Condiment Containers Buying Guide

The use of condiment holders in foodservice has exploded in recent years as  consumers demand more and more options to customize their food and beverages. Even today’s most humble coffee shop, for example, may offer five types of sweeteners. From honey to stevia, along with shakers of cocoa and vanilla powder for garnish. Add alt-milks, tea bags, various sizes of to-go cups and lids, stir sticks, napkins, sleeves and straws and you end up with a pile of items of various sizes that all need a home. 

With counter space and table space at a premium, organizing your condiments and sourcing the perfect container for each one is a big job. However, if you get it right, you’ll make life easier for staff and customers. 

What to consider before choosing condiment containers

   •  As always, start by looking at your menu to determine which condiments you’ll be serving.
   •  Will the condiment be used at the bar, brought to the table, used in the kitchen or stored on a counter?
   •  What size container do you need for each item? How many portions will it hold? It should also be big enough so that staff aren’t constantly hearing about empty dispensers and caddies from disgruntled customers. 
   •  Do you need condiment storage, say a bin for single-serve packets, or would a self-contained item that serves and stores, such as a shaker or squeeze bottle, work better?
   •  Some containers, such as a butter dish, are dedicated to one condiment while others, such as a ramekin or jar, can hold a variety of products as your menu changes.
   •  Ensure the container you’re considering is easy to clean and/or dishwasher safe. Assess each piece for durability and ease of cleaning and refilling. 
   •  Consider the style of your restaurant, from casual to elegant, when choosing condiment containers and organizers.  Aim for a unified, uncluttered look in public areas.
   •  Popular materials include metal, porcelain, polycarbonate, glass and wood.
   •  While COVID concerns and the rise of takeout meals necessitated more pre-packaged items, consumers are expecting more ecofriendly options to hold their condiments, even for takeout and delivery.   To reduce waste inhouse, if it’s practical for your foodservice operation, consider purchasing reusable bulk containers.

    DIfferent condiment containers

    Types of Kitchen Condiment Containers  

    Condiment Bins 

    With a separate bin for each topping, countertop organizers are a bonus in a busy kitchens (also wait staff stations and bars) as they help speed up service and make it obvious when supplies are running out. To be worthy of the kitchen, all need to be easily cleaned and sanitized. 

    Squeeze Bottles 

    A chef’s best friend, squeeze bottles are durable, reusable and hold all kinds of condiments from signature sauces to dot on plates to pre-mixed salad dressings, olive oil and dessert toppings. Most are made of BPA-free plastic, come apart for easy cleaning and are dishwasher-safe. Some have interchangeable lids and measurement markings. 

    If you are using multiple squeeze bottles, consider using a squeeze bottle organizer or template to keep all you squeeze bottles in the upright position and ready to use.  Usually made of stainless steel, the organizer has premade holes and sits on a food pan. These organizers slide onto a food pan or 

      Condiment Pumps 

      Another kitchen essential, condiment pumps are a closed container with a pump in the center to dispense flavourful liquids, sauces and syrups from food containers, food pans and fountain jars. 

         •  Pumps are easy to clean, made of BPA-free plastic or stainless steel.
         •  Fast-food restaurants will need the larger-sized stainless steel pump shell with removable cover that encloses up to a gallon jar, #10 can or pouch of bulk condiment.
         •  The contents stay free from contamination and there’s no messy clean-up when the mustard or mayo is finished.
         •  As a pump dispenses a pre-measured amount with every press, it helps manage food costs and saves time - no guesswork or eyeballing it.
         •  Pumps are also useful for single items at the self-serve counter or on a buffet. If you fancy offering guests an assortment of ice cream toppings or other deliciousness, consider installing an entire condiment pump service center!

        Bar Condiment Containers and Condiment Holders

        With cocktails more popular than ever, bartenders need a place to keep an astonishing array of garnishes organized and easily accessible for quick and easy service. 

        Their go-to condiment container for perishable garnishes, is a condiment or bar caddy.  look for insulated caddies, some with gel-filled walls or re-freezable ice packs.
        A bar caddy may hold a single item or contain a number of compartments to hold lemons, limes, olives and more. Interchangeable pint and quart trays allow you to easily change the configuration as needed. A clear cover is useful to see what’s inside, help keep lemons, limes, olives fresh and reduces waste. Some models have snap-on caddies to hold straws, stirrers and cocktail picks. Choose a compact design that fits easily on your bar and in the cooler. To maximize space, check out models that can be stacked to create several tiers. 

        Tabletop Condiment Containers, Caddies and Racks 

        Condiment or bar caddies and condiment organizers or racks can simplify a server’s life. Instead of running back and forth to the kitchen for some new request or forgotten item, they can simply set down a variety of condiments and let diners customize their meal or fix their coffee or tea as they wish. 

        But what will this container look like? Servers in a fine dining restaurant will probably not be plunking down a big wire basket, galvanized tin bucket or wooden crate full of plastic squeeze bottles in front of diners. Yet the same organizers would look great in a casual burger joint, diner or fish shack on a red-checked tablecloth. 

           •  Wire rack caddies, often with a central handle, come in hundreds of designs from simple to ornate and hold a number of individual packets or bottled condiments. 
           •  Popular materials include chrome, galvanized metal, polyethylene, stainless steel and tin. Black wrought-iron (or imitation-look) is particularly attractive and versatile. 
           •  Some wire caddies are multi-use, for example with separate compartments for salt, pepper, two types of sugar packets, a jar of mustard and bottle of vinegar.
           •  Another popular design features three round condiment bowls with a central handle, perfect for jams, barbeque sauce, or any group of related toppings. Most have lids to keep food clean and fresh and a matching spoon to make self-service easy.
           •  The shape and material of condiment containers should also reflect the look and feel of your restaurant. Porcelain cruets for oil, vinegar or soy sauce add a touch of style, while clear glass cruets or jars display the product so it’s easy to tell when they need refilling.
           •  And don’t forget a bread basket!
           •  Ceramic ramekins, which also come in different shapes and sizes, are useful for holding a single serving of salsa, sour cream and other garnishes. They not only look great but they’re easy to clean and limit portion size, which can help your bottom line.

          Sugar Containers and Sugar Packet Holders

          Sugar and salt may be the most widely-used condiments in the world, with an infinite number of container choices. 

          Sugar is packaged in traditional squares, long thin straws, even pyramids, each requiring a different shape of caddy. Packet holders are available in porcelain, ceramic, glass, clear plastic and metal, some with lids.  Be sure to choose one that’s easy to access and refill. You’ll need to know what kind of sweetener(s) your customers prefer: white, brown, raw, demerara, artificial, honey, or a combination and have the appropriate holder.

          For an elegant, no-waste presentation, choose a porcelain or ceramic sugar bowl and spoon. For a retro look, consider a sugar pourer - stainless-steel bowl with hinged lid or a tall diner-style glass jar with metal top and pour spout.

          Salt and Pepper Shakers and Mills

          Salt and pepper shakers and mills come in a wide range of styles. Choices range from matching glass containers with a metal top to white porcelain shakers in many shapes.

          Discerning diners would never use a pepper shaker at home, browse the selection of pepper mills in acrylic, wood or metal to offer customers that fresh-ground flavour. Continue the artisanal feel by purchasing a matching salt mill. Remember both must be refilled constantly.

            Countertop Condiment Storage

            With all the clever storage options available today, there’s no excuse for a messy, poorly-organized condiment selection on your restaurant counter. 

               •  If space is tight, consider a multi-compartment organizer with several tiers. Some have removable dividers so you can create larger compartments as needed.
               •  Condiment bins come in a wide variety of materials, from clear or “smoked” acrylic to modern bamboo and chic metal holders.
               •  Transparent containers may be functional in looks but they come in many sizes and make it easy to see when items are running low.
               •  Some hold all the accessories you need for one category, such as stirrers, creamers and sugar for coffee. Ideal for a restaurant countertop or break room.

              Written by Cynthia David

              Ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles and salt and pepper shaker