Guide to Catering Equipment


When purchasing catering equipment, it is best to begin with considering whether you will be working with seated dinners, buffet-style dinners or both.
Next, calculate the average size of your largest booking and whether or not you will need to transport your food to the event.

ProductSeated Special Event Caterer without VenueBuffet Caterer with VenueBuffet Caterer without VenueHow Many Do You Need?
(Calculations for a 25 Guest Dinner Event)
Pan CarriersYESNOYESOne Carrier with Capacity for (4) 2.5 inch Steam Table Pans
Beverage CarriersYESNOYESEnough to hold 800 ounces of cold beverages and 300 ounces of coffee
Ice CaddiesYESNOYES100 pound capacity
Chafing DishesNOYESYESEnough to hold (4) 2.5 inch Steam Table Pans, for 2 main dishes and 2 side dishes
Hot Plates or Induction CookersOptionalOptionalOptionalOne per menu item you plan to make on the spot
FountainsOptionalOptionalOptionalOne fountain, smallest size: Chocolate: 4 pound capacity, Champagne: 4 gallon capacity
Carving StationsNOYESYESOne
FurnitureOptionalYESOptionalOne buffet table, 5 seating tables, 25 chairs

Types of Pan Carriers

Front Load Pan Carrier

Also known as insulated pan carriers or food pan carriers, they are best used for transporting food pans in bulk. Once at the location, the food pans are then loaded into a chafing dish for service. The following specifications for front load pan carriers are as follows:

  • Insulated to keep hot food hot and cold foods cold.
  • Electrically heated pan carriers maintain temperatures between 150º and 165º without cooking.
  • Capacity ranges from(2) 12×20 inch pans up to(8) 12×20 inch pans.
  • Stackable models are available and include carrying handles for easy transport.
  • Pan carriers can stand over five feet tall and are available with casters attached for easy mobility.

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Top Load Pan Carrier

These pans are best used to serve food for more casual events. This type of carrier has a removable lid and fits easily into catering vehicles. The following specifications for top load pan carriers are as follows:

  • They range in depth from 2.5 to 16 inches.
  • Insulated to keep hot food between 175º and 189º and cold food between 33º and 37º for four hours.
  • They come with two available handle styles: lip or loop.

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Types of Beverage Carriers

Beverage Carriers

Beverage Carriers are designed to keep hot beverages hot and cold beverages cold for several hours. When selecting the best beverage carrier for your catering business, consider the size, color and overall design. Here are the main components to consider in size, color and design:


  • Ranging from 1.5 to 11.75 gallons in capacity


  • Neutral colors work well with all types of catering events
  • Match the set-up or display area


  • Comfortable handles provide easy transport
  • Built-in coffee station organizers for coffee or tea service
  • Car/Van friendly design (flat or wide bottom) for transporting beverages to catering site

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Beverage Dispensers

If you are catering a special event such as a wedding, you will also want to shop for hot and cold beverage dispensers, as large plastic beverage carriers do not work well in a formal display.

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It depends on the type/time of event, but generally for 25 guests you will need:

  • 800 ounces of Soda, Water, Juice
  • 75-100 Alcoholic Beverages
  • 300 ounces of Coffee

For more details, download our catering calculator

What Do You Need to Know about Ice Caddies?

Ice is essential to all catering operations. Carriers are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and offer options for all catering events. Consider the following when selecting an ice caddy for your catering operation:

  • Ice caddies range in capacity from 20 to 200 pounds. Learn more about how much ice you need.
  • Many ice caddies have wheels, offering ease of mobility.
  • Purchasing multiple ice caddies in various colors allows caterers to assign caddies to different applications.

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Sara Henderson

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