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What To Think About When Purchasing a Merchandiser for Your Foodservice Operation

What To Think About When Purchasing a Merchandiser for Your Foodservice Operation


You’ve heard the term triple threat. It refers to someone or something with incredible skills in three different areas. Well-rounded and experienced athletes, musicians, actors and dancers are often praised with this title. But we’d argue that this flattery is also appropriate for our friend — the commercial merchandiser. These units bring the three-pronged genius of holding, displaying and marketing meals for a variety of operations, including hospitals, correctional facilities, schools, sports venues and more.

Hot food merchandisers keep food hot while providing you with the flexibility to support full- or self-service formats. They are a quick holding solution for back-of-the-house needs too, helping you preserve the quality and safety of your offerings. Plus, their attractive glass profile is perfect for displaying pizza, nachos, sandwiches and the like. With so many applications, maybe merchandisers are more like a triple-quadruple-infinity threat? Whatever the case, they are pretty great. You just need to know what to look for.

1. First impressions

Did you know that first impressions are often established within seconds of meeting someone new? Knowing that, shouldn’t you also be mindful of how little time it takes a customer to form an opinion about your operation? When someone new walks into your foodservice establishment, you have moments to make a good first impression. In fact, research shows that 90% of people make a snap judgment about whether or not they will return based on the cleanliness of an establishment.

With that in mind, be sure you sweep your floors, wipe down counters and keep your display cases squeaky clean. Put in the maintenance, but also think about how you can tackle cleanliness at the purchasing stage. In the case of merchandisers, always look for units that are designed for easy cleaning. In fact, most health departments require that commercial foodservice equipment is certified by a third-party agency such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or Underwriter Laboratories (UL). These agencies conduct regular audits to verify that equipment is well-constructed, manufactured with easy-to-clean materials and designed with sanitation in mind — all of which are important factors in food safety.

But let’s be real. Cleanliness matters, but so do looks. That’s right, a good-looking merchandiser that matches the aesthetic of your operation and showcases your food with good visibility and convenient access is a force to be reckoned with. So whether you offer a grab-and-go, full service, buffet-style or other format, the right display can grab ahold of your customers’ attention and drive sales. With that in mind, why not stand out from your competitors? Select a designer merchandiser with your choice of color, configuration and style.

2. Light it up

A fantastic first impression isn’t the only way to get customers’ attention and boost sales. If you’ve ever been to the theater, you know that lighting has the power to turn heads and tell people where to look. But good lighting doesn’t just draw attention to actors on stage; it can also be a great way to showcase all your delicious menu items.

While gaining your customers’ attention is vital, did you know that a well-lit meal can even taste better? That’s right; research shows that good lighting creates the perception of better flavor and taste than the same meal presented in a more dimly lit environment. Thankfully, there are a host of quality merchandisers that provide balanced and optimal lighting. And since lighting is a powerful marketing tool, why not choose a well-lit merchandiser that’ll make your food the star of the show?

3. Bring on the heat

Hot-holding equipment like merchandisers are designed to keep food at an optimal holding temperatures to please your customers and keep them coming back. While a heated base is standard, merchandisers provide kitchen-to-server or self-serve holding, which means an extended holding time might be necessary. Some models offer additional heating options to accommodate this need.

One type of heat source used in merchandisers is infrared radiation. This warming option employs infrared rays that radiate onto the food, slowing the natural cooling process and allowing you to hold your food for longer. Another option leverages forced air. For example, Hatco’s Flav-R-Savor® Heated Air Curtain Merchandiser forces hot air downward through ducts above the merchandiser’s opening. This mechanism creates a “curtain” of heated air that helps keep the entire unit (and its contents) nice and toasty. Some other additional warming options to consider include convection heat, energy-saving technologies and zone-heated shelves.

4. Hot and humid

There’s no question that some foods hold better than others. For example, a tender steak is delicious right off the grill, but try holding it for any length of time, and things can go downhill fast. On the other hand, the savory flavor of a lasagna only gets better when it sits for a while. A great and simple way to boost the quality of your food during holding times is to choose a humidity feature for your merchandiser. Just a touch of water in the merchandiser’s reservoir makes the humidity level rise, so say sayonara to dried out pizza and burritos and hello to perfectly moist delicious snacks.

5. The control factor

Heat controls typically fall into two different categories: infinite or thermostatic. Infinite controls don’t provide specific temperature settings but instead have a heat range from low to high. On the flip side, thermostatic controls allow the operator to set the unit to the exact temperature they desire. When the thermostat senses a shift in temperature, it adjusts to maintain the set temperature within the unit. Whenever possible, choose merchandising equipment that offers thermostatic controls. Precise temperatures usually allow units to heat more efficiently and save energy by adjusting to the thermostatic need.

6. The digital advantage

Speaking of controls, some heated merchandisers offer an indicating temperature control (ITC) panel. Digital displays like these make it easier to view the panel. So at a quick glance (even from across the room), operators can easily monitor the holding temperature and adjust as needed. A digital temperature setting can also help establish better standard operating procedures by allowing operators to provide more precise instructions regarding holding temperatures for certain foods. This added feature can be a simple way of streamlining your operation.

Make it happen.

Finding the right merchandiser to meet your needs begins with understanding the options available. Interested in exploring all that Hatco has to offer? Visit our website or find a helpful Hatco representative near you that can walk you through all of our incredible solutions.

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