How to warm front of house

The Rieber K-Pot set up in one of Silverstone’s pit garages, to feed crews during two days of tyre testing.The Rieber K-Pot set up in one of Silverstone’s pit garages, to feed crews during two days of tyre testing.

Many front of house catering areas require appliances which maintain food’s heat, such as buffet equipment, serving stations or even heated displays. But when distributors have to pick which brands to specify, what should guide their thinking?

At Bristol-based Uropa Distribution, head of brands Richard Ebbs recommends a bain marie for those looking to retain the heat, texture and flavour of large batches of food for extended periods. “Whether used with a lid to keep the food covered, or without a lid to entice customers to buffets and carveries, a bain marie provides a very suitable way to hold hot food in the premium condition,” he said. “Choosing a commercial model from renowned catering equipment manufacturer Buffalo is a great way for dealers to ensure they are opting for a high quality, robust and reliable appliance.”

Uropa Distribution supplies the Buffalo brand Bain Marie with Pans (S007) countertop unit. This comes supplied with two 1/3 and two 1/6 gastronorm pans, so can be customised as needed. Featuring a manual dial thermostat and wet heat technology for rapid warming, its design includes an automatic boil dry shut off feature, designed to prevent damage to the machine and extend its working life.

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Ebbs concluded: “Opting for well-designed hot holding equipment is a great way to extend food’s shelf life, cutting down food waste and maximising potential profits. The Buffalo Bain Marie features a quality stainless steel construction and comes with a 2 year warranty, guaranteeing an extended service life.”

Elsewhere, BGL Rieber highlighted its K-Pot, which it describes as an ‘anti chafing dish’. Electric heating across the unit is said to ensure no hot or cold spots. The manufacturer recommended using the K-Pot alongside Rieber Thermoplate GN triple layer pans which are designed to spread throughout the food more evenly and efficiently than stainless steel alone.

MD Gareth Newton advised distributors: “Look for something that looks great, is fully portable, offers more flexibility than a servery at much less of a cost, is safe to use from a HACCP point of view and does not smell because it does not use gel heaters.

“K-Pot can cook, as well as hold food hot. It comes in hot holding, holding/cooking, dual zone and passive heating and cooling formats, a choice for any occasion. The appliance offers significant advantages over traditional chafers, including no smell from burning gel, with the cost of using gel replaced by the minimal cost of electricity (approx. 90%). Rieber K-Pot heats across the whole of its surface; a gel heater can only heat in one place.”

The K-Pot has already been used by schools to provide mobile servery counters in tight spaces; in universities for additional counter and cooking options; by contract caterers and stadia operators. Most recently, K-Pot was used at the Silverstone race track as a portable means of providing a hot buffet service.

The popularity of lunch foodservice outlets is also having an effect on the hot holding equipment market, as Moffat Catering Equipment’s sales and marketing manager, John Wannan, explained: “In response to customer demand, Moffat has launched a range of innovative free-standing Grab & Go units. The units will be available as hot and cold, cold, hot and ambient models, offering a complete meal deal solution in a compact footprint.”

All the models in this latest range benefit from the company’s ‘Free Flow AirFlow’ system, which is designed to maintain pre-heated and pre-chilled food at regulated temperatures, without deterioration or drying out. The invisible air curtain flows past the front of the food products and should reduce the chance of the cold or warm air escaping while maximising the efficiency of the unit. Meanwhile, the ‘Free Flow’ system circulates the air inside the cabinet, maintaining consistent temperature. Hot products are maintained at temperatures of 65°C to 75°C in ambients above 16°C, while chilled products are maintained between 2°C to 5°C in ambients below 25°C.

Wannan feels: “Venues pushed for space, but wanting to offer a full range of convenience foods, can benefit from models such as Moffat’s new MHC1 unit. This combines storage for both hot and cold food displays in one slimline unit. These units keep sandwiches, drinks and salads perfectly chilled, whilst keeping hot snacks such as pasties and sausage rolls at the ideal serving temperature.”

Additionally, he advised distributors: “For buffet hot holding, dealers need to specify equipment that maintains food quality so that even after holding, the food comes out as the chef had planned. The Chillogen Banquet Trolleys from Moffat ensure that the food is every bit as good when it comes out of the trolley as when it went in. If the chef plans for the meat to be rare, then the trolley delivers it rare. If pastry is crisp when it goes in, it’s crisp when it comes out. The equipment should also streamline operations and up capacity.

“Multifunctional kit is the way for customers to get the most out of both their space and money. The more a piece of kit is used the better value the initial investment. Also any kit standing idle is taking up valuable floor space.

“Mobile equipment can help with the changing menus and changing demand of buffets as it can be moved to a suitable position, according to the workload, and can be wheeled away and stored when not required.”

Looking ahead, he believes: “Combined hot and cold Grab & Go units are set to gain in popularity as end users want equipment that maximises output on a compact foodprint. Units that benefit from ‘plug and play’ installation, with a 13A plug fitted as standard and have a mobile design, with castors, front brakes and ergonomic handles for easy manoeuvrability, are always popular front of house.

“Front of house hot holding needs to be very functional, but also look the part. Customers are increasingly looking for units that can be tailored to suit the venue. That’s why our new Grab & Go units are available in 21 eye-catching Stelvetite panel colours.”

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