Worth Their Weight: Foodservice Scales Buying Guide
Foodservice scales are an underrated kitchen essential. Not only do they help you precisely measure ingredients, but they help reduce waste, increase your profits and ensure consistent quality each and every time. There are a variety of types of foodservice scales to help serve every foodservice kitchen, from popup stands, cafes, bakeries and cafeterias to fine dining restaurants.
Keep reading for an in-depth foodservice scales buying guide. We’re going to explain why you need a weighing scale and help you find the right one for your establishment.
Types of Scales
Every kitchen should have some sort of scale. At least one. In order to make food consistent, a scale is incredibly important. Scales help with measuring ingredients to a precise amount so you can remove any variables that might change your end product. After all, customers expect food to taste the same each time and even slightly more of one ingredient can affect the overall taste and consistency.
Foodservice scales also help ensure you’re not wasting any products and using only the exact amount you need, which will also help make your ordering process more accurate and save you money in the long run.
There are several different types of foodservice scales, depending on your needs. Keep reading to find out which is right for your foodservice kitchen:
A digital kitchen scale is what you likely picture when you think of a scale. They’re the most common and most popular type of scale because of how easy to use and accurate they are. Digital foodservice scales, also called portion scales or portion control scales, are designed to quickly and accurately measure ingredients so that you can use them in high-volume kitchens.
You’ll be able to rapidly measure out ingredient after ingredient with no downtime and immediate response. The digital display is easy to read for everyone (versus mechanical scales). Some even connect to a printer. Make sure to choose a scale with the unit of measurement you need, although many digital scales offer both imperial and metric units.
Mechanical foodservice scales are less popular these days, but certainly more affordable. If you’re looking for a foodservice scale that will work anytime, anywhere, and cost less than a digital scale, then mechanical might be the way to go. Because it doesn’t use electricity or batteries to run, a mechanical foodservice scale is incredibly reliable and portable. It’s great for popup stalls, concession stands, and kitchens low on outlets.
Receiving foodservice scales are scales that help you verify that your delivery is accurate and correct. For any products purchased by weight, such as meat, produce, and seafood, it can be very difficult to ensure that you’re getting what you paid for without a receiving scale. In fact, you could be losing money at every delivery without one. Receiving scales are able to quickly verify deliveries so that you don’t lose money or waste time.
Legal-for-trade scales are designed for products that are sold by weight. In sales like this, the weighing equipment has to go through stringent tests to ensure its accuracy. Trade scales can also be programmed to a certain number of PLU codes to make sales even more efficient. Trade scales are usually used in delis, bulk food stores, butcher shops, bakeries, and more.
Other, less common foodservice scales include:
You’ve probably seen these in grocery stores and food markets. Also called a spring balance. They’re used to weigh produce and other bulk items, so customers can have an idea of how much the item will cost before they get to the checkout. They even have portable versions for testing the weight of your luggage for travelling or if you absolutely need to know the weight of the fish you just caught.
With this type of low tech scale, you simply add the desired weight on one side and add enough of the item you are measuring to the other side until counterbalanced. Seemingly old-fashioned, balance scales are still often used in bakeries and laboratories.
Scales can be used in a variety of ways to help your business, from measuring ingredients back of house to point-of-sale weighing for customers. The right scale for you will depend on how you’ll use your scale most often and where. It might make sense to have multiple types of foodservice scales, such as portion scale for the kitchen and a receiving scale near the storage area.
When it comes to foodservice scales, there’s a wide variety to choose from. Many scales have common features but vary between models depending on price and need. Here are some scale features you may want to consider.
It’s important to choose a foodservice scale that can hold the weight capacity you need. At the same time, you don’t want a larger capacity scale than you actually need, because it’ll cost more and take up valuable kitchen space.
Scales can vary in maximum capacities from 2lbs to 1000 lbs, so finding the right capacity for your kitchen needs can be tricky but important. Determine what you’ll be using the scale for and the average weight of it; if you’ll be weighing a wide range of weights, opt for a total capacity that will cover the heaviest weight you need and then some.
This is another important feature in foodservice scales. Increments determine how accurate you can be, so make sure you know the increments you want in a scale. Large scales can’t always accurately measure lightweight objects, so keep that in mind.
Mechanical and balance scales need no power, but digital scales do and range from battery to plug-in power. There are many pros to a powered scale, but you’ll need to decide between battery operated versus AC adaptor.
Battery-operated scales are certainly more portable, but it’s hard to predict when the batteries might die (Murphy’s law says right during the middle of a busy dinner shift). AC adaptors mean more reliable power, but you’ll need an accessible power source, which can sometimes be tough real estate to find in a jam-packed commercial kitchen.
Another factor you’ll want to consider is how easily your weighing scale can be transported. If your commercial kitchen moves around a lot or if the scale will need to be used in different parts of your kitchen throughout the day, it could be helpful to have a more lightweight, portable scale. If you’re looking for a heavy-duty scale, keep in mind you won’t be able to move it easily.
As one of the top features of a weighing scale, the tare function allows you to take the weight of the container out of the measurement, so you’re only getting the precise weight of the product (the net weight). Without the tare button, you’d need to manually subtract the weight of the container each time or else lead to inconsistent weights.
The platform that the containers sit on to be weighed has a few features that can be beneficial. Some platforms are removable, which means you can wash them more easily and thoroughly (versus trying to wipe down the entire appliance). Some mechanical scales are even dishwasher safe, which can save valuable kitchen time. You can also find waterproof digital scales, which helps improve their longevity and durability.
You’ll also want to make sure the size of the actual platform is big enough for what you’re weighing (without taking up too much unnecessary space). Platform sizes can range from just a few inches to several feet (these are usually reserved for receiving scales); if you’re weighing small scale ingredients, a smaller scale should suffice. If your kitchen scale is in front of house, it may also make sense to look for a lower profile platform.
In addition to weighing, many scales can also help you count. They do so by using a sample weight, which you enter on a keypad or by weighing an object, and then dividing the total weight of what you need to count by the weight of the sample. This can help speed up inventory checks, receiving deliveries, and more while reducing manual counting errors.
Connectable to printers, tower displays, connectable to inventory systems, dual reading scales, remote displays, shock absorbers, and more. All these features are worth considering for your unique needs.
Foodservice scales have come a long way over the years and now have many bells and whistles to help increase efficiency and accuracy in any foodservice establishment. Keep in mind that more features drive up the price, so make sure you choose the right features for your needs.
More, after all, isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just too much.
The Final Weigh In
Foodservice scales are considered commercial kitchen staples by many, because of how they help you measure ingredients to make consistent, perfect meals every time. The fact that they also save money in an industry where every penny counts is a major bonus. They also speed up kitchen workflows, delivery receipts, and inventory checks. With so many types and uses for scales, it’s not uncommon to have multiple foodservice scales in one busy, large commercial kitchen.
And remember to have either calibrate your scales regularly or use a company that can service scales for you. Always refer to the manufacturers instructions.
Worth their weight, scales are essential tools for every kitchen, no matter their size or what they are cooking. It just makes sense (and cents) to be using the right one.
Written by River Street Writing