The size of your warming shelf will determine how many pans or plates you can set on it. While dinner plate sizes vary, most are 8 – 10 inches in diameter. Figure out the diameter of your dinner plates and multiply that figure by the number of plates you intend on keeping on your shelf. This will give you an idea of the length you need your new shelf to be.
If it's food pans you're warming, keep in mind that a full-size food pan is 12-inches wide by 20-inches long. Most heated shelves are 20-inches deep and between 12- and 72-inches long, so they can hold one to six full-size food pans.
Another important characteristic to consider when choosing a warming shelf is related to its shape. Round warmers are typically used for pizza and carving stations, and rectangular ones can be used for almost anything else that needs to be kept warm.
Two types of thermal shelves are available, providing many installation options. Drop-in shelves can be built into custom-made tables or cabinetry, allowing for flush surfaces. Countertop shelves can be used on virtually any existing surface, but the look may not be as streamlined. Some countertop models are also mobile, making them ideal for caterers.
Shelf warmers come in three materials: metal, stone, and glass. Metal shelves are typically constructed of stainless steel or brushed aluminum. While stainless steel models are more rugged and may be less expensive, an aluminum warming shelf can often provide better heat distribution.
With the popularity of natural materials on the rise, stone shelves are becoming the new trend in many establishments. Typically made of granite, these stones resist staining and scratches while fitting into high-end countertops and complementing surrounding design.
Glass models, while usually the most expensive option, provide aesthetics and longevity. Glass does not deteriorate, fade, stain, or corrode, meaning that glass shelves may be more cost-effective in the long run.
- Infinite controls allow the user to adjust to any number of temperatures, rather than the more limited hi/medium/low type of manual control. These are great for kitchens where there is a lot of turnover, since new employees can simply be told what number to set the unit to. An infinite control can also allow you to easily set proper heat levels for different dishes and dayparts.
- Remote controls can increase the longevity of the warming shelf. The main cause for repairs to warming shelves is worn or broken controls, often a result of damage from intense heat when the controls are mounted too near the heat source.
- Pizza warmers are becoming more and more popular in self-service areas like cafeterias, concession stands, and convenience stores. The quick, self-serve design can help increase impulse sales.