Work / food prep tables and equipment stands are an integral part to a functional kitchen. Tables and equipment stands house equipment, give prep cooks a place to work, and can help direct flow in a kitchen. Though these occasionally austere pieces can seem simple enough, the process of picking out the right one can be a bit more difficult than it appears. Here are a few simple tips that could be incredibly beneficial in the long run.
Work Tables vs. Equipment Stands: Though at first glance they may look similar, there are significant differences between work tables and equipment stands.
- Height – The first noticeable difference between a work table and an equipment stand is the height. Work tables, on average, stand about 10”-15” taller than equipment stands. The work top of commercial kitchen work tables traditionally rest at about 36” high, an ideal height for cooks to work. The top of equipment stands rest significantly lower to accommodate for the height of equipment resting on them. For example, a 24” high equipment stand holding a 16” tall charbroiler would have a working height of 40”; a perfect level for working cooks.
- Weight Capacity – Equipment stands generally have a significantly higher weight capacity than commercial work tables. Many of the commercial pieces intended to rest on equipment stands can get rather heavy, especially items such as convection ovens, griddles, and charbroilers. Certain work tables with shelving or custom units can have higher weight capacities, but since they are intended to act as a food prep surface, they usually don’t require weight capacities exceeding 300-400 lbs.
- Upturned Edges – Equipment stands have what are known as “upturned edges”. This means that the edges of each equipment stand are bent upward, rather than downward, to prevent equipment from sliding off the edge of the stand. Heavy pieces can move and depending how they are moved, and could be seriously damaged even from a small fall to the ground. Though some work tables come with a backsplash so they can be placed up against a wall, most work tables have rolled under edges to give cooks access to a table from all sides.
Options & Accessories: There are a tremendous variety of options and accessories to sift through when looking at work tables, and fewer (but often similar) of these same options for equipment stands.
- Construction – There are three major metals used in the construction of both equipment stands and work tables: stainless steel, galvanized steel, and aluminum. Each of these materials has their own pro’s and con’s. Aluminum is the least likely to corrode and the least expensive, however has the lowest weight limit. Galvanized steel is strong and relatively inexpensive, but the most likely to corrode. Stainless steel is as strong as galvanized steel, and very unlikely to corrode, but is traditionally the most expensive.
- Worktops (Work Tables Only) – Work tables come with a number of different options for their work surface. Generally the most common work top is made of stainless steel, as it is easy to clean, durable, and strong (all galvanized and aluminum work tables still have a stainless steel work top). There are some instances, however, that stainless steel is not preferred, and for this reason there are wooden and polyboard work tops. Wooden work tops are preferred by most bakeries, as the wood makes a perfect surface for kneading and flouring dough. Polyboard work tops can be found in many different operations since their work tops can double as a cutting board, and are prominent in butcher shops because excess iron from fresh meat can react with stainless steel.
- Shelves / Racks – Many work tables and equipment stands come with optional under shelves for storage (which also help stabilize the base). On top of this, some specialty work tables can have shelving above the surface of the table, or built-in sheet pan racks. Depending on the needs of your operation, a piece such as this can eliminate the need for additional storage equipment.
- Sizing – It is important to take stock of where you are going to be placing your work table or equipment stand, and how much space you have to dedicate to it. These factors not only directly affect the size of the table to be purchased, but also many of the additional accessories that can / should be equipped. For example, a business owner buying a work table to be placed up against a wall would do well to buy one with a backplash. A backsplash would prevent food being prepared from making a mess of the wall, as well as keep food from falling behind the table. Or, for instance, should a food prep table be resting under a low hood system, it may not be prudent to buy an excessively tall table with additional shelving above the work top.
- Mobility – Work tables are often easy enough to move even without casters, however it may be necessary for some equipment stands to have casters. Adding casters to an equipment stand would make it easy to move the equipment stand and for cleaning without having to lift the heavy piece of equipment it is holding. Heavy work tables with additional storage, however, can be difficult to move as well, and getting casters on a piece like that can make moving it around the kitchen significantly easier.
- Customization – There are a tremendous amount of varying worktables and equipment stands on the market including models with storage drawers, sheet pan racks, and even prep sinks, but they still may not meet the specific needs of your business. Fortunately, the customization options for work tables are practically endless. Custom pieces, as well as built-in prep and kitchen lines can be fashioned with any number of dozens of accessories, and in any size needed. It is a good idea to make a floor plan before shopping for work tables and equipment stands, and then find a piece that fits rather than finding one and working around it.