Salad bar equipment is used to keep salad items cold. It is most commonly used in restaurants, hospital dining rooms, and other food service areas. Salad bars can be used for restaurant patrons, allowing them to help themselves to the food, or in the kitchen, keeping food cold for servers and cooks to prepare. Salad ingredients are put into the equipment to keep it fresh and free from bacteria. The temperature is kept at no higher than 40 degrees F (4.4 degrees C), because bacteria cannot thrive in the cold.
There are three types of salad bars. The first is similar to a large tub, which is filled with ice. The containers of salad ingredients are settled down into the ice to keep it cold and fresh. The downside to this type of salad bar equipments is that it gets expensive to fill with ice a few times a day, to keep the food at the proper temperature. If the salad bar is on wheels, and not attached to a drain in the floor, emptying the salad bar may take a lot of work.
The second type of salad bar is called frost top. It has refrigeration piping running along the inside, protected by a metal covering that goes beneath food trays, which are suspended several inches above. This is much easier than using ice to keep food cold, and still looks nice. The refrigeration assures that the food stays cold, and there are no drains to worry about.
The most common complaint about this type of salad bar equipment is that it is difficult to clean. Any food that falls onto the metal covering will freeze on, and can be difficult to remove. The salad bar also has to be unplugged and defrosted often, to cut down on ice buildup.
Air chilled, the third type of salad bar, is the most popular and the most cost efficient. It works by blowing air across a refrigeration coil. As the air moves across the coil, it cools, and then keeps the food cold. This is the easiest type of salad bar equipment to use and to clean.
When restaurant owners are considering the purchase of new salad bar equipment, there are two things they keep in mind. The first is portability. Some restaurants want stationary salad bar equipment, while others want something that can be easily moved around. Restaurants that do not offer a salad bar for every meal may choose the portable option.
The second consideration is ease of access. Customers need to be able to easily reach the offered items. There are two main options for this. The first is to purchase a salad bar that allows people to travel down the line on one side only; the second is to purchase a two-sided salad bar, allowing two lines of customers to reach the food. The second option is more popular with busier restaurants, as it cuts down on wait times for customers waiting to build their salads.