With the hospitality industry slowly clambering back to its feet after the Covid-enforced shutdown, delivery and takeaway services have increased in profile, as many foodservice sites found this as their most profitable revenue stream.
Getting hot food to consumers at the correct temperature is therefore ever more vital, so for dealers looking to lean into the takeaway trend, what are the latest hot holding appliances available for them to specify?
At supplier, Jestic Foodservice Solutions, two of the newer additions to its portfolio, Carlisle Foodservice Products and Metro, are reportedly proving popular.
Carlisle’s Cateraide IT insulated food pan carriers feature commercial foam insulation to keep food hot for up to 6 hours. Constructed from strong plastic, they are designed to stack and fit together for secure transportation and storing. The IT series includes 4, 6 and 8” top loaders along with a six-pan end loader with optional dolly and are available in three colours: caramel, onyx and olive.
The Mightylite range of light insulated top-load and front-load food carriers from Metro are said to be 80% lighter than traditional urethane foam-filled carriers and feature polymer foam construction with a high strength-to-weight ratio, to withstand bumps and knocks during transportation. Mightylite carriers should keep food safe for 5+ hours, incorporate four handles for lifting and are also stackable.
Jestic sales director Steve Morris reported: “Adapting to offer delivery and takeaway services has given operators an economic lifeline during the coronavirus lockdown – and this has been reflected in the demand we’ve seen for our insulated food carrier ranges and other products like Metro’s takeaway order staging units and PrepMate kitchen workstations for safe social distance working.
“The experienced Jestic sales team is available to guide dealers through the features and benefits of our insulated food carrier ranges, so they can specify the very best solution to suit the end user’s requirements.”
Another new name in the market is HuCo Services, which is now the exclusive UK and Ireland agent for food transportation appliance specialist, SDS Polibox. HuCo Services founder Greg Fitchett analysed: “The market for heated food transportation is one we see continually growing. It has increased dramatically during the current virus pandemic and we see no levelling of this as diners adapt to the ‘new’ way of going out for a meal.
“Therefore, the ‘brown paper carry bag’ is no longer generally accepted, and with growing customer feedback, this is driving the market for food grade, heat controlled/managed transportation systems as customers raise concern about the delivered product not being hot. This is indicative of a delivery driver making a number of deliveries at a time.”
SDS Polibox’s portfolio of products includes an EPP delivery box and food transportation boxes and bags. Fitchett added: “We are working with a significant number of distributors who, across the market, are looking for safe, sustainable, hygienic transportation systems, and we at SDS Polibox are proud of how we have helped.
“Our distributors have the ability to face head on most challenges set by the market and this has seen an increase in the need for food transportation boxes being able to be plugged into an electrical source in a vehicle. However, with a standard hold time of up to 3 hours, our regular EPP boxes meets the needs of most. The ability to then wash and dry each unit after each delivery is a must with the increased awareness of hygiene.”
Elsewhere, Social Distancing Tools has recently been established as a sister company to Sous Vide Tools. The supplier is equipped with the Amerbox range of food transport products for the takeaway and home delivery sector, all available for next day delivery. Models include insulated top loading boxes for individual items, as well as those designed to transport pans of hot or cold food; front loading boxes; transportation trolleys; beverage containers, and insulated ice caddies.
MD Alex Shannon detailed: “Sales in our first month of trading have been very strong and are currently in excess of £50,000 per week across the entire portfolio, which also includes PPE, hand sanitisers, dispensers, wash stations, screens, signage, and air and UV sterilisers. Sales of the Amerbox range are a significant contributor to this figure.”
He emphasised: “We have a ready-made route to the dealer market via sister company Sous Vide Tools, and as well as setting up a dedicated e-commerce website for Social Distancing Tools we have also produced a brochure that is being circulated to dealers.”
Shannon believes: “The reality is that nobody knows when the current crisis is going to end and until such time as it does we expect takeaway and delivery operators to continue to perform well. Takeaway and delivery services have traditionally been associated with what might be termed the ‘value’ end of the market but we are now starting to see many well respected chefs offering gourmet and Michelin-starred quality food as they change their proposition to include a home delivery service.”
Over at Cater-Bake, at the start of lockdown it introduced Cater-Bags to its catalogue. The thermal food delivery system is designed to maintain temperatures at 85°C with the use of ISO Thermo technology, allowing drivers to charge from within their own car.
As hygiene is a high priority for eateries during the pandemic, the Cater-Bags have been designed to be easily cleaned and wiped prior to and after each order has been delivered. The containers are available in four sizes, and each bag comes with a heated pad and car adapter free of charge.
Head of sales Steven Lilley commented: “It’s no surprise to see we have seen an uptick in sales from this recent takeaway demand. Cater-Bags’ ability to keep food hot and fresh on delivery has been the main reason for its success and increase in sales, in relation to other products in our portfolio.”
He predicted: “I think while there still remains some uncertainty around eating out/doing activities in the public during the pandemic, there will still be an increase in takeaway and delivery services.
“When life returns to ‘normal’ the demand for takeaway food will likely decrease after such a surge, but restaurants across the country that previously didn’t offer delivery, have seen positive results from providing takeaway meals, so this is likely to be kept up once we do return to the norm.”
At BGL Rieber the Rieber Thermoport bulk food transport boxes have been flying off the shelves of late, with distributor sales of Thermoport individual meal boxes growing too. MD Gareth Newton explained: “Care and nursing homes find individual meal boxes essential for the safe serving of meals to residents in isolation. Restaurants also like the hot holding capability for delivering individual takeaways, though they and their couriers also use larger Thermoport bulk food transport boxes which easily strap onto motorbikes and fit into cars and vans.”
To assist dealers, Newton revealed that: “Given the limited physical contact afforded by the lockdown, BGL Rieber has published several newsletters which are mailed to distributors covering its individual, front cooking and bulk meal transport options. We have obviously also stepped up direct contact by phone and email as appropriate. In addition, our website features numerous walk-throughs, so distributors can see our products close-up and in action.”
He concluded: “Distributors are now aware that Covid is creating new opportunities to serve their care home customers. The standard of foodservice has needed to improve to meet the hygiene challenge. Come the next bout of flu – now an annual fear for care homes – or seasonal stomach bug, many homes will use meal delivery boxes to help isolate the sick patients from the rest of the home and thereby improve their management and protect residents, staff and visitors.”
Another mobile hot holding option is Hupfer’s Isobox range of food transport trolleys. These can also cool food or maintain a neutral temperature. According to head of business development Anthony Pettit: “People are trying to get the same professional standard results from inferior products or insulated delivery bags, for example, which don’t have the same quality insulation properties.
“We have had a sales uptick for Isobox this year, but this could be down to a number of things. End users could be re-evaluating their hot holding processes throughout the pandemic or looking for more effective equipment that works to maintain meal quality and temperature.”
Hupfer has a number of demonstration units which allow dealers and end users to trial its products. It also has its own unit at First Choice inside the MKN demonstration kitchen, and hopes to continue to exhibit at events when they return.
Pettit summed up: “The offering of takeaway and delivery is definitely here to stay, but it needs solid investment from the business itself. Insulated delivery bags aren’t the answer for delivery. Even though this is the convenient route to take for many in the industry, the food quickly deteriorates and becomes soggy and wet with condensation inside, and the temperature isn’t anywhere near the core temperature of 75°C.
“At the moment, the quality of delivered food is poor compared to what it could be, but if a business does invest in a proper holding system, they could take a big slice of the market.”