Learn How to Maintain a Cold Food Bar

A cold food bar can be a fantastic addition to any restaurant or cafeteria, offering customers a diverse selection of chilled and refreshing dishes. It increases the opportunity to offer things like fresh fruit and salads, as well as to provide a place for showcasing grab-and-go items such as pre-packaged salads, sandwiches and other items that require refrigeration. These items will increase the healthy profile of the food you are serving, adding to the attractiveness of your food establishment.

Read on to explore the step-by-step process of incorporating a cold food bar into your establishment, taking into account safety and the equipment needed to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for both customers and staff.

Cold Food Bar Temperatures

There are a number of salad bar foods that are considered Time and Temperature Control (TCS) foods. At the right temperature, these foods create harmful microorganisms that rapidly reproduce, leading to foodborne illnesses, most common of which are salmonella and E coli. The most common culprits in are cut tomatoes and leafy greens. These two items must be kept below the danger zone of 41°F to prevent bacteria growth. 

Cold Food Bar Equipment

There are several types of food equipment that will make it easy to maintain the temperature of the food items in your cold food bar. You can either use a non refrigerated cold food bar that uses ice to keep items cold, or a refrigerated cold bar that uses a refrigeration system to maintain cold temperatures. Regardless which option you choose, it is necessary to keep the food at a temperature below 41 degrees F in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and keep your customers safe.

The Non Refrigerated Cold Food Bar

If you plan on using a non refrigerated cold food bar, you will be using an ice-filled well to keep everything cold. These units feature convenient drainage options that enable the water that melts from the ice to drain away from the unit. Because these units don't rely on an electrical source, they can be rolled around easily from place to place and used for both indoor and outdoor functions.They are available in different sizes with different pan configurations to suit any requirement.

How to Use a Non Refrigerated Cold Food Bar

The main well for your cold food bar should be filled with plenty of crushed ice leaving only enough room for the pans of food. Be sure to add the ice just prior to putting the food pans inside, so that it will have the least amount of exposure to the air. When adding the ice, make indentations for all your food pans and pack the ice in tight. The more packed in the ice is, the slower it will melt.

Whenever you change the items in your cold food bar, be sure to check the ice levels. If the ice is melting, you will need to add some more ice. Having an ice tote handy will help you transport crushed ice as needed making it easy for you to maintain the temperature of the food you are serving.

A Refrigerated Cold Food Bar

A refrigerated cold food bar is an excellent option if your buffet table is located near electrical outlets and you prefer the convenience of a refrigeration system to keep food cold. When placing food items into the cold food bar, make sure not to leave any room in between the pans. If you leave any room for the cold air to escape, you will not be able to maintain the temperatures properly. Always try to use stainless steel pans rather than plastic. as this will maintain the cold temperatures better, keeping your food fresh for longer. It is also important to constantly monitor and record the internal temperatures, around every 30 minutes, to ensure food safety.

Cold Food Bar Accessories

There are many accessories available to help you utilize use your cold food bar to its maximum potential. A sneeze guard will act as a barrier between your customers and the food helping to keep germs and air-borne contaminants away while the food sits out in the food pans. Another helpful item is a cutting board attachment that will enable your staff to cut and add fresh salad ingredients right next to the food bar. To enable your customers to help themselves to your salads, fruits, desserts and other cold food offerings make sure they can rest their plates and trays comfortably on plate shelves and tray slides, that attach easily to your cold food bar.