It's just a work table, right? Sure, but there are several factors to consider when buying stainless steel tables.
How much use will the table get?
The usage will help to determine the gauge of steel to purchase. Standard options are 14, 16 and 18 gauge with 14 being the thickest and 18 being the thinnest. Of course, 14 gauge is the most expensive as well. If you're planning to dump heavy items on it consistently, 14 gauge is probably the way to go. If you'll only be doing light prep, 18 gauge might make more sense.
Will you need an undershelf?
Tables come standard with either an undershelf or rear cross braces for support. If you plan to store boxes or other materials underneath the table, you would obviously choose an undershelf. If you plan to put other equipment or trash, rear cross braces might be best. Think about your particular application and what makes sense in that space.
How long do you want the table to last?
This is where the type of stainless steel comes into play and there are two main options. 304 stainless steel is a higher quality and contains approximately 18% chromium and 0.08% carbon. 430 stainless steel is lower quality, generally more difficult to bend and has approximately 17% chromium and 0.12% carbon. The amount of chromium affects how corrosion-resistant the steel is, which is why 304 is more durable since it has a higher percentage. A quick and easy way to test what stainless steel you have is to use a magnet. 304 stainless is not magnetic while a magnet will stick to 430 stainless.
Do you need any modifications or upgrades?
Stainless steel tables are extremely versatile in their potential configurations. Vendors like Advance Tabco offer standard modifications include a backsplash, drop-in sink, single or double overshelves, casters, stainless steel legs or undershelf versus galvanized and drawers. All are available and all have cost-implications of course but can also save significant labor costs during prep and service.
The best, and most expensive, stainless steel table you can get is 14 gauge, type 304 stainless steel since it is the thickest and most resistant to corrosion. On the flip side, 18 gauge, type 430 stainless steel, is the least expensive but most susceptible to dents and corrosion. Next time you're in the market for new table, think about what will work best for your operation and know the possibilities are endless.