Prep Table Buying Guide

Buying Guide

Prep tables are essential pieces of restaurant equipment for any foodservice business. They combine the necessity of a refrigerator with a convenient cutting board so you can quickly and easily assemble your ingredients to create signature dishes. They come in a variety of sizes and styles with a whole host of different internal components. With so many options, finding the perfect unit can be a challenge. That's why we've broken down the most important information you need to know about prep tables when you're shopping.

Sandwich / Salad Tables vs. Pizza Tables

Sandwich and salad prep tables serve different purposes than pizza prep tables, but they're not as different as they sound. Sandwich prep tables come with thinner cutting boards designed for sub and sandwich bread, and most come set up for use with 1/3 size food pans in the top storage area. Pizza prep tables feature a larger cutting board area with a raised rail and a top storage area designed for 1/6 size food pans. So if you can't find a sandwich prep table that suits your needs, browse our selection of pizza prep tables to see if another one would be better.

Sandwich/Salad Tables vs Pizza Tables

Size

Deciding the proper size of your prep unit is essential for one obvious reason - it needs to fit where you want to put it. We carry prep tables that range in size from compact to colossal, and each size comes with its own benefits. Smaller tables offer greater versatility with the tradeoff of decreased storage space. Larger tables are just the opposite - it's harder to find a convenient space for them, but they come with lots of interior room to spare.

Generally, the more demand your business has for its sandwiches, the larger you'll want your prep table to be. Another factor that may affect your size consideration is how many ingredients you use when you prepare food. If you're going to hold lots of different ingredients at one time, it would be better to go for a larger table to keep every ingredient you need close at hand. Lastly, some work top units offer both a refrigerator and freezer storage section in the same unit. Check out the dual temperature models found in our commercial undercounter refrigerator category.

For convenience, we've separated our salad and sandwich prep tables and associated items by the most common sizes with a separate area for accessories so you can quickly find the ideal product to address your business's needs.

Doors and Drawers

The second factor to consider is whether you will need a table with drawers or doors on the front. Regardless of your preference, both types will have a top section with a lid that is designed to hold food pans. Units with doors have a refrigeration cavity very similar to reach-in equipment measured in cubic feet, complete with shelves that can hold a wide variety of foods. Units with drawers generally come with less refrigeration space, but each drawer is laid out to hold more food pans filled with ingredients, making them easier to access and swap out with empty pans from the top storage area. There are also prep tables made with combinations of doors and drawers for greater versatility.

It's important to remember that doors and drawers may complicate the routines of more compact kitchens, depending on where you place the unit. Doors usually close automatically, but drawers typically do not. It's more difficult to close drawers when a passing cook or server has their hands full, which can be a distraction in your kitchen. On the other hand, longer doors may not open all the way in more compact areas, which would make drawers a better option.

Work Space

Just as prep tables have different storage configurations, they also come with different work spaces. Some tables have a simple cutting board on top that can extend a few inches beyond the table's edge, which provides adequate room for preparing food. Standard top units stick to the typical design of prep tables, with a large front-mounted cutting board and a comparatively reduced food pan storage area behind. Mega top models come with an expanded food pan storage area on top with a shallower cutting board.

Generally speaking, mega top variants can hold up to 50% more in their pan storage areas than the comparable standard model. For example, Avantco model SCL2-60 can hold up to 16 1/6 size food pans in two rows of 8 while the SCLM2-60 has three rows, bringing the total capacity up to 24. Both are good choices for a variety of reasons, but it boils down to whether you need more work or storage space. Additionally, both top types sometimes offer an extended workspace at the price of food pan storage, which can serve as an area to stage countertop appliances like panini grills. But regardless of what model you choose, the biggest factor that affects the available storage and work space is width. So if you need more space, look for a wider unit.

Refrigeration

There are three methods used for refrigerating the top food pan section of prep tables: air cooled, cold wall, and liquid jacket.

Air cooled units are an excellent solution for restaurateurs who are just starting out. Air cooling is standard on sandwich prep tables, and it's coupled with low maintenance and labor costs that make them easy to use without requiring a lot of know-how. On the flip side, their power is more limited than alternative refrigeration methods.

Cold wall models run refrigerant lines through the table's structure to keep the interior cool. They often allow a greater variety of pan and shelf configurations so you can customize your storage options. They also have a greater output potential compared to air cooled units. However, cold wall systems can lead to uneven pan temperatures, which can upset the uniformity of your food once prepared.

Liquid jacket is the newest form of cooling and typically used in pizza prep units, utilizing low-profile internal designs to maximize storage space while consuming low amounts of energy. It's also the best option for keeping your ingredients a uniform temperature. Unfortunately, this refrigeration type is the most expensive of the three, making it viable for only established businesses.