Why Are Restaurant Plates So Hot: Burning Question Finally Answered

Everyone has heard the phrase before ”be careful the plate is hot”. Well, why are they hot might be your question if you can seriously burn your fingers. There are many answers to that question and that is the topic of this article.

In addition to the main question, I will educate you on some additional concerns considering hot plates and the topics revolving around that subject. But first, why are restaurant plates so hot?

Restaurants serve the food on top of hot plates because it will keep the food hot and warm longer. This will prevent the food from going cold offering better customer service when the person can enjoy the food without rushing and the last bites will still be warm.

Imagine going to a restaurant where the food hasn’t been kept under heat while waiting for the waiter to pick it up and placed it on top of a chill plate. The food would get cold quite fast and half of the meal wouldn’t be exactly enjoyable to eat. Let’s take a deeper look at the subject and see how the plate gets hot in the first place.

Heat cabinet

The first place where the plate gets in touch with high temperatures is the heating cabinet. In most restaurants, the plates are stacked and stored in a heated cabinet under the countertop where the dishes will get assembled and where the waiters will come and get the orders for the customers.

This is because the food will be placed on a hot plate as soon as the assembling will start, therefore heat cabinets will maximize the time that the food will be hot and enjoyable to eat.

Heat lamp

After the plates are taken from the heating cabinet and the food is assembled it is ready to be served. However, it will usually take some amount of time before the waiter can get to it, especially if the restaurant is on its busiest hour and the meals need to be kept hot a while longer.

Heat lamps are the perfect choice for this and they will emit high heat on top of the finished meals where they won’t start getting cold, therefore the customers will always be served quality food even if I have been ”standing” on the countertop for a while.

Fajitas plate

The two reasons above are in use all the time, however fajitas plates are without a question the hottest in this list and it is only used when the customer orders fajitas or something similar.

The way this works is that the fajitas are assembled on top of a fajitas plate which is made from cast iron which can get really, really hot especially when the plate is usually heated inside of an oven and sprayed with acidy juice for flavor and smoke such as lemon juice.

This way the customer is served a smoking and hot plate filled with delicious fajitas that usually includes vegetables and meats served with tortilla bread and side fries.

What it really comes down to is that the food needs to be kept hot as long as possible so it is enjoyable to eat and the plates can also be made hot for the show in the process, such as in fajitas.

Are hot plates dangerous

When served a hot plate in a restaurant, the reason why the waiters warn about the plate isn’t for nothing. Hot plates can be dangerous and they can even result in burns if the customer isn’t careful, especially cast iron fajitas plates are really dangerous if, for example, the hand gets in touch with it.

How do restaurants keep their food hot

There are multiple ways how restaurant keeps their food hot. The most commonly used equipment is a heated cabinet, heat lamp, ovens, steam tables, catering warmers, and soup warmers. Each of these serves a different purpose for different types of food and many of these can be used for general warming as well such as the oven.

Should plates be warmed

It isn’t required for restaurants to heat their plates, in fact, most customers wouldn’t probably give it much thought. However, the food will be hot way longer if the plate is warmed and it is a sign of a quality restaurant when the workers are doing everything they can to provide the best dining experience without going under from where the fence is lowest.

Can you use a cooler to keep food hot

In the same way that a cooler keeps the cool temperatures inside of the cooler, it will do the exact same for hot temperatures. You can definitely use a cooler to keep your food warm for a longer period of time. In fact, it is the perfect choice to be used for a picnic or whatever really.


The plates certainly aren’t hot only for the customers to be careful about but they serve a great purpose within the restaurants. Keep an eye out the next time you are out dining in a nicer restaurant and see if the plates are in fact hot or not.

As a chef, I always check whether the restaurant serves the foods on a hot plate just for fun because it gives me the general idea of how the restaurant operates and other chefs out there can probably relate that when you have worked in a restaurants kitchen, you don’t ever look restaurants the same way than most people that have nothing to do with cooking or working in the restaurant industry.

Read also: Why Do Restaurants Use White Plates?

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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