Each foodservice outlet will require a different refrigeration specification, but more and more seem to be taking this to the next level and requiring bespoke cabinets, either for functionality or aesthetics.
With such a wide range of brands available, we focus attention on the main options available for distributors to specify. For instance, at Hoshizaki, in addition to its varied portfolio of refrigerators, it also offers a wide range of optional accessories to allow dealers to tailor to end user requirements. These include worktops with splashbacks, removable drawers, trolleys, glass doors and pedal door openers.
National sales manager Roz Scourfield explained: “We also continue to customise our range of refrigeration units according to the needs of our customers, a prime example being the development of our brand-new Snowflake Blast Chiller/Freezer range. Engineered to perform in the most demanding of environments, the new units are ideal for operators looking for a quick and efficient blast chilling/freezing solution, without having the compromise on space.”
In terms of bespoke trends, she analysed: “Whilst customisable refrigeration options traditionally focused on practicality, thanks to the changing, more aesthetic face of the commercial kitchen, manufacturers are now beginning to prioritise the appearance of the models that they offer, as much as they would prioritise factors such as efficiency, quality and durability. For example, Hoshizaki offer various finishes such as Vario Silver, White Finish and Stainless Steel, across their entire refrigeration range.”
Scourfield concluded: “As customers become more demanding, dealers that wish to remain competitive must follow suit. No matter if its new refrigeration technologies, models, sizes or colours that a customer wants from their next refrigeration purchase, with Hoshizaki, dealers are able to meet these demands without ever compromising on quality.”
At Electrolux Professional, its ecostore Premium counters range features options including: size, worktops, compressor position, mounting options, drawers, refrigerant gas types, and locks on doors/drawers. Design and product manager Steve Bowler commented: “For example, refrigerators can come with or without a worktop, which can add extra workspace in small, low-footprint environments. Similarly, the size of the unit can be customised, with Electrolux Professional Premium counters available in two, three, or four compartment sizes.”
Within the counter itself, the position of the compressor can be customised, with it able to be fitted on either the left-hand side, the right-hand side, or remotely. Additionally, there is a range of refrigerant gas types to choose from, including R290 for integral compressors, R422D for remote compressors, and options for more standard compressors.
Bowler believes: “Since purchasing decisions often boil down to cost, it is inevitable that custom choices are based on practical considerations. For instance, using drawers is ideal for space-tight environments, since their contents are more accessible. Ingredients can be stored in the drawer without having to bend down and look inside a cupboard, meaning that they do not have to be taken out to be examined.
“Drawers also mean that only a smaller opening is made in the counter, so less cool air comes out of the unit. This helps to save energy, and therefore reduce running costs, since the refrigerator is kept at the correct temperature.”
Elsewhere, Valera has a range of choices available in its refrigeration range relating to feet/castors, humidity control, drawers, splashbacks, glass or solid doors, handles and shelves. Plus its units can be produced in white, stainless steel or any RAL colour of choice, while there are options for tropical units to work in higher ambient temperatures, and undershelf lighting and different types of lights to showcase different food types.
Marketing and sales manager Kurran Gadhvi reported: “For storage refrigeration we are still seeing quite simple trends but dealers are asking for more advance temperature monitoring systems on units for major chains and specialist cooking, as well as drawers and doors combinations.”
Evaluating whether the current demands are more cosmetic or practical, he said: “When it is basic things like lighting and décor changes then it is cosmetic, but drawers/doors, monitoring of temperature, and splashbacks are all for practicality.
“The bulk of dealers prefer the standard modular units but there are a handful of end users who urge the dealers for the weird and wonderful colours/designs to suit their design concepts.”
In the bottle cooler arena, IMC head of sales for UK and Ireland Martin Venus reported: “Although dealers’ customers are driven by price, they want variety – a choice of size, finish, lighting, shelving etc. Our dealers are requesting more choices, but for a low cost.
“From size and style, to interior lighting and shelving, we offer a wide variety of customisation options across our Mistral and Ventus bottle cooler ranges, so that distributors can create bespoke units tailored to their customer’s needs.
“With most bars, space is at a premium, which is why we offer a choice of unit heights – 800mm, 850mm and 900mm. With our Ventus range, we can reduce depth too, from a standard 500mm to 450mm, to make the bottle cooler slimline.”
Detailing that interior customisation is a key focus for IMC, as many bars want to showcase their drinks offer in the very best light and store bottles efficiently, Venus added: “We offer different shelving options, including wire racks and flat shelves, to suit the type of beverages on offer. Lighting is another element that can be tailored. We offer coloured LED, which can complement the style of the establishment, as well as a classic cool white.”
At Precision Refrigeration, marketing manager Christine Hartshorne has observed: “Unique site designs are really desirable, and foodservice refrigeration will be at the heart of every catering equipment design. When caterers are selecting foodservice and beverage equipment, they need to choose what looks stylish and/or modern, as well as what does the job effectively.”
She continued: “Recent equipment trends include the vintage look and wooden door finishes, so that customers experience a special individual environment different in style and décor to any another. A unique environment with great customer service often encourages customers to keep returning for future sales.
“Refrigerators that can be incorporated into the design of the site colour palette are also an added benefit. Precision offers various metal, wood and colour options to effortlessly compliment the customer’s décor and overall design.”
The manufacturer can paint a customer’s equipment to match a particular RAL colour showcased in a kitchen or bar design, such as at Mana Manchester, where the undercounters are painted in black finish, or The Hut at Colwell Bay on the Isle of Wight, which features white-painted Retro Refrigeration to give a strong visual impression with large handles and heavy-duty hinges.
Over at Liebherr GB, Stephen Ongley, national sales manager for business and industry, refrigeration division, noted: “We are increasingly being asked to specifically configured cabinets to ideally suit particular site requirements. So that could be fitting castors and side-by-side joining kits for heavy duty models.”
The manufacturer has recently further extended the choices it offers, having installed a new laser printer for dynamic branding options.
Liebherr also offers a large range of accessories including: legs or castors for larger upright cabinets, foot pedal to open door on heavy duty models, stainless steel or plastic-coated steel shelving, NTC product temperature probe for safer food storage, volt-free alarm kit for independent cabinet monitoring, side-by-side jointing kit for heavy duty models, full depth drawers for more convenient storage, roller bars for smaller cabinets and stacking kits to create fridge/freezer options.
Ongley detailed: “Liebherr offers both the branding and cosmetic options to customers as well as the practical accessory options. The branding could be considered cosmetic, but the practical purpose is there to increase impulse sales and brand presence.
“Dealers and end users want more choice and with Liebherr’s extensive range of foodservice, beverage, ice cream, frozen food and wine storage solutions and options for them. We are the go-to brand to satisfy those needs.”
For Nisbets group brand Polar Refrigeration, it can offer coldrooms in bespoke sizes to fit most requirements, and can build multi room walk-ins with both refrigerated and freezer compartments, while a weather durable roof option enables a unit to be located outside without the need for a carport type shelter.
Global category manager Gavin Lillington detailed: “There has been considerable growth in coldrooms sales as customers reduce the footprint of the kitchen to maximise front of house space.
“Customers are looking at the kitchen layout with a focus on energy saving, space and ease of use for the operator to improve efficiency and productivity. This includes refrigerated preparation counters with gastronorm pan compatible drawer options, to truly flexible units, which can be used for both fresh and frozen storage. Our brands such as Polar have the capability to offer customers a full range of refrigeration solutions and can tailor equipment to meet the needs of each operation.”
He added: “Recently we have seen significant demand for Dual Temperature Counter Drawers. These units give the customer complete flexibility as they can be easily switched from fridge to freezer storage and vice versa at the press of a button. Installing dynamic equipment such as this not only saves space but also saves the customer money by combining two versatile products into one.”
Striking is the watchword at Williams Refrigeration, which developed the Chameleon vinyl wrap service to customise fridge exteriors. Sales and marketing director Malcolm Harling explained: “The cladding can feature any pattern, graphic or colour – it can even have a special texture. It can be fitted to any products in the Williams range and allows operators to turn a fridge into a talking point.”
The British manufacturer also offers options such as raised ingredients pans on counter fridges, drawers or doors, remote or integral refrigeration systems. “In fact, Williams has over 4,500 model variants,” said Harling. “Our coldrooms range exemplifies this characteristic – it’s said that no two are the same. That’s because we can design a coldroom to fit just about any shape, configuration, application and temperature range.
“Another trend is the small kitchen – customisation here has taken the form of our developing slimline versions of standard products, so that they fit into a more compact space.”
However, Harling emphasised: “The introduction of MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards) in July 2016 ran counter to customisation, as it means that any refrigeration model falling under the Energy Labelling Directive has to be tested – testing different model variants would be a significant cost for the manufacturer.
“Having said that, the demand for customisation continues to be high, as operators look for specific solutions to their specific problems. That’s why Williams continues to offer as wide a choice as possible.”
Elsewhere, Interlevin partners with shelf and basket manufacturers to provide bespoke and accessible basket and shelving solutions to fit in with specific product display requirements. This is designed to enable its customers to store and display their products efficiently and effectively.
With a particular focus on ice cream display cabinets, Interlevin has an expert in-house team who specialise in custom branding of cabinets and light canopies. Marketing manager Justin Allfree said: “We have been able to delight customers by allowing them to emblaze their typical white cabinet with their very own branding and marketing messages.
“In many cases we can advise the best solution to maximise space and display. It’s of paramount importance for ice cream customers that we offer them the ability to maximise the amount of space in their ‘scooping real estate’ to showcase many different flavours they can offer.”
This branding demand is spreading to the frozen food and beverage industry. According to Allfree: “The trend in customisation seems to be leaning more towards focused branding, for example, over the last couple of years we have provided, through a distributor, customised branded cabinets for the Wimbledon Tennis Championship where the branding is focused to those specific two weeks of the tournament.”
Interlevin mitigates demand for very specific cabinets by having over 900 product lines available, with the majority held in stock ready for immediate delivery.
Another major player in the ice cream display segment is Taylor UK, which supplies the ISA range of refrigeration. This brand’s range of ‘plug-in’ refrigerated display cabinets includes promotional ice cream displays, professional Gelato cabinets, chilled pastry/deli serve overs and a variety of multideck grab ‘n’ go unit, all available in a range of different aesthetic finishes.
Taylor UK marketing manager David Rees underlined: “However, should there be a specific need, ISA can manufacture about 70% of the range in a variety of bespoke finishes and custom RAL colours, providing a customised product for individual end users. Should the client have a very specific design requirement, the Taylor UK ISA projects team can design a complete bespoke front and back counter, including any upper structures such as gantries.”
This team has seen a rise in bespoke activity in recent years, as its clients are looking for a unique product to make their business stand out. The finishes range from painted glass and granites through to Corian and Fenix, to fit in with any concept or budget.
Rees concluded: “Dealers are looking for ‘the right solution’, whether that’s based on function, design or overall cost, and each criteria has an influence on the end choice. ISA’s vast range of refrigerated display cabinets and storage solutions cover most of the basic, day to day requirements for those looking for a refrigerated display product which can be customised if necessary.”