Cres Cor's Evolution of Hot Holding Takes Shape

Today’s sophisticated foodservice industry commercial entities and consumers alike are time-starved for optimal “Ready-To-Go,” quality meal solutions. The common goal is to obliterate the dried out, shrunken, and soggy experience while maximizing taste level with consistent flavor, texture, temperature, nutrition, and appearance—all while keeping up with the fast pace that today’s busy lifestyles demand, and presenting a quality result made from the best, most natural products. No small feat.

With fast-food industry revenues estimated to surpass the $200 billion mark, the use of hot-holding techniques is crucial. The “want it fresh and want it now” mantra that permeates the industry requires foodservice operations to find a way to meet the mixed demands of savory, nutritional, and profitability goals. At the forefront of this movement is the hot-food holding and retherm cabinet category, which utilizes advanced convection, conduction, and induction methods to help retain optimal food quality and safety over extended periods of time.

The perfect storm of productivity, safety, and sensory experience can be achieved with advanced hot holding and retherm cabinets that have the ability to maintain food temperatures properly after cooking. Ultimately, a good hot holding cabinet production system can maximize time and efficiency in practically every facet of a kitchen’s manufacturing and delivery system, which can be mined for significant gains in productivity and cost reduction, while addressing the following considerations in the hot holding matrix. READY-TO-GO: Time is the name of the game across a myriad of platforms in the “Ready-To-Go” (RTG) niche, spanning restaurant chains, schools, hospitals, stadiums, convenient stores, correctional facilities, airports, hotels, catering, banquets, etc. Whatever the setting, “buying” additional operation time with advanced hot holding cabinets allows foodservice operators to beat the clock on several fronts, beyond simply keeping something warm in a heated display or warming station. Key hot holding optimization benefits include: Cooking well before key meal-time rush periods (allows you to get ahead of the rush), producing food in higher volume, reducing product handling and waste, optimizing menu production, eliminating spikes in production, and of course controlled temperatures for food safety.

Customers want hot holding their way: Immediate and with consistent flavor, texture, and appearance. An effective cook/hold component in foodservice production has the effect of smoothing out the production process. Having plenty of high-value food options ready to serve can significantly decrease production spikes during demanding, high-traffic, peak period meal times—or when special events “pop-up” on their own time and at a moment’s notice.

While RTG is becoming ubiquitous for pizza chains and convenience store market segments, it still comes down to the food. Higher-quality, fresher ingredients, and more menu diversity are easy ways to distinguish sustainable success. Cleanliness and frequent stocking are also key variables that directly tie in to optimization of merchandising. The positioning location of take-out selections is also a determining factor of what’s going to be the best way to maximize traffic patterns for sales and ease-of-maintenance. Additionally, many chains are implementing overlay graphics on the control panels of select RTG equipment, prominently displaying their logo to boost merchandising and brand awareness. These strategic merchandising considerations can also counteract preconceived perceptions that most convenience stores experience regarding RTG operations, and having the right RTG equipment is a determining factor in success.

Quality, durability, performance, and energy efficiency are all keys to successful RTG equipment procurement. Quality equipment with the above criteria will always more than pay for itself over time. Furthermore, RTG is continuing to be more essential and popular in channel relevant sectors such as healthcare where time pressure is even more intensified. In most healthcare operations there is a very limited window for feeding employees, residents, and physicians, as they usually have a 30-minute window to eat, or less. The same applies to the college and university foodservice segment where time-crunched, lunch-rush students are a fact of life. Since speed of movement through the line is essential in these environments, proper equipment placement becomes an even bigger consideration, and said equipment must be attractive if it’s positioned upfront. A retail décor experience is also an important merchandising goal.

Regardless of the RTG foodservice market segment, proper hot holding during an on/off transaction environment cuts down on end-area labor and cleanup while prolonging the culinary benefits for end-user satisfaction. While most basic heated cabinets can achieve this for short periods and low quantities, newer science heated cabinets, like the models from Cres Cor (Mentor, Ohio), can consistently accommodate anywhere from 20-320 pre-plated products and are durable enough to handle rugged transport demands. Based on size, volume, and power rate needs, there is an appropriate model to meet every operation’s unique application scenario.

Here’s a brief profile of one of the stalwarts from Cres Cor’s portfolio of full-service hot holding cabinets: H-137 SERIES: Cres Cor’s H-137 Series heated cabinets offer many ruggedly durable, fully insulated models and sizes to choose from, and are considered the industry’s Gold standard in look, power, and performance. While each model in the series has its own unique specification, configuration, and performance output, all models in the series offer powerful, yet efficient heating systems to maintain the right combination of heat and humidity to properly hold products.

Here’s an overview of just a few key benefits and options in the series (based on each individual model): Wattage ranges from 1,000, 1,500, and 2,000 are available. Footprint models ranging from full-size, half-size, three quarter size, and under-counter are available.

Stainless steel construction throughout, for ease-of-cleaning, plus reinforced internal base.

Control panels with easy-to-read thermometers.

Dutch Doors: Options include field reversible, self-closing hinges, antimicrobial latches, silicone door gaskets and more.

New, LED digital display options on some models ensure holding at precise food temperatures and moisture content.

GOLD models rate as Cres Cor’s Best Insulated Hot Cabinets with the best warranty in the industry (3-Year Parts/1-Year Labor).

Smooth interior covered corners to prevent food particles/grease build-up.

Pass-thru design models that allow for access from both preparation and serving areas.

Wide variety of pan sizes and gravity-fed wire shelves.

Multiple ENERGY STAR rated models to choose from.

AquaTem system models that maintain optimum food texture through continuous monitoring of temperature & humidity.

Accessories and Options (available at extra cost) include: Tempered glass door windows, Automatic water fill systems, Built-in USB ports, Key lock handles, 208 or 204 volt service, 1500 Watt/15 Amp power unit, Rear Push and Bail handles, and much more.

OFF-THE-GRID: Off-premise or “Off-The-Grid” (OTG) temporary catered events are continually rising in popularity, and therefore represent viable revenue opportunity streams for Food and Beverage operations. The growing service needs for cuisine in less traditional settings can be optimized by planning work with proper modular hot holding and retherm cabinets. Groups from five to 50, or from 500 or 5,000 are daily occurrences in burgeoning OTG channels.

 Family events, club marketing, corporate celebrations, and sporting events are all viable OTG platforms where foods must be still be safe and maintain the highest standards of quality, just as they would in any other setting. Whether it is event dining in parks, backyards, tailgating, beaches, golf courses, roof tops, or even a vineyard—once a venue is selected, food selection, quality, and food safety become critical to the satisfaction of the event. Heated or refrigerated cabinets that work off-the-grid without the need for electricity will become even more crucial to maintain proper safe serving temps.

Additionally, community settings where large numbers of people need to be fed within a short timeframe are becoming more prevalent; from K-12 schools and correctional facilities to Meals on Wheels programs. The challenge here is maintaining hot, stabilized temperatures (145 degrees and above) in transit between destination points. An alternative method is to create meals, refrigerate them, then retherm on-site to an optimal temperature.

Given the surge of OTG foodservice hospitality events, hot holding and retherm cabinets are constantly improving to meet the challenges that OTG presents in food transport and safety—whether transporting 50 feet or 50 Miles. Cres Cor continues to make significant advancements to its models, from improved insulations to smaller footprints, better electric battery systems for heating, as well as options in propane and solar energy. The search also continues for one “gamechanging” cabinet that can provide optimal hot or cold environments for OTG applications. Be confident that Cres Cor continues to search for that Holy Grail. For an optimal OFG solution, here’s a brief profile of Cres Cor’s latest technology—the HotCube3.

The industry's first hybrid heated hot cabinet actually allows you to hold food safely indoors or out, with or without a cord. Latest Technology—HotCube3: MODEL HC-UA-11 (PATENT PENDING) Versatile and efficient, the three quarter-size holding cabinet allows you the flexibility to use it indoors with standard 120 Volt electric, then unplug and use it outdoors via a new propane fuel hybrid heat system (8,700 BTUs), which effortlessly maintains safe holding temps of up to 200 degrees (93°C). Built rugged for transport, the adaptable unit is perfect for transporting a wide variety of foods. It has ample capacity to hold up to 22 steam pans or 11 sheet pans. Here’s an overview of just a few key benefits and options of the HotCube3.

The powerful yet efficient 1500 Watt heating system maintains the right temperature to properly hold products.

Battery indicator shows current battery status while optional solar panel charges battery for optimum control efficiency when no electric capabilities are available.

Utilizes standard 1 lb. propane tanks for up to 8 hours of hold time with a recessed well provided for a spare 1 lb. propane canister. Easily converts to 20 lb. tank system with 20 lb. hose adapter accessory

Internal frame maintains structural rigidity with a standard perimeter bumper that protects the cabinet body and walls from damage.

Heavy duty 8" never flat all terrain swivel casters that can handle any surface, and two are equipped with brakes. ▪Smooth interior caved corners prevent food particle/grease buildup.

Accessories and Options (Available at extra cost) include: Customized powder coating with your colors and logo, Natural Gas Adapter, Solar Panel, 6” Modulus Casters, Extra Heavy Duty Transport Angles, and more.

HOT HOLDING CONCLUSION: Ready-To-Go demands in the foodservice industry are not the wave of the future—they are NOW.

Maximizing the benefits of advanced hot holding cabinets can put foodservice operators at the forefront of this movement, by matching the right cabinet for the application profile to meet the increased on-demand need seamlessly and head-on. Finding the right “Mix-in-the-Matrix” of hot holding time, temperature, and performance efficiencies ultimately will result in fewer staff hours and lower labor costs, representing a significant savings and return on investment over time.

Finally, a piece of foodservice equipment is designed to earn foodservice operators more money the longer it remains in use, so it had better be energy efficient. In fact, hot holding cabinets might just be the most energy efficient solution of any category of major kitchen equipment in today’s food industry. Ready-To-Go, or Off-The-Grid. You can count on Cres Cor and its commitment to Quality, Innovation, and ENERGY STAR rated equipment to lead the evolution of hot holding. 

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