Choosing Between Conveyor and Slot Toasters

Commercial toasters can be separated into two very different types of equipment: slot toasters and conveyor toasters. They're both designed to do the same thing - give a crispy, browned exterior to bread items - but they achieve that result in different ways. If you're not sure which type you need, this guide can help you make the right choice.

How Slot Toasters Work

Just like the toaster you may have at home, a commercial slot toaster accepts individual bread slices into two to eight horizontal slots. The user selects the desired brownness level on a dial control and presses a lever that lowers the bread into the toaster's heating chamber, where electric elements apply intense radiant heat. When the toasting process is complete, the toaster releases a spring with a familiar "pop" and brings the bread back up out of the chamber.

How Conveyor Toasters Work

Conveyor toasters rely on chain-driven conveyor belts to carry bread through toasting chambers in which they're exposed to a series of radiant heating elements. Users select the brownness of the product by adjusting a knob that controls the speed of the belt. Lightly toasted bread will travel through the equipment more quickly than darker toast. Typically, bread is loaded on a rack at the top the equipment in rows of two or three slices and retrieved from a tray at the base of the toaster.

Factors to Consider

Several factors will go into choosing a commercial toaster, including your business requirements, volume, and budget.

Volume

Conveyor toasters can typically handle much higher volumes of product than slot toasters. It's not just their conveyor belts that make conveyor toasters faster; they're often built with more powerful heating elements that give them a performance boost. A typical commercial-grade, four-slot toaster can handle as much as a few hundred slices an hour, depending on the brownness setting, but an average conveyor toaster can handle 1,000 slices or more an hour.

Cost

Slot toasters typically cost much less than conveyor toasters. You'll find professional-grade slot toasters that cost $200 or less, though heavy-duty, four-slot toasters can top the $500 mark. More moving parts and sophisticated electronic controls bring a typical conveyor toaster to within a higher price range of $1,000 to $2,000. Specialized toasters may run even higher.

Controls

The controls of a commercial slot toaster are virtually identical to those on residential units. Most models provide a brownness control and lever for each pair of slots. Conveyor toasters often include more sophisticated controls that allow the user to set separate brownness levels for each side of the product. High-tech conveyor toasters even allow operators to program toasting procedures for individual items like bagels or English muffins into the equipment's memory.

Operation

Because they share such a resemblance to the toasters many of us have used at home, there's little to no learning curve involved in training staff to use a slot toaster. Conveyor toasters, while they're still simple machines, may feature more sophisticated controls than slot models and therefore require a more involved training regimen, though the programmable controls we discussed in the previous section help smooth that curve.

Specialty Toasters

If your toaster will be used exclusively for one type of product - bagels or hamburger buns, for example - then you may benefit from investing in a toaster that's designed specifically for toasting that item. Bagel toasters have extra-tall openings and toast bread only on one side. Bun toasters are vertical conveyor machines that are designed specifically for toasting hamburger buns. Many bun toasters include attached butter spreaders to streamline the preparation of hundreds of buns an hour.