Toasters have become one of the most universally used pieces of foodservice equipment. Of course, almost every place that serves breakfast is sure to have one even though you want to change your kitchen become better. However, toast is also served by operations that never serve breakfast, from fast-food units to dinner-only white tablecloth restaurants. Furthermore, it isn’t just bread that’s toasted for breakfast. Croissants, bagels, and muffins are toasted in many operations. For other meals, toasters are at work on hamburger and hot-dog buns and making toast for sandwiches. Upscale restaurants often serve entrees on toasted “points.” And most caterers use vast amounts of toast for hours d’oeuvres.
The Three Main Types of Toasters Available For Foodservice
They are The Slot Type, Conveyor Toasters, and Batch Toasters. Volume should help identify which type of toaster an operator or needs. Smaller volumes and irregular demand may call for slot toasters. Larger volumes and concentrated demand often demand conveyor models. An operator with light demand but a desire for menu expansion might be an ideal prospect for a batch toaster, which can produce a wide range of different types of toasted products, such as nachos, cinnamon toast, and melted cheese sandwiches.
Don’t depend on the type of toaster now being used for a clue to what would fit the operation best. Consider actual usage, since it’s possible that the current type of toaster may not be doing the job as efficiently as another might. Even within the three main types of toasters are a number of styles. Slot toasters, for example, come in pop-up and pop-down models. And the number, size, and placement of slots vary.
Conveyor toasters may be vertical or horizontal units. Vertical conveyor models are designed for maximum production. Horizontal units range from production levels similar to slot toasters to rates near those of larger vertical models. Although the majority of conveyor toasters are radiant units, there are contact conveyor toasters available. Batch toasters may be contact or radiant type. Some have drawers while others have top lids which swing up for loading and down for toasting.
While a single slot toaster isn’t a high-production unit, several can be banked to provide large output. Slot toasters are generally selected where the operator serves toast over an extended period with no predictable demand. Coffee shops and family restaurants fall into this category.
The commercial slot toaster isn’t much different in principle from the pop-up unit found in many homes. But, the commercial model is heavier duty, more rugged, and is designed for intensive, prolonged use.
- With slot toasters, slices of bread or other baked products are placed into slots on the top. With both pop-up and pop-down toasters, bread fits between two electric heating elements which evenly heat each side of the slice. Wire guides hold bread away from the heating elements and keep bread or other baked product from curling. Length of toasting is controlled either by a timer or by temperature control.
- Pop-up or pop-down slot toasters can be used interchangeably. Coffee shops and similar operations are major prospects for slot toasters. Pop-up toasters occupy less vertical space than pop-down toasters, but the latter variety requires less attention from the servers. The toast drops onto a chute and the toaster can be reloaded in less time than the pop-up variety. Pop-up toasters are available in two- and four-slice models. Some two-slice models are available with long slots that accommodate two slices apiece.
The average four-slice model is claimed to produce from 200 to 300 slices per hour, and some manufacturers use a maximum figure as high as 360. But, output depends upon a number of factors. Dry bread toasts more rapidly than moist bread. For any slot toaster, soft, white bread fresh from the bakery is a difficult challenge. The high-moisture content of such bread often results in blotchy, uneven browning. Some manufacturers recommend bread that is a day or two old for toasting because it will have lost some of its moisture if the wrapper is opened during the aging.
Another Factor Is the Density of the Bread
Heavy, dense bread won’t brown as rapidly as an open, porous bread of the same moisture content. In actual operation, output will generally run lower than the manufacturer’s maximum, even though there may be someone assigned to attend the toaster constantly. The manufacturer may be using dry bread and setting the toaster for light browning to obtain maximum production figures.
In actual operation, a four-slice pop-up toaster is usually able to produce 100 to 120 slices per hour of dark toast with constant attention. On medium, output will be 160 to 175 slices. Light toasting may produce between 220 and 275 slices. This assumes fresh standard white bread of normal thickness and moisture content.
One of the problems with toaster output is that many operations want extremely high production in a short period of time, such as during the breakfast rush. Normal hourly production might be needed in half an hour.
Conveyor toasters come in a large range of sizes and output capacities. They are recommended for operations where service is limited to short periods of time with predictable demand for toast. These include restaurants with high volume, short-duration breakfasts, and hotels with breakfast buffets, in-plant cafeterias, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, prisons, and camps.
The development of small conveyor units, and those with dual conveyors, has changed the rules of the game. If your prospect has a strong breakfast business, even if it doesn’t fit the conventional high volume/short duration test, you might suggest a small horizontal conveyor toaster as an alternative to a bank of slot toasters.
Vertical conveyor toasters are loaded onto the conveyor at the bottom front of the machine. The bread or other products fit into “baskets” or “pockets” which hold the bread in place as the conveyor revolves. The bread is carried up into the toaster cabinet, over the top and back down the rear of the unit. On the trip, it passes between two heating elements which toast it on both sides. At the end of the path, the toast drops into a collection tray.
Rated production of conveyor toasters runs from as little as 150 slices per hour to 1,200 or more. The output of a conveyor toaster, like a slot toaster, is dependent upon the type of bread, the amount of moisture it contains, its texture, etc. It is more realistic to suggest that your prospect use a figure that is one-half to two-thirds of the rated maximum.
There are two styles of batch toasters: contact and radiant. In both, bread, rolls, buns, English muffins, bagels, and the like are loaded into the toaster and browned as a batch. A contact batch toaster is similar to a griddle or grill. The products to be toasted are placed face down on a heated surface similar to a grill. A lid or weight is pivoted at the back of the toaster and swings down to hold the products against the toasting surface. The major role for a contact batch toaster is to prepare hamburger buns, and these units are often called bun toasters.
Some high-production units have a special griddle with both top and bottom surfaces heated. One batch of buns is placed on the top of the griddle and the cover is lowered to hold them in place. The second batch is loaded onto a drawer or tray that swings in and presses the product up against the bottom griddle surface.
Radiant batch bun toasters look much like a cheese smelter. The drawer holding the buns usually has room for 12 halves which are placed with cut side up. The loaded drawer slides under the heating elements, which toast the top surface. This type of unit is also used, like a cheese smelter, to make grilled open-faced sandwiches.