Commercial Toaster Buying Guide

Commercial Toaster Buying Guides

Learn about different types of commercial toasters like pop-up, conveyor, and bagel toasters and what you should consider before purchasing one for your restaurant.

No other kitchen appliance is as common as the humble toaster. Found on kitchen counters and breakfast buffets alike, this piece of equipment serves just one task: toasting bread. What it may lack in versatility it more than makes up for in its ability to deliver the perfect (and highly popular) golden-brown slice of bread.

Still, commercial toasters face a common misconception—that they’re the same as your at-home varieties. Restaurateurs who are happy with “any ‘ol toaster” soon learn that durability and reliability all hinge on having a toaster that can meet the high demand of a commercial business.

Choosing the right toaster for your business is dependent on your unique needs. When it comes to toasting bread, the concept is simple: get a golden, crisp exterior without turning your bread into an inedible black brick of char. On the other hand, it's the execution that'll get you. If your business is a fast casual concept that requires hundreds of buns toasted per hour, you may find that a conveyor toaster would better suit your needs than a pop-up variety. Read on to learn about the different types of toasters on the market and which might be best for your business.

What are you toasting?
You might think you could save a few bucks by purchasing a smaller commercial toaster, but think again. If you utilize your toaster for long stretches at a time beyond its recommended usage settings, you inadvertently put additional stress on the heating elements, which in turn could severely shorten the life of your equipment. If you are also trying to use a toaster with a narrow product clearance to toast larger items than bagels or Texas Toast, you may also find more product getting burned and thrown into the trash - all of that waste quickly adds to your expense cost. Ensure that you pick a toaster with a product opening large enough to accommodate everything you wish to toast.

Speed and Time to Toast
It's as simple as answering How Much? And How Fast? Maybe you are a hotel that offers a continental breakfast in the mornings to guests, in which case a standard commercial pop-up toaster could easily meet demand. Or perhaps your business is a restaurant that specializes in breakfast all day (which equates to lots of sliced bread) per service. Make sure you pick up a toaster built to accommodate the demands of your business - trust us on this one.

Size of Toaster
The physical size of your toaster should also be considered in your purchasing decision. Where do you intend to store your equipment? Some conveyor toasters can accommodate a conveyor width as much as 14 inches, making it a sizeable footprint on your counter. Ensure your kitchen is equipped for the toaster you decide on.

Voltage Requirement
A standard 120V connection can accommodate most of the light duty commercial toasters, but don't be surprised if the toaster model you have your eye on requires a 208/240V connection. In the cases where a higher voltage connection is required, ensure your kitchen is equipped with this connection - if not, you will need to contact an electrician to set up the proper outlet for you. If you do have a 208/240V connection in your kitchen, consider its location - is it located in a place where you can place a toaster? Is it in a spot that makes sense for the line? Productivity and efficiency can be greatly affected by having equipment placed in an inconvenient spot.

There are two main types of toasters on the market today: pop-up toasters and conveyor toasters. Within these groups you'll find the toasters divided into three basic categories when it comes to usage: light duty, medium duty and heavy duty. Determining what level of toaster to purchase all comes down to your specific needs and requirements.

Commercial Pop-Up Toasters
On the outside you might think pop-up toasters are no different than the one mom used to toast your English muffin, but on the inside, it's so much more than that. These commercial grade pop-up toasters are capable of toasting up to 500 slices of bread per hour and not burn out in the process.

Conveyor Toasters
Conveyor toasters move bread along a belt in a heated chamber in order to toast the sides. With a conveyor toaster, you can get as much as 3 times the amount of slices toasted than you would with a pop-up toaster. That means you'll not only get toast quickly and efficiently, but your equipment will be in it for the long haul. Just remember that like pop-up toasters, conveyor toasters are typically made with a specific product opening - fitting a slice of bread in the main opening is one thing, but ensuring there's enough clearance for your bread to flip correctly in the back of the machine is another matter; this could cause problems with Texas Toast and bagels. Ensure you have enough room for what you want to toast by checking out the product specifications.

Bagel Toasters
Bagel toasters only utilize one set of heating elements (on the inside) so that the user can toast the interior of a bagel while also keeping its exterior warm and soft. These toasters also feature a larger opening to accommodate thicker slices of bread. If you anticipate toasting more than a regular-sized slice of bread, you might want to consider a toaster that accommodates bagels, English muffins and more.

Bun Toasters
Bun toasters vary from other commercial toasters in that they utilize griddle plates instead of heating elements. This enables you to toast items dry or with butter, making it perfect for fast casual concepts churning out sandwiches or burgers on a toasted, buttery bun.

Pop-Up Toaster Conveyor Toaster Bagel Toaster Bun Grilling Toaster
Good for Thin sliced bread and English Muffins Bread, bagels, English Muffins and some specialty breads Bagels Bun halves, bagels, hoagie rolls
Speed Up to 500 slices/hour Up to 1600 slices per hour 500 - 1200 slices per hour Up to 1600 slices per hour
Countertop Footprint ~ 15 square inches ~30 - 39 square inches ~19 - 23 square inches ~18 - 46 square inches
Voltage Requirements Typically 115V though some heavy duty models require a 208V connection 208 is common. Some models come in 115V, but toasting speed is noticeably slower 120V or 208 Typically a 208 connection is required
Features Come in light, medium and heavy duty models depending on usage Some feature programmable options for speed and heating level Variable speeds, timer and heating controls Requires Teflon sheets when toasting items dry, some feature a thermostatic control and timer

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Any piece of equipment wouldn’t be complete without the additional bells and whistles you can get with it. Like purchasing a new car, these add-ons typically translate directly into a higher cost—however, you might find that the higher initial cost pays for itself (and then some) when you factor in the additional revenue saved from less product waste and increased efficiency.

Some toasters allow you to program specific cooking times, similar to how a microwave works. This enables you to pre-program your equipment to ensure the appropriate heat and cooking time so you can guarantee a perfect piece of toast for every plate. It’s practically foolproof, and can save you big on wasted product.

Convertible Options
Some pop-up and conveyor toasters feature a bagel option which only activates one side of the heating elements so that only one side of the bread gets toasted; this ensures a nice, crispy interior with a soft, warm exterior.

Wall Mount and Stacking Kit.
Toasters can take up a lot of space in your kitchen. Some manufacturers offer wall mount or stacking kits that enable you to save on space in tight quarters. If space is a consideration for you, be sure to check that your model of toaster is compatible with these accessories.

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Like most commercial kitchen equipment, regular maintenance is key to extending the life of your toaster. Toasters emit a lot of heat in short bursts of time, which puts a strain on wires and other electrical components. And don’t forget the grime that your toaster is exposed to daily. Without regular cleaning, you’ll see those oils and residues start to build up on the exterior over time. When this grime blocks crucial airflow or works its way inside of your equipment, you have a serious problem on your hands. Here are some of the common issues that may cause your toaster to fail.

Damage to Electrical Wires
Toasters work by reaching high temperatures very quickly, and overtime that extreme temperature variance can affect the electrical wires in your machine, causing them to short or crack. At that point your only option is to call out a service technician (who may or may not fix the issue) or purchase an entirely new unit. Be sure to purchase a toaster that can meet the demands of your business, and also review that manufacturer’s warranty—if your toaster breaks within the warranty period, you might be able to have it replaced at no extra charge.

Connection to the Terminal Block
Regular intermittent connections are prevalent in toasters, which increases your risk of one of those electrical components to fail. Most manufacturers offer warranties to cover the cost and repair if anything fails prematurely on your toaster.

Keep the Fan Opening Clean
The majority of equipment failures could be avoided with regular maintenance—primarily, cleaning. Toasters emit a lot of heat (that’s the point, right?) and if it’s unable to circulate air into the machine to keep it cool, you could be looking at some fried heating elements.

Space Considerations
Failure to provide the right amount of clearance for your toaster could drastically reduce its lifespan. Be sure to provide at least a couple inches around the unit both on the sides and back to ensure an adequate air flow.

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