precise toasting presets (conveyor belt toasting is a trial-and-error process), which can be of great benefit in a kitchen environment with undertrained employees.