Technology & Equipment

Deciding between modular and one-piece custom serving counters

Building out a serving line comes with its fair share of challenges. Layout and design decisions come first, but operators must then decide how they plan on implementing that layout. Chief among those considerations is whether to use a modular or a customized one-piece serving counter.

Voyagers counter

When deciding on which type of counter, it becomes important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both. Doing so will ensure counter chosen will meet the facility’s serving needs and will also help avoid issues in areas such as cleaning, electrical requirements or durability.

Modular counters

The name alone indicates that these counters are easy to install and move, versatile and will most likely be less expensive than their one-piece counterparts. In recent years, modular serving counters have significantly improved in terms of their offerings. Many of the material options commonly offered for one-piece counters, including graphics, counter tops, sneeze guards and colors, can be part of a modular unit. High-end versions of modular counters can even be built to look seamless.

Modular counters do come with their share of disadvantages, however. The modularity creates a vulnerability to foods and liquids that could penetrate the seams, requiring the units be routinely separated for adequate upkeep. Because of their size and weight, this can be a cumbersome job and may require a team to unlock, clean and relock the units.

While a modular unit may appeal to an operator who wants the option of future serving line reconfiguration, that may not actually be possible. Hot and cold modular counters have different power requirements, and so they need to be placed where they can reach appropriate power sources. If there is a desire to possibly relocate the counters in the future, additional plans need to be made ahead of the counter installation to make the correct power outlets available. 

Custom one-piece counters

Compared to a modular counter, a custom one-piece counter is designed to fit any footprint and space. With no seam and a greater variety of material options and designs to choose from, the visual appeal of a one-piece serving counter can’t be beat. The same can be said for durability. The welded steel framework and stronger counter tops of these units can mean a good 40 to 50 years of service when properly maintained. Additionally, as these are built with an internal electrical load center, all cabinet componentry is given a dedicated electrical breaker, meaning fewer electrical considerations at install and a lower installation cost.

A one-piece counter also means greater cabinet storage and kick plates that hide wiring. Easier electrical disconnect makes cleaning easier and safer. Finally, they’ll hold their position better than modular counters, even with energetic middle- and high-schoolers bumping into them in line.

These added benefits do come at a cost. Generally, custom one-piece units will be more expensive, take longer to install, have more installation requirements (i.e. on-site welding and mechanical work) and provide much less serving layout flexibility. While equipment can be arranged in just about any order during the design process, once the cabinets are in place, they are there for good.

Both modular and one-piece custom counters can work in a variety of applications. What’s most important when choosing an option is choosing the right one. Cost, durability, function, form and required maintenance should all be taken into consideration when choosing a serving counter that could be spending the next half century in a facility.

This post is sponsored by LTI, Inc.