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What Type of Plate Dispenser is Right for You?

plate dispenser options

When setting up a foodservice operation, many owners pay the closest attention to elements such as the menu, food sourcing, and staffing. These decisions can be extremely stressful in the current climate of the foodservice industry today, as it is a must to get and stay ahead of trends and competition. As any owner knows, the worst case scenario that could damper the success of a new operation is being too overprepared on only a few sectors instead of a wide array. If other aspects of preparation are overlooked, your operation as a whole could be underprepared which could lead to disaster.

A prepared owner is a good owner, and making sure you are setting the tone for an entire mode of service for your diners is vital. This especially rings true if you are a brand new operation within your community as your guest’s first impression will dictate whether they will come back or not. For instance, if a diner is served warm food on a cold plate, it can be a reflection of their entire experience. Could you imagine if you received cold food after waiting for a long period of time? No, we wouldn’t want to either.

We mentioned how many owners usually only focus on a few elements involving supply chain, workers, and customer options. Yes, those are crucial, but there’s often a critical part that gets overlooked… and that’s having an efficient self-serve serving station! By choosing the correct plate dispenser, your operation has the potential to go from being good to becoming great!

In this blog, we will break down the different types of plate dispensers and help operators find the best fit for their dining room. Never start foodservice the wrong way again!

Overview of Common Plate Dispensers

The first question to ask yourself is whether the food station will be mobile or not. If the point of service will be relocated to different areas of the property or operation, a mobile dish dispenser is likely your operation’s best bet, as it will provide extended versatility.

In contrast, you should choose a drop-in plate dispenser for permanent serving when space is available for built-in counters and when separate dish or tray transport equipment is utilized. Still, both of these spring loaded plate dispensers will come in a few different varieties. 

Nonetheless, deciding on the correct one should come with great attention to detail, or else your operation could be prone to costly implications such as replacing broken dishes or receiving potential fines for health code violations regarding contamination. 

Let’s walk through the different types of dish dispensers and break down how each can elevate your operation’s specific needs.

mobile and drop-in plate dispensers

Mobile Plate Dispensers

Due to these dish dispensers being mobile, it is essentially easy to maneuver around walls, tables, corners, and tight spaces. Each unit comes with durable casters for movement, as well as locking wheels so employees can safely secure spring loaded plate dispensers during times of service. As for the plates themselves, there are a few factors to consider when picking a mobile plate dispenser.

Square or Round Plates

Trying to fit a square plate into a round hole won’t end well, and neither will fitting a round plate into a square hole. With square plates common for banquets and catering, having flexibility can be critical.

Number of Stacks 

For food stations requiring high-volume service, having multiple dispenser stacks can make the line go much faster. Most models have two, but many are offered with four or more.

Heated vs. Non-Heated

Warm plates are essential for hot food stations, but it’s crucial not to overheat the plates so guests can’t hold them. Mobile food stations can use radiant or convection heat to ensure consistent and reliable results with every dish. If you can’t decide on whether to heat or not to heat, check out our previous blog, Cracking the Code To Your Perfect Drop-in Plate Dispenser.

regular mobile plate dispensers

Drop-Ins Plate Dispensers

A drop-in plate dispenser is a semi-permanent installation that works best for restaurants, hotels, and other foodservice operations that remain stationary. As with mobile machinery, the operator has to determine whether a heated or non-heated option will work best. With drop-ins, there are three variations: open, shielded, and heated. Which one will work best for your operation? Let’s find out…


Consider a shielded dispenser if you’re looking for ultimate protection from particles and contaminants. This spring loaded plate dispenser’s stainless steel outfit limits potential plate chipping for added protection. 


Choose open plate dispensers if you’re in need of quick access and economic dispensing. The open structure of this dish dispenser is lightweight and allows for free air circulation and easy cleaning.


Heated plate dispensers are outfitted with a shielded stainless steel structure and will dispense plates at the ideal temperatures of heated, center-of-the-plate meal service. Heated plate dispensers are usually equipped with thermostatic control ranging from a minimum of 100­°F (38°C) and a maximum of 175°F (79°C).

shielded, open, and heated drop-in plate dispensers

Why Selecting a Plate Dispenser is Crucial for Your Operation

Plate dispensers make foodservice operations run a lot more smoothly for not only your staff, but for your customers and their overall experience. Spring loaded plate dispensers can be considered an operator’s best friend by reducing the burdens placed on staffing in today’s labor-challenged foodservice industry. Without a dish dispenser, employees would have to constantly stack plates throughout the service window, often making multiple trips to deliver the same number of dishes as a dispenser. Imagine how much more attention they could put into the customer if they didn’t have to focus the majority of their energy on just this task.

woman using mobile plate dispensers with two other plate dispensers next to her

How to Select the Right Plate Dispenser

It can be valuable for foodservice operators to discuss their own set of unique goals and challenges before deciding on any type of foodservice equipment purchase such as a spring loaded plate dispenser. It is recommended to consider the different types of features and benefits for both mobile and drop-in plate dispensers in relation to your operation, building, clientele, and demand. If further assistance and recommendation is needed, the team here at Lakeside can quickly help deliver the right plate dispenser solution to accomplish your goals. Contact a plate dispenser expert here