Countertop Options for Foodservice

While the work surfaces in your kitchen are usually stainless steel, there are other options for the countertops in your serving area.

Cambria Countertop

Cambria offers many countertop color choices and is easily maintained and durable, making it an excellent choice in foodservice areas. (Photo courtesy of CambriaUSA)

Quartz material such as Zodiaq™ or Cambria™

  • Is non-porous. No sealant or polish is required.
  • Is made with pure quartz crystals, one of nature’s strongest materials.
  • Comes in a wide variety of colors.
  • Is NSF/ANSI 51 Certified for food contact.
  • Comes standard with polished finish although honed is available too.
  • Is easy to maintain, is extremely durable and chemical resistant.
  • Is heat and scratch resistant but not heat and scratch proof. It should not be used directly as a cutting board and a trivet should always be used to prevent damage from heat.
  • Can be cleaned with a damp cloth and non-bleach, nonabrasive cleanser when necessary.
  • Can be damaged by sudden and/or rapid change of temperature especially near the edges.

Solid Surface material such as Corian™:

  • Is easy to clean and maintained and can be renewed if scratched.
  • Is stain resistant and minor discolorations can be removed.
  • Comes in a wide variety of colors.
  • Is NSF/ANSI 51 Certified for food contact.
  • Comes in three finishes – matte/satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss.
  • Is easy to clean with soapy water, ammonia based cleaners or solid surface cleaner. Chlorinated solvents and strong acid cleaners should be avoided.
  • Withstands heat better than most surface materials but hot cookware should not be set directly on the surface.
  • Should never be used directly as a cutting board.
  • Is somewhat brittle so cut outs can be problematic.

Recycled glass and cement product such as Ice Stone™:

  • Is made from recycled glass, cement and pigment.
  • Is extremely durable and sustainable.
  • Is a very dense but still porous so surfaces would have to be sealed to prevent staining and waxed to prevent etching.
  • Spills should be wiped up immediately, especially acidic liquids.
  • Can be cleaned with products that are free of chlorine, ammonia, acids or citrus scents. Only cleaning products that are recommended by the manufacturer should be used.
  • Cutting boards and trivets should be used to prevent scratches and heat damage.

A few options you may encounter that are not recommended in foodservices areas are outlined below.

Plastic Laminate. Although Plastic Laminate comes in a variety of colors and is less expensive than quartz or solid surface it is not recommended in foodservice areas for the following reasons:

  • The thin surface can chip or wear away.
  • Stains can seep into the seams easily.
  • It is not heat resistant and is easily damaged.
  • It is not easily repaired and must be replaced if damaged.
  • Is easily damaged by moisture.

Natural Stone. While natural stone offers natural beauty and some heat and scratch resistance it is not recommended for foodservice areas:

  • The surface is more porous than solid surface or quartz and thus more easily stained.
  • Seams can trap dirt and are difficult to clean.
  • Scratches are hard to remove. Nicks, chips and cracks may not be repairable.
  • Must be professionally resealed and repolished.
  • Less variety in color and patterns.

Ceramic Tile. Ceramic Tile offers versatility with many sizes and colors that are available but is usually not recommended for foodservice countertops for the following reasons:

  • The grout lines collect dirt and are difficult to clean.
  • The tile is not very durable or scratch resistant.



Capturing Cooking Effluent with the Exhaust Hood

Q: I’m having issues with my exhaust hood not catching all the discharge from my cooking equipment in the restaurant I just took over from a failed operator. Any ideas?

Exhaust Hood End Panels

Illustration of partial (top drawing) and full (bottom drawing) side panels. Used with permission. From Design Guide 1: Improving Commercial Kitchen Ventilation System Performance, Selecting & Sizing Exhaust Hoods

A: Issues involving exhaust hoods can be complicated and expensive. Start with the easy things first:

Check the fan to be sure it is operating. If the fan has a belt, also make sure the belt is in place.

Make sure the filters are clean and in place.

Ensure you have the proper overhang on the hood beyond the cooking equipment. The current code states that the hood must overhang the cooking surface a minimum of 6 inches.

Make sure there are no cross drafts from fans used to cool the staff or from diffusers in the ceiling for heating/air conditioning supplies. Cross drafts from diffusers, even those located many feet away from the hood, can have adverse effects on capture.

Experiment with side (or end) panels. Old cardboard boxes make great temporary trial capture improvers. Start by placing a sheet of cardboard at each end of the hood forming a partial end panel on the hood. Blocking off just 25-50% of the ends of the hood can make dramatic changes in capture along the front of the hood. If the temporary fix works, have the ends fabricated out of stainless steel and install them in place of the cardboard.

If all this fails consider hiring an expert to evaluate the situation. Hood design has advanced very rapidly recently and the new designs save energy and work better. Pay back can be more rapid than with other energy saving improvements so it is work the investment to hire a knowledgeable professional and budget for the best system for your circumstances.