Good, better, best: Counter tops

June 11, 2014 | by Greg Swistak

When people pass food carts and kiosks in high-traffic areas, the first things they notice are the base and the bulkhead/canopy. The first thing they use, however, is the counter top. And they use it a lot.

Depending on the location, the counter can serve anywhere from a dozen or so customers a day to more than a thousand. And in a high-volume food and drink application, it could encounter untold spills of any number of substances. In other words, a counter has to be tough.

The rub, though, is that sometimes durability comes at a cost, either in dollars or trade-offs in look and feel.

An ideal manufacturer of custom portables such as carts and kiosks will offer its customers a range of choices for this critical component. Ikoniq, for example, looks at its options in term of good, better and best.

Good. When resources are tight, two solutions can be called up for duty: Plastic laminate and Densetech.

Plastic laminate, such as applied in residential kitchens and bathrooms, should be used for primarily dry applications, as any moisture that makes it way to the particle-board substrate will cause warping, eventually dislodging the banding. In addition, it is very prone to nicking and chipping

Densetech can be used for wet applications, such as where drinks are sold. Be aware, though, that the material is easily scratched and any blemishes will eventually turn an unsightly milky white.

As a matter of course, laminate surfaces will need to be replaced more often than their tougher counterparts, but the math may be attractive enough that an operator may find a favorable calculation. For example, a granite counter that costs $1,000 may cost only $170 in laminate. Depending on the variables, it may be worthwhile to do a few replacements rather than make a larger initial outlay.

Better. It may not the be the most sophisticated of surfaces, but it’s hard to beat the strength of stainless steel. Capable of enduring intense wear and tear, the material makes an ideal choice for an operator in especially rugged conditions. Some buyers may be concerned that the association of stainless steel with down-market applications, such as in school cafeterias and corrections facilities, will fail to do their brand justice. But with thoughtful integration with richer surfaces — dark, wood-like columns or polished brass fixtures — the metal can present as well as it lasts.

Best.For a top-of-the-line look and impressive durability, operators should consider such options as granite, engineered stone, DuPont’s Corian and Zodiac quartz. Their rich visual textures and (excepting natural granite) composite-material strength make them ideal for club-level applications and high-end convention areas. The products aren’t so forgiving as stainless steel, but many buyers accept the compromise for the improved aesthetics.

In subsequent blogs, we’ll examine material options for bases and canopies/bulkheads.


Topics: Equipment & Supplies, Restaurant Design / Layout

Greg Swistak
Greg Swistak is the president of Ikoniq, a provider of custom carts, kiosks and repurposed shipping containers. wwwView Greg Swistak's profile on LinkedIn

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