Heated Display Merchandisers

Heated display merchandisers keep food accessible and hot prior to serving.


A Guide to Hot and Cold Display Cases

Refrigerated and hot display cases provide quick and easy access to food, which stimulates the impulse to buy.

Refrigerated and hot display cases in pass-through, roll-in and undercounter configurations are prevalent due to the continued popularity of grab-and-go items. For optimum accessibility and viewing, display product at eye level whenever possible.

Available in closed or open formats, refrigerated display cases hold product between 33 degrees F and 41 degrees F. This equipment is only used to keep cold food cold and is not meant to chill warm food to safe holding temperatures. Units range from small pie cases that mount to a wall to larger freestanding grab-and-go merchandisers to more ornate curved glass display cases.

Used in the front and back of house, heated display cases or merchandisers hold hot food between 140 degrees F and 160 degrees F. The type of product and holding time dictates the style of heated display merchandiser best used. For example, packaged products in paper or clear clamshells are typically held between 30 and 45 minutes.

Operators can choose from among three main categories of hot merchandising units: island, in-line and countertop. Island units are self-service, while in-line and countertop units are set up for full-service and/or self-service access. Shelf merchandisers are the most versatile due to the configuration, while snack merchandisers are best suited for front-of-the-counter offerings. Prepackaged entrees and sides are typically stored in Euro-style merchandisers.

Most merchandiser types, including open-air, glass-door, countertop bakery and deli refrigerated units come with either remote or self-contained refrigeration systems.

The majority of refrigerated cases for commercial use have a stainless-steel exterior, either stainless or ABS material interiors, and stainless or glass shelving. From a retailing standpoint, the more glass on the unit, the better its merchandising ability.

Like refrigerated cases, heated display merchandisers are generally constructed of stainless steel. These range in size from 10 to 36 inches wide and may be more than 90 inches long. Shelving with one to five tiers is available, depending on the model. Cases with heated shelves range in size from 18 to 72 inches wide. These heat up to 220 degrees F across the surface for consistent and safe holding.

Display cases designed for hot food offer various heating methods. While some provide top and bottom heat, others utilize conductive heat on the bottom. Merchandisers are available with a Calrod or heat strip on top and a heat blanket on the bottom. Heated cases are also available with convected air or infrared heat.

Operators use enclosed humidified heated merchandisers with doors to hold open or unpackaged product since these units help maintain food’s natural moisture. These models hold food for one and a half to two hours.

Open models, used with packaged products, are generally non-humidified and have shorter holding times. A water reservoir is included with countertop cases, which helps keep the product moist and fresh. These units also may feature interior lighting, angled shelves and graphics for merchandising capabilities. Narrower grab-and-go-type heated merchandisers fit in smaller footprints and also are equipped with interior lighting, angled shelves and interchangeable graphics.

There are various temperature monitoring alternatives with refrigerated display cases, such as standard electronic controllers, defrost timers, thermometers and alarms for high-temperature alerts. In addition, these units may include rear-loading doors and shelf lights, an often overlooked element. LED lighting is also available.

Standard heated display features may include divider rods to separate different products running front to back, removable shelves, pull-out crumb trays, thermostatic controls and a choice of shelving tiers. Upgrades 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 case for specific holding needs.

Looking at recent developments, significant advancements have been made in creating more energy-efficient refrigeration systems. These systems can save operators hundreds of dollars in electricity expenses annually and are proven to outperform daily energy consumption standards established by the Department of Energy.


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