There is no one-size-fits-all for refrigeration and workspace on any given station in a restaurant kitchen. The right prep table for the job streamlines any station, saving time, cost and frustration. It helps you rotate stock easily, keep food at the right temperatures and provides workspace for everything from building pizzas to plating dishes. Find or create the right prep tables for every station in your kitchen to keep your kitchen organized and your cooks happy.
It might sound obvious, but a lot of measuring goes into finding the right prep tables and cooking equipment for a restaurant station. Don't just measure the space and buy a table that fits. Consider what other needs that station might have. Do you need a hand-washing sink on the line that would be best placed on that station? Do you need to fit knife sleeves between prep tables? How much clearance do you need beneath the table for floor drains or bus buckets? Finally, does your ideal table have racks over it? If so, you'll have to measure the space to the ceiling or hood vents as well. Account for everything and measure carefully, always keeping in mind that staff will have to clean around equipment frequently, so a little wiggle room is ideal.
The top of a prep table is where most of the work happens. You will want to consider refrigeration vs. work space. If you're prepping large items like pizzas, you'll need a lot of counter space and some refrigeration for toppings. If you're prepping salads, you will need a lot of refrigeration room up top for dressings, toppings, greens and more. Are you prepping sandwiches? You might need room for a toaster, a rack for bread and maybe even a shelf for a microwave. Imagine yourself prepping your menu items at that station. Is there anything you can change to make it faster and simpler?
You've got options when it comes to refrigerated storage beneath your prep station. You can opt for freezer space–great for a fry station. You can opt for refrigerated drawers, which is perfect when there are items in pans that you will need to reach quickly, but you don't have room to store everything up top. You can also opt for a reach-in with racks for sheet trays. This is ideal when you need to store backup prep for items you keep up top or you're storing trays of meat. Consider your station's purpose. Remember, if you have a big enough prep table, you can do a combination of refrigeration styles.
Once you have the right prep table for your station, customizing it to your needs is simple. All you have to do is use it to see where you need more or less storage for a variety of ingredients. You can change the layout repeatedly without requiring new equipment as your menu items and storage needs change over the years, making the time and money invested well worth it.