A school cafeteria serves a critical function beyond that of any typical restaurant. While the latter's chief goal is to provide guests with a pleasant dining experience, cafeterias have the responsibility of providing the primary source of nutrition for students.Additionally, school cafeterias must fulfill this within strict time constraints. With lunch periods rarely lasting longer than an hour, the kitchen must feed hundreds of students in a very limited time.
This is why buffet-style service has become the standard for school cafeterias. Quick service and ensuring every student is fed entails more than just the right design, though. Modern school kitchens must also be equipped with the tools best suited for their unique preparation and service requirements.
To maximize efficiency, most school cafeteria foods are not cooked from scratch on the campus, but rather, prepared to some degree in an off-site location and delivered to the school for further preparation. Therefore, along with the basic storage, cookware and preparation equipment of any commercial kitchen, school cafeterias must include supplies specifically designed for convenient heating and cooling.
Some of the most important pieces of cafeteria kitchen equipment include:
Cook & Hold Ovens are just what they sound like: units specifically designed to cook food and store it for longer periods than conventional ovens while maintaining the heat more effectively.
This makes them suitable for cooking large amounts earlier in the day, before students' begin lunch periods. When hungry students arrive, the food is still warm and ready to be served.
Similarly to Cook & Hold Ovens, Steam Tables keep prepared foods for extended periods of time without cooling. Trays are placed atop metal wells where heated water produces steam that circulates beneath and sustains warmth.
Merchandising refrigeration is an easy way for students to pick chilled items themselves without requiring kitchen staff. They are a must for canned and bottled drinks, but also great for displaying baked goods, salads or other pre-made menu items best served cool.
Just as merchandising refrigeration makes it easy for students to pick their favorite chilled foods and drinks, heated merchandisers display cooked foods in a similarly convenient way. These serve as significant upgrades from traditional heating lamps, which can be less efficient and attractive.