Getting Toasty - Commercial Toaster Buying Guide

Getting Toasty - Commercial Toaster Buying Guide 

One way to warm a customer’s heart is to ask if they’d like their bread, bun or sandwich toasted. If you’re slow to deliver their order, however, or if it’s not perfectly toasted, they may not return. 

That’s why choosing the right toaster for your restaurant is so important. Along with delivering a crisp, golden product, this essential piece of kitchen equipment needs to be rugged, fast and reliable for use all day every day, particularly at breakfast when toast rules. It also needs to fit your menu and the dimensions of your kitchen. 

The biggest misconception fledgling restaurateurs have is thinking that a regular toaster or toaster oven will do. They soon learn that domestic units aren’t powerful enough to meet the demands of a commercial kitchen, and home toasters may not be guaranteed for business use. 

When it comes to buying a toaster there are two main types, pop-up and conveyor, each with different characteristics. Since commercial toasters can toast anywhere from 60 to 1,600 slices an hour, you’ll have plenty of models to choose from. To decide which one is right for your kitchen, start by answering the following basic questions. 

Toast 101 

Toaster types

Consider what you’ll be toasting. A regular sandwich loaf or thick slices of artisan bread? Bagels and English muffins? Garlic toast or burger buns? This will help you determine how wide a slot you’ll need in a pop-up toaster, or how wide a belt and how tall an opening you’ll need on a conveyor type, which can accommodate more types of bread. Also, decide if you need toasting on one side or both. 

Capacity

Next, figure out how many pieces of toast or toasted items you’ll need per hour. To do this, examine the receipts from your busiest hour of the day, calculating how many customers you serve and how many slices of toast they order. Choose a toaster that meets or exceeds this number so you’ll know your new machine can always handle your demand. 

Toasting Time

With time of the essence these days, delivering hot golden toast and toasted sandwiches quickly is a must. The cooking time on pop-up toasters is controlled by a timer. The longer the cooking time, the darker the bread. They also have limited temperature control, a problem if you need your bread toasted to a specific temperature. A conveyor toaster, on the other hand, offers more options for controlling heat and toasting time. 

Space

Before choosing a toaster, decide where you’re going to put it. Do you have enough counter space? Is there enough clearance for a taller unit? In this case, size does matter. Some manufacturers offer a wall-mount option or the ability to stack more than one unit to increase production and save space. 

Electrical

While a basic pop-up toaster may run on a standard 120-volt electrical connection, more powerful models will require a 208/240V connection. Check the voltage in your kitchen before calling an electrician. For maximum efficiency, you should also be sure your outlet is installed in a convenient spot that corresponds to the flow of service. 

Sophisticated models offer electronic controls that let you pre-program heat and cooking time, which can help eliminate waste. 

Pop-up Toasters 

Commercial pop-up toasters work the same way as home models: Set the timer, pop the product into the slot, lower it into the heating chamber and wait for it to pop up, perfectly browned. 

Some models have heating elements on both sides, while others give you the choice of using one element or both, depending on what you’re toasting. 

Pop-ups come with two to 12 slots. Choosing a model with two different slot sizes allows you to toast bread on one side and Texas toast or bagels on the other. They can even handle frozen waffles. 

You’ll find three basic categories of pop-up toasters. A light-duty model toasts up to 80 slices per hour, a medium or standard-duty toasts 80 to 150 slices an hour and a heavy-duty model can easily handle 350 slices per hour, making it ideal for breakfast buffets, coffee shops or diners. 

Conveyor Toasters 

When you’re serious about toast, whether it’s the morning breakfast rush at a busy diner, a self-serve hotel buffet or you’re toasting submarine sandwiches all day at a fast-food restaurant, a pop-up toaster just can’t keep up. It’s time to look at its heavy-duty cousin, the conveyor belt toaster. 

These versatile units, available in horizontal and vertical configurations, are larger than a pop-up toaster but they can toast different types of bread quickly and consistently, including bagels, English muffins and specialty bread and pastries. Depending on the model, and what you’re toasting, they can handle from 300 to more than 1,000 pieces an hour. They’re also handy in self-serve areas. 

Most conveyor toasters have a top and a bottom heating element, controlled individually for one or two-sided toasting. A conveyor belt moves the bread through the machine until brown then deposits it at the bottom where it’s easily retrieved. The speed of the belt determines the colour of the toast; the slower the belt, the more well-done your bread. 

If you’re keen to conserve energy, conveyor toasters use more energy than pop-ups, which only emit heat during use. These bigger units are catching up, however. Some manufacturers feature a standby mode that saves up to 75% of energy when the unit is idle. 

Vertical conveyor toasters are generally thin and tall. Bread is fed into the top and drawn down into the machine via conveyor belt before exiting, toasted, at the bottom. Though they require more room above the machine than a horizontal unit, they give you more counter space in front of the toaster. 

Vertical Toasters 

If your high-volume sandwich shop or quick-service burger restaurant prides itself on a buttered, toasted bun, check out the vertical toaster - perfect for buns. These vertical conveyor units toast bread by direct contact with heated griddle plates instead of heating elements. This gives you the option of toasting items dry or with butter, creating a delicious caramelized finish. 

Some models can toast buns in as little as 10 seconds. 

When toasting products dry, without butter, you may need to purchase non-stick sheets to ease the bread through the unit. 

Keep it Clean 

· No matter what type of unit you purchase, cleaning your commercial toaster thoroughly every day will keep it performing smoothly and safely and extend its life. 

· Before cleaning, switch off the unit, unplug it and make sure it’s cool. 

· Wipe the outside of the toaster with a damp cloth. Clean hard-to-reach spaces with a small brush. 

· Just like your home unit, most commercial toasters have a tray at the bottom to collect falling crumbs. At the end of service remove the tray, empty the loose crumbs and wipe it clean. If you skip this step, the remaining crumbs may burn and smoke, possibly ruining your next batch of toast. Be sure the tray is dry before replacing it. 

· Perhaps the most important tip for domestic and commercial toasters is never to turn it upside down or shake it to remove crumbs. This move is guaranteed to shorten your toaster’s life, loosening internal parts and lodging crumbs further inside the unit. 

Written by Cynthia David

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