Not long ago, most restaurants could get by with a simple pop-up toaster. But along came bagels, croissants and Texas toast. And then toasted sandwiches grew wildly popular. So how do you find the best toaster to suit your needs today?
Tech to the rescue
Technology has made today’s toasters more functional and versatile. “You are seeing an evolution toward more automated, electronic controls which provide greater flexibility and more consistent performance,” says Dan Frigo, regional sales manager for Hatco.
The ability to manage energy use is of critical importance. According to Frigo, “As long as the conveyor toaster has a power-save feature so it’s not running continuously, then it’s an excellent choice because of its reliability and production capability” in relation to energy consumption. “It will produce toast faster and in greater quantity than a similar pop-up toaster.” Quartz heating elements, like those in the Star QS-3 High Volume Conveyor toaster, can bring the toaster out of energy-saving mode and back up to optimal heating speed in seconds.
The sandwich generation
Getting a full-size or even countertop conveyor oven for toasted sandwiches may necessitate the installation of a hood. Instead, check out the newer conveyor toasters that offer melting capabilities. In these models, the conveyor shuttles the product into the toaster and stops, positioning the food under the heating element. Then, instead of pushing the sandwich through to the receiving chamber, it reverses and sends it back out.
What’s the answer?
As with most equipment, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Is it better to buy two or three cheaper, analog toasters or one that will handle each toasting situation perfectly? High-volume operations may opt for a combo—the conveyor for peak periods and a pop-up toaster for off-peak. A pop-up with wide slots, such as the Waring Commercial WCT 800, can accommodate thick breads such as Texas toast, making it a good choice for dinner or off-peak usage.
FOH and BOH solutions
When a toaster is used front-of-house in a self-service setting, speed and convenience are important, says Erin Dowell, restaurant supervisor at Asador in the Renaissance Dallas Hotel. Their conveyor toaster usually takes under a minute to toast breakfast items, which is important to the hotel’s “road-warrior” guests, Dowell says. A knob lets customers choose the desired lightness or darkness. “It’s user-friendly. Guests enjoy how much time it saves them, and it creates a nice flow through the buffet.”
Product quality is paramount when volume toasting is done back-of-house, according to Ric Scicchitano, senior vice president of food and beverage for Corner Bakery Cafe. The chain uses a combination of pop-ups and conveyor toasters in its kitchens because “toast is difficult,” he says. “Not all breads toast the same way, so we use a conveyor for bagels but we need pop-up toasters for sliced breads for sandwiches.” With the heavy use pop-ups can get in a kitchen, he advises buying carefully: “At the end of the day, pop-up toasters sadly become almost disposable; they don’t last long. You jump for joy if [the pop-up toaster] sees two birthdays.”