Before you begin choosing a serving counter, a key consideration may be whether this space will also be used for other purposes. It can also be helpful to know what type of food will likely be placed on it. The size of the serving trays could determine the length and width of the counter, but the shape might largely be determined by the floor plan of the room and how many guests need to access the space.
If you are operating a business, you might choose a different serving counter than you would choose for your home. A restaurant countertop might be used only for serving food, while a residential one could be used for other purposes as well. Counters for a restaurant may have slots for serving trays, lights, or a hood over them. Kitchen counters could sometimes have electrical outlets so small appliances can be used there. They may also have inserts that can be used as a cutting board or for placing hot pans, so you may want to consider whether these features might be convenient for you.
A refrigerated serving counter can be a good choice for a salad bar. One of these serving cabinets could consist of individually refrigerated serving platters, or it could simply have trays for you to put ice in. This may not work well if you are serving meats or vegetables, so you may want a serving counter with room for steam trays or gel candles instead.
If you are using very large food baskets, you may want a serving counter that is somewhat wider than other models are. It can also be a good idea to think about how much food you might place on the countertop so you can make sure it is long enough. The unit should be a height that is easily accessible for most adults, so somewhere between 3 and 4 feet (0.92 to 1.2 m) is normally ideal.
Before you have a serving counter installed, you may want to think about how the room is laid out, and determine the best way for your guests to access the serving table. There should be adequate room to move freely between tables and the counter without interfering with workers who are preparing meals. An "l" or "u" shaped counter could be best for a single file line, but a straight counter can be ideal if guests might serve themselves from either side of the unit.