Plate dispensers are relatively basic pieces of equipment that serve a big role in healthcare foodservice operations. They keep plates organized and at the ready anywhere from the patient meal-tray assembly line to a front-of-house serving station. Despite their fairly uncomplicated nature, though, you should be aware of the differences and options available for specifying the right model for your facility’s needs.
Makers offer mobile plate dispensers and drop-in dispensers, which are permanently fixed in a counter. Mobile plate dispensers, the focus of this article, enable employees to load plates directly from the dishwashing area and move the dispenser where it’s needed. They also work well at kiosks and special events.
Working in Silos
All mobile plate dispensers stack and store clean plates in silos within stainless cabinets on casters. Units typically stand approximately 40-in.H and offer from one to four silos, each silo holding between 50 and 75 plates, depending on the model and type of plate.
How many dispensers do you need? One manufacturer recommends matching quantity to the number of meals served. For example, if a facility serves 450 meals at peak dining periods, two units—each with three 75-plate silos—fit the bill. Depending on where the plates are needed, you might instead choose a different combination of single-, two-, three- and four-silo dispensers.
Dishes are stacked in the silo, with spring-loaded lowerators keeping the top plate at the top of the silo regardless of how many plates are in the unit. Silos come in various sizes to accommodate a range of plate diameters. While plate diameters from 8 in. to 12 in. are most common, manufacturers make units with silos that can handle plates as small as 3 in. in diameter.
Plate silos are adjustable, to an extent. A dispenser with a silo built for 10-in. to 12-in. plates can easily handle dishes within that diameter range, but is not built for 6-in. plates. Inserting non-marring rods into the silo allows additional flexibility for smaller diameter plates, but the better bet is using a dispenser specifically designed for smaller plates. Smaller diameter plates placed in wider silos can move around increasing the chances of chipping or breakage.
Things are changing almost constantly, and guidelines for operating shift accordingly. Operators need to adapt to new challenges, and manufacturers that can be flexible to meet their needs will strengthen...