Stainless Is No Longer The Best Choice For Serving Lines

While we still receive numerous requests for stainless steel serving lines from customers, it makes for a terrible choice for many reasons. These include increased cost, decreased durability, no MateLock ends, increased cleaning costs due to fingerprints & dust and finally a limited 90 day warranty vs up to 5 years on ABS facade modules.

Increased Up Front Cost
Stainless Steel modules costs 20% more than ABS serving equipment. As to the differences between ABS and Stainless, there are many. ABS is a more expensive material than stainless per pound but Stainless Steel costs 10x more to form to our units. The reason we need to charge more for a stainless item is because they need to be handmade one at a time. Moreover the material is not fun to work with. It scratches and needs to be polished. It dents and there are no cures. Dust adheres to it and it is not easily polished. Yes it can be done but its labor intensive. 40 years ago all serving counters were made of stainless. Now only a handful are made this way due to its clear disadvantages over ABS materials. Plus you will be paying 20% more for the serving lines.

Decreased Durability
As time goes on, if you see a dent in your stainless front, it's very expensive to fix. With ABS, the color is all the way thru the material. If someone scratches stainless with a key, there is no cure. If ABS is scratched, the mark under the scratch is the same color and the scratch is barely noticeable. If someone puts a Heart on ABS with a marker, and says "I love Jane" you can take paint thinner or bleach or any strong cleaner and wipe the message away. This is not possible with stainless.

No MateLock Ends
Stainless units are manufactured with flat ends. MateLocks are not available since you can't form the stainless in the same shape. Therefore the units cannot be securely locked together making lining up the units together more difficult.

Increased Labor Costs
Labor Costs to clean up stainless steel daily are huge. It may take 15 minutes per unit to polish them back to looking good. Finger prints show, dust shows, scratches show.

Only 90 Day Warranty Available For Stainless Steel Units
Given that all the parts are handmade, the warranty on a stainless unit is 90 days and not 5 years. It's almost impossible to support stainless equipment in the same manner as ABS.

Summary
We do build in stainless but it costs significantly more. We will price both for you if you wish, but ABS modules will be about 15 to 25 percent less. ABS will last you for 25 years and still look the same. ABS will cost you less to service over the 25 years. Stainless will not look the same a week after installation. Stainless will require an hour a day more labor to clean. I really see no advantage to buying stainless. There's an order in house now for a stainless line. It will look good the first day; however after that it goes downhill. There's another order in house for a hospital that asked for stainless. However after hearing me out and understanding the issues, they chose ABS.

We do look forward to providing quality equipment that really will look great and work great. Foods will be attractively displayed. Foods will be well lighted, well cooled, well heated, and safe from contaminants. Daily set up and cleanup will be a minimum and operating costs will be 1/2 (half) of others due to our patented designs.

Custom Designs
Customers also frequently ask us about building a custom unit to their specs (i.e. a unit with 6 hot wells instead of 5). This is not possible as all of our units have already been tested by regulatory agencies and have received NSF and UL approvals. Any new design would need to go through that process which can take up to a year to receive approvals, not to mention the time and expense to redesign the unit.

All of us who manufacturer NSF approved and UL listed commercial serving counters have few options. Every existing product has been tested by these compliance agencies. Once the product is tested, all of us who manufacture to these standards are not permitted to ship other than the tested designs.

For example, the body materials are tested for:

  • cleanability
  • fire safety
  • bug control
  • electrical safety
  • smoke tests
  • temperature performance
  • And dozens of other things

So let's say, we wanted to change the ABS material to a different material. Every item would then have to be manufactured in that material and sent to a testing lab for approval to all the standards. This is not feasible for a single job or even a hundred jobs. The costs are simply too great. Plus it could take a year to design it, manufacturer it, debug it and get it inspected. You wouldn't wait, we couldn't afford it. Even if we did build it since it is not tested we could not label it NSF or UL even though it probably is. So the main disadvantage are no UL or NSF approvals which would be a problem for your health inspector.