Warmers/merchandisers are not only functional, but they also serve as a selling vehicle for a variety of food types. These units offer both self- and full-service capabilities and are often used in the front of house to display either plated or packaged food.
Operators can use warmers/merchandisers for almost any menu item that needs to stay warm within 140 degrees F to 160 degrees F. Examples span from pizza and soup to fried and baked goods. The type of product and holding time dictates the style of warmer/merchandiser that will best suit the operation.
A variety of foodservice operations use these units, including food courts and retail outlets. Noncommercial operators — such as hospitals, schools, B&I operations, corrections — will use these units, too.
Warmers/merchandisers come in three main categories: islands, in-line and countertop. The in-line and countertop units are set up for full-service and/or self-service access, while islands are for self-service use. Self-serve units help create impulse sales opportunities in grab-and-go applications.
Shelf merchandisers are considered very versatile, and snack merchandisers are geared for front-of-the-counter offerings. Euro-style merchandisers are generally used for entrees and sides, such as chicken and fried products.
Stainless steel is often used in areas of the warmer/merchandiser that need to be cleaned frequently. Glass, tempered or otherwise, is also a common material for side walls and back doors since it provides visibility of the products being merchandised. Sizes of warmers and merchandisers range from 10 to 36 inches wide, with some units measuring more than 90 inches long for high-volume operations. Shelving ranges from one to five tiers, depending on the model, and can be either horizontal for products like boxed pizza or slanted to situate product forward for better viewing.
The heating methods will vary by factory. While some units provide top and bottom heat, others utilize conductive heat on the bottom. Merchandisers are also available with a calrod or heat strip on top and a heat blanket on the bottom and convected air or infrared heat.
Models with heated shelves range in size from 18 to 72 inches with either a stainless-steel or black powder coat finish. These units can heat up to 220 degrees F across the surface for consistent warming.
Operators can choose from a variety of humidified and non-humidified merchandisers. Enclosed humidified merchandisers with doors, which help maintain foods’ natural moisture, are designated for open or unpackaged product. These units hold food up to two hours, twice the amount of time as non-humidified merchandisers.
Narrow grab-and-go-type heated merchandisers fit in tighter spaces and typically include interior lighting, heated angled shelves and interchangeable graphics. Retail operations and those with more limited counter space often opt for compact grab-and-go styles and countertop units. Mobile heated merchandisers are available for use on countertops or as island units.
Standard features for these display units vary, depending on the model and manufacturer. Features may include divider rods to help section off different products that run front to back, removable shelves, pull-out crumb trays, thermostatic controls and a choice of shelving tiers.
Aesthetics are a major factor with warmers/merchandisers since these units are frequently visible to customers. Options for this equipment are typically decor-related, such as base and bumper colors, various shapes, and a selection of profiles for the case and base. Manufacturers offer various designs, from simple utilitarian models that include a shelf to more elaborate decorated bull-nose displays as well as units with curved lines and Euro-style elliptical units. Along with industrial stainless-steel and aluminum finishes, models offer various color powder coatings that can match different decors or themes.
Other warmer/merchandiser options include more sophisticated temperature controllers, curved glass instead of square and stainless-steel legs. Units are available that vary the temperature in different sections of the display unit for different holding needs. This provides energy savings as heating can be lowered in certain zones as needed.
There are also accessories geared to enhance this equipment’s efficiency, such as shelves for scales or packaging, as well as containers or rails to hold tongs, thermometers and other accessories.