Sinks and Accessories Buyers' Guide

Find the Right Sinks for Your Commercial Kitchen

Sinks are an important part of any commercial kitchen's design, with the FDA Food Code and local health departments dictating the minimum number of sinks required. However, there are more factors to consider beyond the number of sinks, such as their design and optional features. It's best to determine which features will meet your needs by considering how you'll use each individual sink. Below we will outline the types of commercial sinks you have to choose from and the optional features that can make them more convenient to use or better suited to specific tasks.

Hand Sinks

Used for: Handwashing, usually near food prep, serving, or warewashing areas.

The FDA food code requires that every foodservice business have at least one hand sink located in a convenient location for employees to use before handling food, after using the restroom, or after taking a smoke break. You may choose to install a drop-in sink into an existing counter or table, or you could choose a wall-mounted installation or pedestal base. Some models come with faucets already installed, while others have cutouts for deck- or splash-mounted faucets. Most hand sinks have a backsplash, while others include side splashes on one or both sides. The food code requires side splashes on sinks located near any food prep areas.

Some hand sinks include additional features, such as built-in paper towel and soap dispensers. In place of handles, knee valves or foot pedals can be used to turn the water on and off, which is often preferable in foodservice to prevent workers from touching dirty faucet handles with clean hands.

Compartment Sinks

Used for: Food prep, cleaning and soaking dishes, and scrapping food, depending on how many compartments the sink has.

One-compartment sinks are used for washing produce, draining colanders, filling pots, thawing food, and other food prep tasks. These sinks can also be used for soaking dishes and other cleaning tasks, but only when they're not used for food prep. Two-compartment sinks are useful for thawing food, washing produce, scrapping/soaking dishes, or cleaning wares that don't require the three-sink method.

The 3-sink method of washing dishes mandated by most health departments requires a three-compartment sink This method of dishwashing uses one compartment for washing, one for rinsing, and one for sanitizing. The sanitizing compartment will either use a water heater to sanitize dishes with hot water, or will serve as a soaking bin for the dishes to soak in sanitizing chemicals. Most health departments require every restaurant to have a three-compartment sink, even when a commercial dishwasher is present, so that a backup method is available in case the dishwasher goes down.

The four-compartment sink is used for the three-sink method with an additional compartment for soaking, scrapping, or a food disposal. Some health departments allow 4-compartment sinks to be used for the three-sink wash, rinse, and sanitize method with the extra compartment for handwashing.

Compartment Sink Features and Accessories

Compartment sinks come in a range of sizes to fit into kitchens of any size. The stainless steel that sinks are built with ranges in thickness from 14 to 22 gauge, with lower numbers indicating thicker, more durable metal.

Drainboards are standard on some sinks, while they're available as an accessory with others. If you're choosing a sink with a drainboard, make sure that component's location is convenient to your dishroom workflow. Drainboards are available on either or both sides of a compartment sink.

Compartment sink backsplashes range from 3.5 to 11 inches high, and side splashes are available to prevent food contamination in nearby prep areas.

Compartment sinks can be skirted to hide the plumbing underneath for a more sleek appearance and easier cleaning. Corner models are available to help you make the most of the space you have to work with.

Four-section sinks will always need two faucets, and corner-model 2- and 3-compartment sinks can also have two faucets. These faucets are sometimes included with the sink, but are more often sold separately.

Bar Sinks

Used for: Fitting under bars or countertops, washing dishes, handwashing, and emptying drinks.

Bar sinks are compartment sinks built at a lower height to allow for installation under bars and countertops. These sinks are available with all of the same options as compartment sinks, but with a few additional features available that come in handy in a bar environment. These can have an insulated ice chest built in next to the sink or a waste chute directly in front of the sink. These sinks are also available with open or enclosed storage bases for holding glasses, bottles, and other wares. While they don't come standard on any models, most bar sinks can be equipped with speed rails to provide easy access to bottles.

Drop-In and Undermount Sinks

Used for: Installing a sink into an existing countertop or table.

A drop-in or undermount sink is ideal when you are adding a sink to a pre-existing surface, such as a countertop or worktable. A drop-in sink is lowered into a cutout in a surface and uses a wide flange to create a rim on top of the counter. An undermount sink is installed from below a cutout with the same dimensions as the sink's opening, leaving no rim on the countertop. Undermount sinks are more difficult to install, but create a more attractive, easy-to-clean countertop. Both types are available in square, rectangular, and circular shapes, and in one to three compartments. These sinks sometimes have backsplashes or side splashes. Any included faucets or faucet mounting holes are deck mounted.

Portable Sink

Used for: Catering or outdoor events without access to running water, or for soaking dishes in a commercial kitchen.

There are two types of portable sink with distinctly different uses. The simplest kind of portable sink is a soak sink, which is basically a stainless steel bin with a drain that is mounted on legs with casters. These provide an additional, mobile soaking sink to your dishroom, and can also be used as a utility sink that can be moved anywhere you need to clean. These do not have faucets, but can be wheeled to a water source, like a pot filler or pre-rinse faucet, as needed. Some options available include soft rubber bumpers to prevent damage to walls and equipment, lever drains for easy control, and silverware chutes to make filling the sink with utensils simple.

The second type of portable sink is a handwashing cart, ideal for mobile foodservice operations that need a place to wash hands at locations without running water. These have clean water and wastewater tanks, and some can be plugged in to provide hot water. Most provide soap and paper towel dispensers. Some include a water pump, while others are operated with a foot pedal.

Mop Sink

Used for: Filling and dumping mop buckets and cleaning mops or other cleaning tools. These are not for use with any food products.

A mop sink provides a place for filling and emptying mop buckets, and cleaning mops. These sinks can be mounted on legs or installed on the floor so employees don't have to lift heavy mop buckets. Mop sinks are also available in tall janitor cabinets that offer additional shelving and sometimes storage space for a mop bucket. Open mop sinks are available with side splashes, and some have a drop-front design to make emptying mop buckets easier. Floor sinks do not have built-in openings for faucets, but most leg-mounted sinks have faucet cutouts for installation of splash-mounted faucets.

Disposal Sink

Used for: Facilitating the installation of a food disposal unit and the water source required to operate it.

Disposal sinks are round bowls that measure 12 to 18 inches across, with steep sides that help guide food and water down into the food disposal. They have water nozzles built into the sides of the bowls, and the water will turn on when the disposal does. Because these sinks are made specifically to work with food disposals, they all have wide drain holes for easy disposal installation. Splash baffles are available, as are sleeve guards that feature a raised flange to help prevent silverware loss into the disposal. Sink bowl covers are available for when the sink is not in use.