Dish Dispenser Buyers' Guide

Dish Dispenser Buyers' Guide

A dish dispenser can prevent broken plates and help your foodservice operation run more smoothly and safely. The wide range of options available makes it especially important to learn about these products before making a selection. Read more about dish dispensers to ensure you find the right fit for your kitchen or buffet.


While a dish dispenser's main purpose is to dispense dishes, they can also be used to transport dinnerware. Also called a dish caddy, a mobile dish dispenser can be made out of either plastic or stainless steel and comes on casters. While plastic is lighter and more economical, stainless steel is durable and attractive. A dish caddy can hold multiple stacks of plates, sometimes in varying sizes. Some of these are set up with openings along the sides that allow you to pick up plates all the way down to the bottom of the caddy, while others are fully enclosed and self-raising, with a metal plate that pushes the dishes up as they are removed from the top of the stack.

If you do not need to use your dish dispenser to transport dishes, you may consider a drop-in model. These are installed directly into a countertop, with a plate that pushes dishes to the top as they're pulled out. Another option is a countertop dispenser. Countertop units usually have a very low capacity, as few as ten or as many as 30 depending on the plate size, so they should only be used in low-volume operations or if they will be refilled often. These stationary models may be best used in conjunction with a dish caddy, which can be used to transport dishes from the kitchen to the dish dispenser at the buffet.


A dish dispenser's capacity is determined by how many compartments it has and how many plates each of those compartments can hold. Mobile plate dispensers have as few as two or as many as 13 compartments. Drop-in dispensers only have one compartment, but several can be installed side-by-side if you have the counter space.

Another factor to consider when purchasing a plate dispenser is the size of the plates you will be using. It is especially important to know the diameter of your plates, as most dispensers can only hold a very small range of sizes. Knowing how thick the plates are can also be helpful, as this helps you determine how many plates your dispenser will be able to hold.

More than Plates

Dish dispensers are not limited to only plates. Some have sections for dispensing cups, napkins, or cutlery in addition to plates. Cutlery carts have the cutlery on top, with a flat shelf underneath for adaptable dish storage.

Tray dispensers are also available in mobile and drop-in models. With one or more compartments for dispensing, these are often open on the sides to make removing trays easier. Be sure to check your tray sizes before ordering, as the wrong size could lead to the trays either not fitting into the compartment if they are too large, or sliding out of the open sides if they are too small.

Special Features

As simple as a dish dispenser sounds, many companies have improved on the basic design by offering special features. The most common addition offered is heat. Offering heated plates helps ensure that your customers' food stays hot longer. Heated plate dispensers are available as drop-in or mobile units. Some of the heated units offer lids standard or as an additional option to help retain heat and save energy.

Adjustable dividers and adjustable plate silos are another helpful feature to consider. These allow the caddy or dispenser to hold dishes of different sizes, which can be helpful if your foodservice operation uses multiple plate sizes or plans on buying a new set of dishes in the future. There are also dish dispensers that accommodate oddly-shaped plates, such as squares or ovals.

Cres Cor Adjustable Dolly

One of the most versatile dish dollies is the Cres Cor 501-D-EX adjustable dish dolly. This model's base has a pegboard design that uses plastic-coated hex rods inserted into holes, which lets you create custom-sized compartments. The pegboard design allows you to fit multiple shapes onto one dolly, which can improve the workflow of your foodservice operation.

Cres Cor's adjustable dish dolly has a 27-inch square non-corrosive aluminum base and is 32 inches tall, allowing it to fit neatly under the counter when it is not in use. Twelve hex rods come standard with each unit and extras are available for purchase, ensuring that you can create the exact setup you need. The setup is also changeable, eliminating the need to invest in new dollies if you purchase new dishware in the future.