Banquet Transport Equipment
Serving large numbers of people sit-down meals in locations that may be far from the kitchen can present unique challenges. Food must be kept at safe temperatures and, due to the nature of banquets, may need to be transported already plated. It may also be necessary to transport drinks, buffet serving supplies, and ice to the banquet area so servers have what they need nearby, while cleanup after the meal can be a time-consuming chore without the correct equipment. Below are some carts that can make transporting and holding those items simple.
Transporting Plated Food
Because it is the most time- and labor-efficient method of serving many people at the same time, most banquets are organized with the food already prepared and plated before service. However, that food must be kept at safe temperatures, which can be challenging when the banquet hall is far from the kitchen or if the banquet includes presentations that meal courses must be served around. Banquet carts provide a solution for these challenges.
Banquet carts are large mobile heated cabinets made of durable stainless steel, with capacities of 24 to 200 plates. These capacities are based on stacked plates, so for most carts you will need heat-resistant plate covers that fit your plates, which have the added benefit of helping plated food retain heat longer. Banquet cart models are also available with wire racks that can hold plates without covers, but keeping the food open can increase the chance of it drying out if it must be held for a long time.
Heated transport cabinets can be pre-heated before the food is added, then unplugged for transportation to the banquet hall. While it would be ideal to plug the cart in once it has arrived at the banquet hall, most models can hold food at safe temperatures for several hours if power is unavailable.
Most banquet carts are geared toward keeping food warm, but there are some that can switch between hot and cold holding. These hot/cold carts are more expensive, but can add invaluable versatility to your banquet service.
If any part of the banquet's meal will be plated in the hall, instead of in the kitchen, you will need a way to transport the dishes to the dining area. Dish caddies make transporting plates and bowls of all sizes simple. Several models with adjustable sizes are available, and some are even adjustable enough to transport dishes of different shapes. This means if your business uses multiple shapes of dishes or even buys a new set, you will not need to replace the dish dolly.
Some dish dollies, also called chip dollies, have heating modules that keep plates warm until they are removed, which can help keep the plated food warm until it is served. These caddies often come with covers to help keep the heat inside the cabinet until the plates need to be accessed. Some carts are also spring-loaded, so they lift the stacks as plates are removed, so users do not have to reach low into the cart to grab plates.
Serving drinks to customers at a banquet can also be challenging. Since banquets are often formal events, drinks are generally served in glasses, rather than bottles. Specialty carts are available for transporting glasses and insulated beverage containers can be used for refilling glasses or pitchers.
Ice caddies allow servers to keep ice nearby in insulated bins that can be easily transported to the banquet hall. These are available with slanted and flat tops; flat tops offer more storage space, but slanted tops make it easier to access the ice inside. Polycarbonate exteriors are common, but stainless steel and laminate exteriors are available for units that need to fit into more formal settings. Each ice caddy comes on casters for easy maneuvering and has a drain in the bottom of its bin to keep cleanup simple. Some mobile ice bins also have shelves that allow for transporting glasses and pitchers.
For banquets at which alcoholic beverages will be served, consider using a portable bar. These carts can be as simple as a portable ice bin holding bottled beverages, or as complicated as a bar with a decorative countertop, speed rail, cold plate, ice sink, and post-mix soda gun. Compare ice bin capacities, storage options, and the sizes of the speed rails on each model to find a portable bar that will equip you to serve the volume of drinks you anticipate providing. Portable bars vary widely in appearance, from durable polyethylene to varnished wood exteriors, so you should be able to find one that matches your banquet hall's décor. If you do not see anything that fits in our standard offerings, please contact one of our customer service representatives at 1-800-541-8683 for information about customizing one.
The ability to bring food and drink prep directly to the tableside can elevate the presentation of any banquet. One of the best ways to do that is with a mobile cooking cart. These are great for making preparation of omelets, stir-fry, and desserts such as bananas foster or crepes Suzette into a spectator event. These carts can have induction or infrared elements heated by either electricity or gas. Cooking carts come on casters, so they are easy to move around the dining room, and many have down-draft ventilation systems to help keep control grease-laden vapors and smoke. These carts are available in a wide range of finishes, ensuring there is an option to match the look and feel of your event space.
Bringing prepared food and drink options around to tables is another way to set your business apart. Dessert and pastry carts can be used to display and serve hors d'oeuvres, desserts, or drinks. Some have display cases that protect food as the carts are moved through the facility, and most have a wood or solid-color finish for use in formal settings. Models with cooling wells are also available for desserts that need to be chilled. Beverage carts are similar, with open tops and bases that can be enclosed or open with shelves for storing glasses, condiments, or finger foods. These are made for serving drinks from coffee to wine. Some beverage carts are made of polymer, while metal and laminate options are also available for more upscale applications.
With all the products that need to be transported from the kitchen to the banquet hall and back, it may become necessary to have one or more additional general-use carts. Plates, flatware, napkins, and condiments can all be transported on utility carts. These are also commonly used for clearing dirty dishes and typically hold several bus tubs. Available in plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel, they usually have two to four shelves and may be enclosed to hide their contents when used in view of the public. If you need a cart solely for bussing, dedicated bus carts are available. These often are similar to utility carts in design and material, but some models are available that use slides to hold 20-inch by 30-inch bus tubs.
Another versatile mobility option is the Queen Mary cart. In general, these have higher weight capacities and more levels than utility carts. They can be used for transporting plates, pitchers, and linens for setting tables, and can also be used for bussing used dinnerware when tables are cleared. They can also transport serving equipment like buffet stands, chafers, and coffee urns. Queen Mary carts are usually tall, narrow, and made of stainless steel or aluminum. Enclosed shelves are available, as are raised ledges that help keep items contained.