Food display and serveries


Before choosing, consider your food style, potential throughput and the flexibility you need from a servery or food counter.

Counter options include branded merchandising units for drinks and snacks, multi-use counters with hot, cold or ambient sections and dedicated units such as salad bars.

Layout and counter length is often geared to the till system and type of payment; in staff catering or schools a cashless system provides much quicker throughput, but in retail, cash or cards are still ‘king’. Make sure you view lots of similar businesses to yours, to get the best view on what can be achieved. If you don’t know who might have had new food display or servery facilities, Court Catering Equipment should know.

Many counter systems waste huge amounts of heat, giving more heat out to the atmosphere than into the food. Gantry lights in an all day operation, for example, can emit 12 kW per hour each, but caterers like to have them on all the time as it signals ‘we are open’. An energy saving alternative is turning off the gantry when not required and switching on additional fluorescent lights behind the counter, which replicate the ‘open’ signal without wasting heat. Switching the counters on too early for service is a common cause of wasting energy. Staff may not simply know how long it takes the counter to warm up! The majority of counters are bought on appearance, not performance and they typically run at much higher temperatures than needed for food safety. The manufacturer may set the controls 2-3 degC over to ensure due diligence. The operator is similarly adding a few degrees for safety, all of which adds up to wasted energy.

Specification: Setting a specification for the shell of the counter to include 304 or 316 stainless steel instead of mild steel will add to the capital cost, but this is more than covered by the cost of disposal because the carcase is now more easily recycled. The material cost of a counter is around 25-30%, with the majority of the cost in labour, so the additional capital cost is not excessive. Many counters use hot, cold and ambient ‘drop-in’ units which are built into the counter by fabricators. The key to energy efficiency and maximising food quality here is to choose well insulated, well-built units from reputable makers. A food court scenario is appropriate for upwards of 1000 meals, but these are space hungry and staff intensive. Equipment selection could include a mix of mobile and fixed units. Removable options, such as interchangeable griddles, wok cookers or pasta cookers can be changed on a daily basis and provide great flexibility. One option becoming increasingly popular is the front of house finishing section, which receives cooked main courses such as roast meats, lasagne etc., from the behind-the-scenes kitchen and where staff can help customers to vegetables or accompaniments; or where customers help themselves.

Cleaning efficiency: Theatre style front of house finishing sections make cleaning easier, because there is a much smaller area to clean. If feeding a static audience, flexibility and innovation are the key to keeping customers interested. For retail display, you only have one opportunity for the customer to see what is on offer; graphics, menus and signage can say as much about the offer as the display on the counter.

Which manufacturer? Court Catering Equipment works with all catering equipment manufacturers. We know good equipment from bad and what works best, whether it is light, medium or heavy-duty. You have a choice of manufacturer and we will help you make the most of that choice.

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