Seven solutions for warming dark kitchens

Delivery kitchen demand has surged during the pandemic.

Given the popularity of dark kitchens and central production kitchens, Catering Insight has investigated which hot holding appliances are catering to this growing trend, and what distributors need to know when specifying this equipment. Here are seven of the top solutions we found.

Moduline HSW313E multi-temp holding drawers

Supplied by Jestic Foodservice Solutions, the HSW313E multi-temp holding drawers from Moduline enable dark kitchen operators to cook food in advance and hold it ready for peak delivery times. This should speed up delivery/service times and improve production efficiency and reduce wastage. The HSW313E incorporates advanced technology that works to ensure an even and stable temperature range from +30°C to +120°C, and is accurately calibrated to be gentle and to hold food in the perfect conditions. This helps to safeguard flavours, fragrance and texture whilst ensuring the dishes look and taste like they have just been cooked. When delivery drivers collect orders, only one of the three drawers needs to be opened, ensuring that the temperature remains unchanged in the rest of the cabinet.

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The HSW313E offers independent digital temperature control of each drawer so dark kitchen operators can accurately hold a wide variety of menu items at precise humidity levels until they are ready to be delivered. The wired heating system is wrapped around the external cavity wall and electronically precision controlled to keep the humidity in the food. This helps to keep the food moist, rather than it becoming dried out, as can happen with ventilated holding systems.

Space is nearly always tight in dark kitchens and at just 660mm wide by 585mm deep the Moduline HSW313E multi-temp drawer can fit into a small footprint. Drawer units can also be stacked to offer more space saving capacity. To optimise work flows, the HSW313E incorporates carry handles and so can easily be moved to another location in the dark kitchen ready for final packing and pick-up or when reconfiguring the cook line to suit menu changes.

Unox Evereo

The Evereo from Unox is a unique innovation which has redefined the concept of hot holding. Acting as a ‘hot fridge’, the unit uses patented technology to maintain food safely at the temperature at which it is served and eaten, and above the danger zone for bacterial growth for days or even weeks.

Hot holding is no longer just about keeping food at a safe temperature throughout service periods and preventing ‘drying out’. With the challenges of Covid-19 and the shift towards takeaway/click and collect operations, Evereo provides an added-value solution which is suited to dark kitchens.

This is a compact unit, available in three different sizes to suit all requirements, including where space is limited. Each model can be mounted on wheels and requires a 13A, three-pin plug supply – suitable for dark kitchens, whether in a container, industrial unit or other location. It has a maximum capacity 10 x 1/1 GN and is available with portrait or landscape loading and undercounter or countertop mounting.

Hot food can be cooked and held without the traditional, energy-intensive process of blast chilling, cold storage and regeneration, which should save energy and remove the guesswork to help reduce food waste. With an advanced control panel for ease of operation, the appliance unlocks new opportunities to deliver high quality food in dark kitchens and costs an estimated £1 to run for a 12-hour period.

Counterline Hot Pizza Storage Cabinet

The Hot Pizza Storage Cabinet from Counterline was developed specifically to support back of house pizza operations. Aside from assisting kitchen staff with maintaining temperatures of hot pizza products, the Hot Pizza Storage Cabinet is said to be well suited to dark kitchens and central production units, and can hold/store food items temporarily until needed. Without the need to clearly display the product as in a standard restaurant/kitchen, the insulated stainless steel panelling and doors of the appliance are designed to support a more energy efficient product, helping to save money for a kitchen, and create more efficient processes.

The construction allows the product to sit on a worktop for easy access for end user staff, or, with its castor option, the cabinet can roll-in under workbench spaces. It has a removable rack which supports 10 x 16” pizza boxes or variations of smaller boxes.

In the heated food display system, the food temperature is maintained at or above 63°C by a stream of recirculated warm air. The warm air blows around the cabinet, coming from the rear air slots on the rear wall and returning to the fans also at the rear of the cabinet.

The Hot Pizza Storage Cabinet has been developed alongside a large retailer in order to support the Just Eat offer for delivery services in the UK. It was deployed across 25 selected stores offering this service in order to support their hot holding requirements, reportedly proving to be an immediate success.

Flexeserve Hub

Launched in 2020, Flexeserve Hub is designed specifically for hot holding packaged food for pickup and delivery. Keeping orders at optimum temperature and quality, whilst awaiting collection by delivery drivers, has become a necessity for the fast-growing delivery market. The unit maintains the desired temperature and quality of large quantities of packaged hot food of any shape or size.

Flexeserve Hub is suitable for a central production unit or ghost kitchen as it utilises unique hot holding technology to keep whole food orders hot and ready to go. Its small footprint allows it to hold a variety of hot food whilst enhancing the operational flow of a kitchen. One of the ways it can achieve this is by providing an organised staging area that enables an operator’s team to keep on track, and consistently fulfil orders that are hot, accurate and to the desired quality.

The manufacturer recently worked with a major UK food retailer that needed to stage hot food products in the kitchen, ready for quick service. As a result of this process, it developed a specific accessory for Flexeserve Hub to accommodate the large-capacity oven trays used as standard within commercial kitchens.

The appliance is designed to be versatile in location, with the smaller unit operating from a 13A supply. Designed to be energy efficient, the Hub features double-glazed doors and insulative materials ensuring heat retention. In addition, energy-efficient LED lighting is incorporated to illuminate the unit which, having glass panels at the front and sides, provides product visibility.

Alto-Shaam Halo Heat heated holding cabinets

Alto-Shaam’s Halo Heat heated holding cabinets are available in a range of sizes and configurations (under counter or free-standing), and their mobility means they can be used at the front of a restaurant specifically for takeaway or delivery food options or be anywhere in the kitchen for layout flexibility. Similarly, they can be utilised to hold food to help reduce ticket times and help relieve other pieces of equipment—further minimising stress during peak service.

Food can be pre-prepared before peak service times and held at the optimal serving temperature without the risk of overcooking or drying out to streamline operations and processes. This can also reduce food waste, and realise time, cost and energy savings. As a ventless and waterless system, their flexibility is such that they can be placed anywhere to enhance operations.

Gentle, radiant Halo Heat technology evenly surrounds food without the use of harsh heating elements, such as calrods, added humidity or fans that can reduce holding times and result in dried out food. The benefits of radiant heating are that it is gentler, there is less temperature fluctuation in the box, and it provides more precise cooking and holding with a lower energy draw.

The equipment is designed to be easy to install, waterless and energy efficient – minimising operating costs, plumbing, drains and associated maintenance. The cabinets can be easily stacked for layout flexibility and space savings, making them suitable for dark kitchens or any size foodservice operation.

Williams Scarlet heated multidecks

Williams’ Scarlet heated multidecks can be repurposed as hot hold units for dark kitchens or restaurants offering food delivery, keeping the meals safe until delivery staff or customers are ready to collect the food.

Like all grab and go merchandisers it allows staff to place or remove product from it without needing to open a door, reducing contact points and helping to reduce hygiene issues without compromising the quality of the product.

Three models are available in a choice of widths, with the compact 710mm-wide XS70, the XS100 960mm wide unit, and the 1,250mm-wide XS125. The slimline design should help maximise kitchen space. All feature infra-red quartz halogen lamps to instantly and uniformly deliver consistent heat levels.

Furthermore, each shelf can have its own individually controlled temperature setting, providing four different temperatures zones to keep different foods at the right hot-hold level. The Scarlet will maintain the required holding temperature of 65°C – 70°C for pre-cooked hot foods.

The unit is available in a choice of finishes and operation is designed to be quiet. Full length LED lighting gives product visibility, while the foodsafe stainless steel interior should be easy to maintain.

The Scarlet can be suited with the Williams multidecks range of chilled merchandisers.

FWE hot holding shelves

US brand FWE’s hot holding shelves, supplied to the UK via Gamble Foodservice Solutions, are a suitable hot holding solution for foodservice delivery applications. The shelves are designed to hold a wide range of cooked food in all types of packaging in the time between the food being ready and the delivery driver coming in to collect. With adjustable temperature settings individually controlled per shelf, the range of shelves available could be used for multiple outlets who might be sharing kitchen spaces.

The individually controlled adjustable heated shelves hold to temperatures between 32°C and 102°C. Heat up time is less than 15 minutes, and uniformed heat is generated. The shelves are designed to provide heat from the bottom through product packaging.

The units are available with one to five heated shelves, with custom sizes made to order in the USA. Other bespoke options include wall-mounted brackets, lights under shelves, mounting on top of an existing refrigerated unit, a marine edge for shelves or a single shelf to sit on an existing work surface.

The hot holding shelves feature concealed temperature control and can have powder coating. Options are available with enclosures so that the unit is closed on three sides, and only open at the front.

Brackets on the wall-facing side of the shelves should eliminate shifting or moving. The stainless steel units come with a 2 year limited warranty. Optional accessories include individual power switches and legs with flanged feet.

Tags : alto-shaamcounterlinedark kitchensdelivery kitchensflexeservefweGamble Foodservice Solutionshot holdingjesticmodulinenuttall'sUnoxwilliams
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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