Published on Thursday, 01 September 2005
Written by Tony Weber, Associate Editor
Operators order mobile racks to fill the task of moving product from one place to another. The simplicity of this task, however, does not mean that mobile racks are simple items with no distinction between one and another.
- Mobile racks can be built to transport a variety of different items, from half- to full-size steam pans and baking sheets to 24-inch by 24-inch doughnut screens. Also available are racks designed to hold trays for banquet operations.
- Oftentimes, operators and dealers alike will order a rack with little regard for its intended use. When specifying a mobile rack, DSRs should match it to an operation's existing cooking equipment. For example, operators planning to use the rack to transport food cooked in half-size steam pans should order units designed to carry half-size steam pans. While this may seem like an obvious point, it is often overlooked, forcing some operators to transfer food to a pan size that fits their mobile rack, or to place the pan inside another pan.
- Not only can racks hold different-sized pans, they come in many sizes, including double racks that can carry two pans on each level, and half-size racks, which stand about 3-feet tall. The latter can come equipped with wings that fold out and a stainless-steel work area or a surface designed to hold a cutting board, thereby turning them into mobile workstations.
- A special category in this family of products, refrigerator racks fit within standard refrigerator dimensions. The casters on these units are positioned to prevent them from swiveling outside the perimeter of the rack, which enables it to fit inside refrigeration units easily. In addition, these racks' runners (the part of the rack where pans actually rest) are spaced to allow air circulation for efficient cooling.
- When selling a mobile rack, DSRs should consult with their manufacturers' representatives to make sure the units under consideration can bear the amount of weight that will be part of standard operator use.
- Mobile racks are generally constructed of either aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum is strong, light and thus easy to move, and is generally very durable. However, the material oxidizes over time, causing racks to dull in appearance. Stainless-steel racks are heavier, making them less likely to tip over. Their welds are generally stronger than aluminum's, and they do not dull over time. Their added weight, however, makes them more difficult to push and they are more expensive compared to their aluminum counterparts.
- When it comes to a rack's casters, the more mobile the rack will be, the larger and more durable its casters should be. If operators plan to move a rack over thresholds or other rough surfaces, they should consider ordering plate casters, which are screwed into the rack and can take more punishment than standard stem casters. DSRs should also encourage their customers to order casters with locks, which make the jobs of loading and unloading trays on a mobile rack significantly easier.
- Operators can order many optional features for their mobile racks. They can equip their new racks with tray guards to prevent pans from falling out. These guards can be removable if a rack might sometimes need to be used in a pass-through fashion. Also available are solid bases that can catch any falling food, preventing it from landing on the floor, and solid tops, where operators can place empty pans while unloading a rack. Operators can also order mobile racks with a variety of bumpers and guards, including corner bumpers, vertical bumpers and perimiter bumpers. These not only protect the units, but they can also minimize the damage done to doors and walls when a mobile rack is accidentally pushed into them.
- Many manufacturers also offer mobile racks with ribbed runners. Most suitable for units constructed of aluminum, the ribs prevent metal shavings from being created when metal pans are loaded or unloaded into a rack. These shavings can often fall into food before it is served to customers, creating a serious food-safety hazard.
- Caring for mobile racks is a fairly easy task. Their casters should be oiled every six months and they should be thoroughly cleaned, possibly with a power washer, once every year.