As the nation reels amid the coronavirus pandemic, retail foodservice is assuming a more important role in the feeding of the country — and equipment suppliers are answering food safety needs.
Marjorie Proctor, design and marketing specialist at Dover Food Retail, in Conyers, Ga., says that the company manufactures retail foodservice equipment for the “front of the house,” and its portfolio includes a wide range of refrigerated, hot and dry display cases, as well as counters.
“We are currently running at full capacity to meet our customers’ needs,” Proctor says, noting: “The options for food products available today continue to be a higher quality of freshness and merchandising in better packaging. For grab-and-go items, we have small plug-and-play refrigerated self-service spot merchandisers, as well as larger islands like our i2i modular island that is a customizable island that can accommodate variations of displaying refrigerated, hot or dry goods.”
- The coronavirus pandemic has led to retail foodservice taking a more prominent role in feeding consumers and meeting food safety needs.
- Many foodservice equipment companies have been designated essential businesses during the outbreak, allowing them to serve retailers during an unprecedented time.
- The core of a successful foodservice program, equipment can determine whether food items sell, and also boost margins by lowering food waste, operating costs and labor.
She adds that Dover’s newest release is an all-metal food bar called the MBI, available for merchandising hot and cold food items, and “a great venue for enticing the time-crunched lunch-rushers who are depending on the time waiting in line to be very minimal.”
When it comes to food safety, Proctor says: “All of our cases are designed and tested to meet and exceed NSF [National Science Foundation] and UL [Underwriters Laboratories] standards. We are dedicated to helping retailers with maintaining product freshness and maximizing product shelf life by educating on how to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and everything in between to monitor food temperatures, and keeping equipment at top performance.”
Joe Michaels, VP of new product development at Denver-based Tebo Store Fixtures, says that the company “has provided everything from supplies like hooks and bags to technology like indoor and outdoor digital menu boards, digital signage and customer analytics for over 50 years.”
According to Michaels, the company has been deemed essential during the pandemic because it services the grocery industry, and, although the showroom is currently closed, product can either be shipped or picked up at the Denver warehouse while the sales, accounting and design staff are working from home.
Significantly, he points out that the company’s latest addition is an affordable, customizable shield that protects both employees and customers from threats like COVID-19 by creating a clean, clear barrier of safety between people.
For his part, Daniel Poor, VP and business unit leader at N Wasserstrom, in Columbus, Ohio, notes that “Amtecko/Wasserstrom is considered an essential business, and our manufacturing and distribution locations remain operational to support our clients in the foodservice and hospitality industries.”
The company is a foodservice dealer and custom manufacturer providing turnkey foodservice design, layout and planning, manufacturing, equipment distribution, consolidation, warehousing, logistics, and installation services.
“We are a custom fabricator equipped with an array of in-house manufacturing capabilities, including metal, wood, wire, stone, glass, booth seating and refrigeration,” Poor observes. “Our manufacturing facilities are ETL [Edison Testing Laboratories] and NSF certified. We build items ranging in complexity from simple production tables and sinks, to retail displays, to hot and cold food merchandisers, to complete kiosks with built-in plumbing and electrical systems. Our products are used in a variety of markets, including retail, grocery, c-store, hospitality, health care and restaurants.”
Regarding food safety, he explains that at the custom manufacturer, products are designed and engineered to address safety, quality, sustainability and performance concerns. “Our state-of-the-art development lab allows us to test in exact temperature and humidity environments to ensure these products perform as expected,” Poor says. “From operational consulting services to custom-manufactured lift-up sneeze guards, we deliver value and innovation.”
Getting it Right
Jonathan Schroeder, director of national accounts at Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Alto-Shaam, says, “As retail operators look to hire more staff and expand their pre-prepared and delivery options, it’s important to have the right system in place to enable these critical shifts.”
Equipment is the core of a successful foodservice program, Schroeder emphasizes, and can make or break whether food items sell, and also improve margins by reducing food waste, operating costs and labor.
“Alto-Shaam has an entire system of foodservice equipment that is tailored to meet the changing needs of retail foodservice programs, including Self-Cleaning Rotisserie ovens, Vector Multi-Cook ovens, heated holding cabinets [and] heated shelf merchandisers, among other products,” he points out, adding that Alto-Shaam is an essential business dedicated to supporting its customers in critical foodservice industries that must stay open during this time.
“We’ve recently launched our new Self-Cleaning Rotisserie ovens,” Schroeder says, “which feature an automatic grease-collection system, self-cleaning cycles and touchscreen programmable controls. Designed to be on display, the rotisserie oven is also great for boosting impulse sales by creating a theater effect during the cooking process.”
For retailers with limited space or those looking to expand an existing program, he notes that the latest Vector H Series Multi-Cook ovens require no water hookups and feature a compact, ventless design. They feature four ovens in one with independent temperature, fan speed and cook time control so operators can cook food exactly to order.
“Vector H Series ovens feature an enhanced control that streamlines processes and makes the cooking process seamless,” Schroeder adds. “The more intuitive the equipment, the less time and money operators need to spend training new employees.”
Alto-Shaam also offers Vector F Series ovens, which he says can replace two traditional ovens, thus optimizing square footage and workflow. These ovens can be stacked with the company’s Combitherm combi ovens for retailers that need to have a variety of cooking applications in a single, vertical footprint.
“Accurate cooking results can give operators great peace of mind,” Schroeder observes while discussing food safety. “Our Combitherm combi ovens feature a removable probe that measures degree of doneness through temperature readings. The best part of cooking by probe is that all of the information is recorded, so operators have HACCP data to reference and download as needed.”
He goes on to say that holding food at the optimal temperature after cooking is also critical for food safety, and that Alto-Shaam’s heated holding cabinets and merchandisers maintain safe food temperatures with gentle, radiant heat, and are key to ensuring that hot foods are kept at required temperatures, while also preventing dried-out or overcooked food in a grab-and-go program.
He adds that Alto-Shaam has a full team of culinary experts dedicated to helping retailers before, during and after the sale, asserting, “We are here as a partner to help streamline and navigate foodservice needs during this rapidly shifting time.”
According to Jim Socha, VP of retail sales at Glenview, Ill.-based ITW Food Equipment Group, the company’s brands and foodservice equipment are Hobart and Berkel, food prep; Hobart, Vulcan and Wolf, cooking equipment; Hobart, weighing and wrapping, and dishwashing; Traulsen, refrigeration; and Baxter, bakery.
“Our equipment and service brands are grateful to be considered ‘essential,’ as we are fully operational in support of food retailers [and] health care foodservice operations, as well as other foodservice operations working hard to make sure people have the food they need during this challenging time,” Socha says.
Among the company’s newest equipment additions are a portion-scale slicer that enables slicing and weighing to occur together, a removable slicer blade guard for easy and safe blade removal, a CleN ventless conveyor dishwasher that requires no additional hood/ventilation, HT Series scales with a user-friendly interface and customizable options, and an automatic wrapping system with advanced pneumatics and simplified timings, all from Hobart; Smart Control for precise temperature control and Stay Clear condenser coils that don’t need cleaning, from Traulsen; and the VersaOven with steam capability for baked goods, vegetables, proteins and rotisserie, from Baxter.
“All our food preparation equipment is designed to be safe and easy to clean,” Socha says, adding that Hobart commercial dishwashers are certified to NSF Standard 3 for Commercial Warewashing Equipment; Traulsen Smart Control automatically alerts for problems visually, audibly or both; Traulsen Blast Chillers automatically document the kitchen staff’s due diligence; and Vulcan and Traulsen heated holding cabinets enable hot food to be stored for periods of time at safe temperatures.
“ITW Food Equipment Group brands are backed by Hobart Service, a factory-trained organization that operates 24/7 to help keep our customers’ equipment running,” Socha notes. “Our parts distribution center stocks 100% direct OEM [original equipment manufacturer] parts, with over 40,000 SKUs in stock ready for next-day delivery.”
Today’s retail foodservice infrastructure is not only allowing retailers to keep up with demand, but also making a reality the phrase that has become the byword for these times: Stay safe.