Front of house and mobile catering areas are growing rapidly, particularly with the continuing popularity of street food. With this comes a demand for hot drinks, which are often provided through water boilers. So as these units are increasingly on show, how are their manufacturers considering both aesthetically pleasing design and reliable and efficient operation?
At Burco, which is now part of Glen Dimplex’s heating and ventilation business, head of catering Jon Usher detailed: “In manufacturing our range we have factored in the requirement for space optimisation for some, and capacity for others, offering a host of different styles, including countertop and wall mounted, and sizes from 5 litre, right up to a 20 litre auto-fill Burco boiler with twin taps for the ultimate speed of service.
“Aside from this, we have also taken on board our customer feedback, specifically around the need for a water boiler that can be self-service. Our 10-litre Burco Autofill push button model can be positioned either behind a counter and operated by staff, or completely front of house where the customer is able to serve themselves. To minimise the risk of injury, the push button model will only dispense hot water when pressed, instantly stopping once the customer has filled their cup.”
The latest Autofill range features a stainless steel design with what Burco feels is a high-gloss finish, combined with “innovative technology which has been designed to both enhance efficiency and deliver a better, more consistent beverage to the customer”, according to Usher.
An eco-mode helps reduce energy consumption by automatically putting the appliance to ‘sleep’ when not in use, such as a period of inactivity or outside of operational hours. A touchscreen LCD display with a choice of 10 languages should allow the operator to quickly alter the time and date settings or the water temperature, between 80°-98°C.
One model suitable for use in outdoor locations is the propane gas manual-fill 20 litre boiler. The unit features dual wall technology, said to combine the power of the gas and the flame to heat the water for enhanced efficiency and speed of boiling.
Powered by LPG, the boiler can be used without the need for an electrical power supply, while a flame supervision device and cut off system are installed for safety. A patented self-locking tap should provide a constant flow when needed.
Elsewhere, Instanta’s operations director Dave Wilson reported: “We invest in our design to give the equipment an aesthetically pleasing finish, which is attractive to the eye. Examples of this can be seen in the high-grade, Superbrush polish to the stainless steel case, custom-moulded plastic front facias, curved outer panels (CPF series) and custom-designed, easy-to-read, LCD display.
“In addition, we understand that space is at a premium in front-of-house applications and design our boilers to have a minimal footprint, taking up minimal counter space while delivering maximum output of boiling water. Installation is also considered, through the option of an alternative waste/drain position, which simplifies front-of-house installation.”
In terms of form versus function, Wilson commented: “It is not necessarily about striking a definitive balance, but rather, it’s a route that begins with understanding what the customer wants in terms of usability and functionality, then applying aesthetic values that enhance them. We aim to produce a durable and reliable, user-friendly product that looks attractive and deserving of use in a front-of-house environment, but ultimately, serves a purpose beyond aesthetic value.”
While Instanta’s products are not specifically designed for outdoor or mobile catering, the firm has worked closely with several customers to adapt its standard product designs to suit their particular requirements.
Wilson reported: “For example, we were able to modify a standard wall-mounted unit for use on a train carriage by reducing the electrical rating of the element, adapting the inlet valve for reduced water pressure and adding more mounting points to provide extra stability for when the train is moving.”
Over at Lincat, its FilterFlow automatic-fill water boiler range uses mirror finish stainless steel to be both attractive for front of house usage and which is also designed to be easier to clean than a brushed finish.
Furthermore, the UK manufacturer considers the small footprint usually available front of house and accordingly has designed its EB3FX and EB6FX FilterFlow countertop range models to be 250mm wide, but still produce 30 and 60 litres of filtered hot water per hour respectively.
Marketing manager Helen Applewhite commented: “Style is important, but so too is function. As a result, we have worked hard to ensure that our FilterFlow range contains water boilers which are suitable for almost any application.”
This includes the EB3FX/PB, which features push button operation that could make it suitable for front of house or self-service use – though this feature can be locked to prevent water from being dispensed without the use of a pin code. Alternatively, the firm’s FilterFlow combined water boiler and chiller is said to be suitable where space is limited.
Lincat also offers three traditional, portable, manual-fill water boilers, which can be used for outside and mobile catering as they don’t need to be connected to a permanent electricity supply or mains plumbing.
Outputs range from 9 litres of hot water in 30 minutes for the LWB2, to 27 litres of hot water in 35 minutes for the LWB6. Said to be strongly built from mirror-finish stainless steel, they feature simmerstat control, boil dry protection and high-quality non-drip taps.
At Pantheon Catering Equipment, it has two water boilers in its product line-up: the MB20 20 litre unit and the MB30 30 litre capacity model. They are finished in polished stainless steel, which the manufacturer believes looks good in any situation. Both models require a 13A power point (which should make them suitable for mobile catering) and a boil-dry safety cut-out. The external level indicator keeps the user informed of water level which should in itself prevent dry boiling or running out during key service periods. Water is dispensed via a non-drip, cool-to-the-touch plastic tap.