The counters and serveries sector is adapting to the shrinking kitchen trend by producing singular units which feature both heated and chilled sections. The manufacturers in this arena have to ensure that these multi-temperature units function without affecting the climate for either section, so Catering Insight asked a selection of companies for their latest innovations.
At Valera, the majority of its counter installations are a mixture of chilled and heated, in dry or wet/ambient and grab and go variants. It supplies both Portuguese brand Jordao’s modular ranges and Unitech Industries Group bespoke counter ranges in matching multi-temperature counter options.
Heated unit temperatures range from 65-90°C, while the chilled variants are between 3-5°C. Marketing and sales manager Kurran Gadhvi detailed: “They are separated by glass and insulation as well as specially prepared multiplexing kits. Our clients want to make the most of their space and sell a variety of food to suit diverse customers.”
He reported that predominately project-based distributors comfortable with front of house sales are specifying the counters for operators in both the private and public sector. Gadhvi said: “Even public sector end users want their counters to look great, instead of the standard stainless (hospital canteen) look.”
Elsewhere, Liverpool-based Counterline believes it beat most of the industry to the punch, launching its first dual hot and cold hold convenience counter in 2014 within its New Experience range. “Since then, demand for our hot holding and cold hold display products has seen strong growth,” reported sales director, Paul Purslow. “Be it in combined form (ECHF600 dual Experience heated and chilled) or matching in side by side formats like our Vision range of matching patisserie cabinets.”
He feels that Counterline’s slimline thermal divide system allows its combined cabinets to hold core temperatures above 63°C whilst maintaining product freshness of soups, porridge, potted noodle and rice dishes, pizzas, wraps and savouries.
Purslow added: “With zero heat transfer, the chilled section again comfortably achieves product temperatures required to hold bottled, canned and carton drinks sandwiches, filled rolls, baguettes, salad, pasta, dairy products and cream cakes, plus it caters growing trend of healthy smoothies, holding the temperature at or below 5°C.”
Through the manufacturer’s distributor network it is now seeing its equipment supporting end users from multiple site operations in London to new independent operators within the business and industry, hospitality, retail, forecourts and hotel and leisure sectors.
“Combined equipment brings energy and space saving benefits and can help operators add to menu variety and volume,” said Purslow.
Following the success of Counterline’s dual heated 600mm counter, the firm followed it up in 2015 with a 900mm version, both heated and chilled areas again running off a single 13A plug. Coming up, it will be launching a new range of matching heated and chilled merchandisers in 2018, featuring custom options, LED illumination and zero emission gas.
For Scottish manufacturer Moffat Catering Equipment, distinct areas of the counter market, ranging from top-end bespoke designs to the lower cost utilitarian counters, all demand serviceable and hygienic designs that will stand up to everyday wear and tear and present food attractively. Sales and marketing manager John Wannan commented: “Moffat provides solutions for all countering requirements. Bespoke counters can be tailored to a site’s exact requirements and finished to very high standards for prestige operations. Moffat’s standard ranges offer a lower-cost alternative without compromising on quality.”
Reporting that the grab and go sector is on an upward trend, Wannan believes that grab and go units can help to provide efficient service where venues have to cope with large volumes of customers in a shorter time. The manufacturer can offer display units in both chilled and heated versions, suitable for extending service to popular grab and go options such as sandwiches, salads, pies and pastries.
Earlier this year, Moffat launched its MHC grab and go food merchandiser which combines hot and cold display in the one slimline unit. Wannan said: “It’s ideal for keeping sandwiches, drinks and salads perfectly chilled, whilst keeping hot snacks such as pasties and sausage rolls at the ideal serving temperature.”
The MHC features separate digital controls, said to be easy to read, for the hot and cold shelves. The airflow on the hot shelves can be controlled between 65 and 85°C, whereas the cold shelves are controlled to between 2 and 5°C. The unit’s low level polar well can display self-serve salads.
According to Wannan: “As well as being practical and functional, the MHC merchandiser looks good too. Its stylish curved glass design and angled shelves show the food off to its best advantage. The base is available in a range of colours and graphic finishes to compliment the store.”
This food merchandiser measures 650mm (w) x 650mm (d) x 1,825mm (h) and runs off a 13A, 230V supply, designed to make it simple to install and start using. The MHC comes with hook-on ambient baskets to maximise display area and boost impulse purchases. Optional tray slides and end shelves are also available.
Furthermore, Moffat’s bespoke division has just created a heated display unit with an unusual design – it’s square all over, and is divided into square display areas. The heated Squared Display Servery was originally built for a customer looking for something very different to promote its savoury products, which are served with potato wedges.
The unit is divided into three main sections – in the centre is a potato wedge scuttle, while on either side are three shelf display areas, holding a selection of savoury products. Each of the unit’s three main sections has its own temperature and light controls.
At Fri-Jado, director of national accounts, Gary Thacker believes: “A sustained growth in consumer demand for a wide variety of fresh and nutritious food to go has created a wealth of profit opportunities for foodservice operators. Long gone are the days when customers were content with a sandwich and a cold drink for lunch, with hot food now a prerequisite on the menus of food to go outlets.
“Increasingly, foodservice operators are turning to equipment concept specialists, distributors and shop fitters to design merchandising solutions for the side by side display of hot and chilled food. Many designers and contractors have responded by specifying self-service and serve-assisted, hot and chilled counters, with in-line configurations for complementary cross merchandising and high product visibility, promoting impulse purchases.”
He detailed that whether counters are for the display of hot or chilled food, food safety and food quality are of paramount importance. The optimum temperature for the display of pre-cooked food to go items, such as pies, pasties, savoury pastries, panini, hot rolls, chicken portions and potato wedges is 65°C.
“Our counters benefit from upper radiant heat and a precision controlled humidification system, which deliver stable and accurate product temperature, to maintain fresh and moist food over extended periods. The fact that the food retains its quality and appearance for longer means that less product is price reduced or thrown away,” said Thacker.
“The cooling system of our chilled counter helps maintain product at the ideal display temperature of 5°C to 7°C. The design incorporates a low velocity airflow, which significantly reduces food dehydration, for optimum food quality, freshness and appearance.
“The effective cross merchandising of food to go is enhanced by multiplexing hot and cold counters side by side in in-line configurations. However, it is critical for the maintenance of food display temperatures that there is no heat transfer between the hot and cold modules. To guard against potential heat transfer between units, our counters feature triple glazed side panes, which ensure excellent insulation and allow hot and chilled units to be butted up against each other for a smooth and seamless integrated display.”
He reported that the boom in the food to go market has impacted across the broad spectrum of foodservice, from high street retailers, through symbol group convenience stores, to independent quick service restaurants, pubs, cafés and delicatessens.
“The breadth of demand for food to go display and merchandising equipment has created opportunities for distributors serving all of these sectors. We are continuing to develop relationships with equipment concept specialists, who have responsibility for foodservice chains with multiple outlets nationwide.
“We are also working with regional contractors and distributors, who undertake projects for independent stores and outlets. The fact that our UK operation is backed by Fri-Jado’s global resources means that we are well placed to meet the demands of all distributors and contactors, no matter what the size of the project.”
Fri-Jado’s counters are the subject of ongoing research and development, led by its engineering team at its head office in the Netherlands. “Improved performance and reduced energy costs are the driving factors in the development of new models, helping distributors deliver lower operating costs and greater lifecycle cost efficiency to their customers,” commented Thacker.
“Many of our innovative features are incorporated within our custom counters, which provide contractors, and indeed their customers, with total freedom in the design of display solutions. Our flexible design and manufacturing techniques allow us to combine aesthetic, operational and engineering features to meet the requirements of the specific foodservice operation.
“Hot and chilled models are available with curved or square glass profiles for high visibility of merchandise. The models may be supplied with a variety of finishes, cladding and colours to meet house livery and style. We also offer a selection of lighting options and a range of display surfaces, depending upon the type of food to be displayed. To assist our contractors and distributors in the design and specification process, we provide a state-of-the-art 3D modelling service, which allows customers to preview a realistic image of the counter design.”
Over at Victor Manufacturing, marketing and communications manager Peter Brewin explained: “The demand for variety in catering outlets is increasing, with many trends such as food to go and healthier options rising in popularity, which means flexibility in a counter or servery is essential.
“The current demand is for hidden heating or refrigerated sections, which tend to use either induction pads or contact cooled (frost tops) fixed underneath a solid surface counter top. This provides outlets with options to display a number of dishes from hot to cold, as demands change and seasons come and go. These kinds of products that caterers can rely on are important to keeping outlets in business with happy customers.”
The Bradford-based manufacturer feels it specialises in keeping ‘hot food hot’ and ‘cold food cold’. The extremes of these temperature range from approximately 0°C to 95°C. Brewin reported: “The heated and cooled sections tend to be separated by distance or a glass screen when sections are adjacent. Our custom made counters can be changed to each customer’s needs.
“The requirement for these types of counters span across all of the industry from hotels and cafes to care homes and garden centres. At Victor, we have seen a huge interest in frost top type servery counters from for their hotels breakfast buffet bar. This type of application is also popular in buffet style restaurants where customers help themselves to food. These counters and serveries have to keep ‘hot food hot’ and ‘cold food cold’ for a few hours of service.”
Richard Ebbs, head of brands at Uropa Distribution believes there are alternatives to hot and cold co-located counters, saying: “Multi-temperature counters and serveries provide an all in one solution for some caterers. However, they are not without their limitations.
“As such, Uropa brands are seeing customer demand switch from all in one units to units that work independently, but visually appear to be suited. For example, two Uropa brands, Polar and Buffalo, have developed tabletop units which are exactly the same size and shape, to give an aesthetically pleasing finish, but which work completely separately of each other. This not only provides greater flexibility to the operator, but also removes many of the restrictions of a multi-temperature counter.”
He continued: “By having two units that appear as one, the restrictions on temperature are overcome. For example, the Polar Refrigerated Countertop Display Chiller (CD230) has a temperature range from 2-12°C, whilst the Buffalo Heated Display Merchandiser has a range of between 30-90°C. The only stipulation is that there is a small gap between each unit to allow for airflow.”
Detailing that the separate units are being specified by distributors that have customers which want all the aesthetic benefits of a multi-temperature unit, but demand the independent control of individual units, Ebbs concluded: “These units also have the benefit of being plug and play and due to them requiring less of an area for motors and refrigerating units. They can also cater for greater volume – 160 litres for each unit.”