Here, Lee Simon, principal at Innovative Foodservice Design Team, Tampa, Fla., and Matt Schuler, director of culinary development and corporate chef at SCOPOS Hospitality Group, Ephrata, Pa. provide insightful merchandising tips on how foodservice professionals can successfully add fresh food displays to foodservice operations.
- Draw Attention to Food: “There has been a steady evolution of this trend in foodservice design, most notably with food guards,” says Simon. “Large, traditional 2-inch brass food guards have long since been replaced with solutions that increase the amount of glass and minimize the solid structure.” There are numerous other opportunities throughout different work areas and market segments to implement similar strategies. For instance, Simon says air screen refrigerators have been utilized in some chain and servery applications as a vertical salad or lettuce display.
This concept combines form and function, with the greens providing a colorful and engaging backdrop, while the vertical configuration maximizes space and can speed up service. “There are additional opportunities to incorporate refrigerated air screens in other applications throughout a foodservice venue to enhance both aesthetics and work flow,” he says.
- Create Seamless Displays: Today’s operators also are looking at the style and design of these cases. “The trend now is continuous, sleek designs, like a jewelry case, without massive interruption,” says Schuler. “We try to install this equipment into the walls so it’s a seamless unit all the way across.”
- Keep Food Fresh and Plentiful: “Another essential tip is to make sure food items on display are properly rotated and filled,” says Schuler. “Merchandisers also will function best when properly loaded.”
- Blend Displays with the Environment: “The undercounter refrigerated air screen grab-and-go cases from Structural Concepts have opened up a number of opportunities to incorporate refrigerated displays that better blend with the surrounding environment,” says Simon.
Innovative Foodservice Design has been utilizing these cases heavily since these were introduced across a wide variety of market segments, including hotels and resorts, gourmet markets, airports, universities, healthcare, business and industry, senior living and more. “The ability to offer our clients a combined display that incorporates both refrigerated and ambient offerings, while matching the look and feel of the surrounding space, is invaluable,” says Simon. “Enhancement of food and beverage presentation strategies will ultimately lead to higher sales.”
- Look at the Location: “Some of the first things I’m looking for when specifying cases is to see what the location is already doing and where to take them next,” says Schuler. “We look at what we can merchandise that individuals will grab on the go, both hot and cold items.”
It’s important to see what the location will function as, whether a place for breakfast, lunch and/or grab-and-go items.
- Maintaining the Cold Chain: “It is crucial that items placed in a cold merchandiser come from a chilled environment, as these units are not meant to serve as refrigerators,” says Schuler.
- Manage Food Presentation: In most applications where food displays are utilized, there will be a fluctuation in volume. Simon says the key is to manage the food presentation, limiting the amount of food displayed during slower periods without negatively impacting the presentation and maximizing the space available during peak periods. “The best solutions allow the amount of food displayed to flex within the same footprint,” advises Simon. Innovative Foodservice Design had a large casino client that, at the outset of a renovation project, wanted to have an A side and B side for the main buffet, which was over 300 feet long. When house counts were low, they would simply shut down the B side. “We challenged this approach, fearing a compromised experience if guests were to walk into a large restaurant that was half closed,” says Simon. Instead, Innovative Foodservice Design offered the client an alternative approach that would allow the casino to align the quantity and style of food presentation with the anticipated volume. “This strategy proved to be extremely successful,” says Simon.
- Be Aware of Ambient Temperatures: Airflow can potentially compromise product in a cold merchandising environment, so it’s important to be aware of ambient temperatures. “People are generally not paying attention to airflow, so this aspect of the room is very important when dealing with cases in general,” says Schuler. “If airflow is bad or there is a vent right over the case, this needs to be addressed in the beginning of the design.”
- Position by the Register: Today, many display cases are being positioned by the register for additional merchandising opportunities. “We see a lot of small drink cases right in front of the register that have impulse items, like water or pastries as add ons,” says Schuler.
“We like to specify cases that are very flexible and give operators flexibility.” For example, the left side of the case can be cold for holding salads and beverages, while the right side is at room temperature for merchandising muffins, cookies and other items that don’t need refrigeration.
- Make the Most Out of the Space: It’s not unusual to see operations with a lot of wasted counter space. “Merchandisers are great because these units enhance functionality,” says Schuler. “Structural Concepts has awesome retail and foodservice lines that make the most out of a space.”
- Light Up for a Clear View: Lighting also is key in providing a full view and helping to merchandise product in display cases. “Structural Concepts does a great job in utilizing shelf lighting,” says Schuler. “With LED, the presentation is clearer and brighter, with every item in full view and enhanced.”