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These days, American delis often double as full-featured sandwich shops. As such, purchasing equipment for a deli requires that you consider both deli-focused meat and food processing equipment and sandwich-making equipment. There are many factors to take into account: space issues, initial and maintenance costs, ease of use and familiarity, safety, production concerns, and perhaps most importantly, whether the equipment you purchase will help you create food that matches your particular vision.
Suppliers frequently customize their various offerings, so if you have very specific needs make sure to speak with multiple suppliers, as one of them may be able to customize their product to meet your exacting needs.
Commercial pop-up operate similarly to homemade ones, except for the fact that they have large production capacity (up to 6 or 8 slices at one time on some machines), and are typically more durable. The benefit of a pop-up toaster in a commercial setting is the ease-of-use and the general space saving nature of the machine. Because of its familiarity, employees will be able to easily operate a pop-up toaster during the busiest lunch rush, so if inefficiency in the food production process is a concern, a pop-up toaster might be especially useful.
On the other hand, some bagels and sandwich buns should not be toasted on both sides. Pop-up toasters usually do toast on both sides, so if you’re considering this option but want greater versatility, look for customized pop-up toasters with switches to turn on and turn off each heated side.
Conveyor toasters are useful primarily because they allow kitchens to toast a large volume of items. The production capacity of conveyor toasters is unmatched. When purchasing a conveyor toaster, you should consider the usual factors – spatial dimensions, cost, and production capacity – but there are other factors to consider, too. An adjustable conveyor speed will allow you to either slow or speed up the conveyor belt, which may help you to precisely determine the right amount of toasting for your breads (which may other be overburnt or undertoasted at the default settings). As with pop-up toasters, there are also suppliers who will offer customized on/off switches for the heated sides, so that you can toast both sides of an item or a single side.
Toaster ovens are popular in cafes and delis due to their versatility. A toaster oven can be used for either toasting or baking, in a limited sense. Because many cafes and delis offer menu items besides sandwiches, bagels, toast, and similar, the versatility of a toaster oven is quite prized. The downside is that toaster ovens can be somewhat more difficult for employees to adjust to for precision purposes. This can, of course, be alleviated with some additional training.
Commercial griddles are popular for their ease-of-use, versatility, and relatively easy maintenance. A griddle may be of use to a café or deli that serves more than sandwiches, or serves a variety of sides, since griddles can effectively cook eggs, meats, vegetables, and more. The downside, of course, is that griddles are one-sided, so cooking a sandwich on it will take longer than cooking on a double-sided press or in a toaster oven. A griddle can be purchased as part of the cooktop for a full-size range, or it can be purchased as a separate, countertop unit.
Sandwich Presses/Panini Grills
Sandwich presses are generally better for making sandwiches than standard griddles. It has a heated base and a heated top that are brought together to cook the sandwich. The process is fast and relatively simple, making it a great choice for a busy shop with employees who have limited training. Sandwich presses also frequently come ribbed or grooved, which applies grill marks to the sandwich. The grooves do limit the versatility of the press, however, since smooth sandwich presses can be used – like a griddle – for cooking eggs, meats, vegetables, and more. If you want the best of both worlds, look for a supplier that offers a split-top sandwich press. A split-top sandwich press with one side grooved and one side smooth will allow you to cook items on the smooth side like a griddle, and to cook sandwiches on the grooved side (for the grill marks).
Sandwich Prep Tables
Sandwich prep tables are cabinets with food grade countertops for preparing sandwiches on. Most prep tables come with spaces for holding vegetables, cheeses, and various other toppings. Prep tables centralize and speed up the sandwich making process, and are commonly seen in most cafes and delis.
Food Processing Equipment
Meat & Cheese Slicers
Meat slicers and cheese slicers are available in three main varieties – light, medium, and heavy duty – in order of increasing capacity. Light slicers are meant for smaller delis and cafes that intend to run the slicer for only a few hours per day, while medium slicers are for those who intend to run the slicer for around four to five hours per day. Heavy-duty slicers, on the other hand, are for those who intend to run the slicer for the entire workday. You should choose your slicer depending on your production needs. Keep in mind, however, that while meat and cheese slicing does save a great deal of prep time, care should be taken when maintaining the machine. Meat and cheese slicing exposes the machine to bacteria, so cleanup must be thorough to prevent potential health issues.
A multipurpose vegetable cutting/chopping machine can save a lot of time and effort when it comes to prepping ingredients for sandwich making, but its primary advantage is to safety. Employees with only basic training may injure themselves when cutting/chopping vegetables throughout the day, especially during busier periods. Vegetable cutting/chopping machines automate the process somewhat and largely minimize safety risks.
Deli Display Cases
Food display cases for cafes and delis come in three main varieties: single duty, double duty, and dual zone. Both single duty and double duty deli display cases are visually similar, and both are refrigerated, but double duty displays have a storage base for extra storage. The single duty displays omit the storage base for extra display space.
Some suppliers offer dual zone display cases, which are specifically designed for cafes. They have two ‘zones’ – an upper, enclosed, dry zone for breads and baked goods, and a lower, open-air, refrigerated zone for various refrigerated items (premade sandwiches, drinks, etc.). Dual zone display cases have become the café standard in recent years, so it has become somewhat of a customer expectation.
Food Warming Equipment
Some cafes and delis sell pre-made sandwiches and other hot items, and need to store those items in a heated environment. There are many food-warming options, but by far the most popular in cafes and delis are hot food cabinets. Hot food cabinets are enclosed cases, and there are two types: display cabinets meant to be put on the countertop for the customer to see, and there are undercounter cabinets that are visible only to staff. Display cabinets also come in the self-serve variety, with the front-side of the cabinet open (or a sliding door) so that customers can take the item themselves.