What to Consider When Purchasing Heated Display Merchandisers

Consultant Q&A with Orlando Espinosa, principal, Orlando Espinosa + Associates LLC, Glen Mills, Pa.

FE&S: What should operators consider when selecting a heated display merchandiser for their operations?

OE: Selecting the right heated merchandiser can be an easy task after determining the food items it will display, whether these will be wrapped or unwrapped, if a self-serve or attendant-served model is best and whether a countertop or floor model is warranted.

FE&S: What types of foodservice operations can use these units?

OE: There are many foodservice operations that these units are often used in, including on-site cafeterias, food courts or retail outlets. Hot merchandisers are most often seen in hospitals, schools, B&I operations, corrections, sports and entertainment venues, and retail stores.

FE&S: How is food typically presented in heated display merchandisers?

OE: Once the type of foodservice operation has been verified, it’s important to identify those items on the menu that that can be properly displayed wrapped, in a container, boxed or uncovered for self-service. In addition, food products can be displayed either preportioned or bulk for self-service. Operators also should figure out the number of servings required for display at one time, which will determine the unit’s size.

FE&S: What is the main consideration when determining the size of the merchandiser?

OE: Selecting the proper capacity for the heated merchandiser is key in order to support the menu and operation. Operators need to figure out how many shelves or pans are needed per compartment to handle the number of portions or servings per shelf or pan.

FE&S: What are the advantages and disadvantages of countertop displays?

OE: The advantages are these units can be placed almost anywhere on a serving counter, table or stand. Most offer the options for graphics as a form of marketing. Heat can be provided through heated shelves, infrared lights or forced hot air circulated through the cavity. The display shelves are adjustable and can be pitched in some units. The disadvantage is these units require electrical connections, additional counter space and may need a backup display or storage, depending on the operation’s volume.

FE&S: What should operators consider with drop-in heated merchandisers?

OE: Although these units can be built into serving counters for cleaner aesthetics, and electricity is not a problem due to the design, if these are not sized properly or the appropriate options are not chosen, this type may be more difficult to work with.

FE&S: When are floor models preferable?

OE: These units can be placed in a serving area to create a new point-of-service station or supplement an existing station; however, this will require an electrical connection and may appear cumbersome if the proper size is not selected.

FE&S: What should operators consider when deciding between self- and full-service merchandisers?

OE: Self-serve units allow customers to select food themselves and provide accessibility to customers during slower periods of the day. The disadvantages are that product must be replenished regularly for a full appearance, and packaging plays a part in whether the food looks appealing. With full-service merchandisers, staff are able to interact with customers, and it’s easier to keep food looking appealing as it is tended to regularly. However, this type requires additional labor to maintain a fresh and full appearance in the case.

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