Williams Refrigeration has some advice for retailers contemplating a move into food to go: make sure you invest in the right equipment before you start. "People going into foodservice for the first time don't necessarily understand the difference between commercial and domestic equipment," says Williams marketing manager Nicky Franklin. "Because there's a big price difference, they may be tempted to buy a domestic model, but using a domestic fridge in a commercial environment is not only dangerous, it could also put you at risk of prosecution with HACCP legislation."
Every time you open a fridge door, the interior warms up as cold air escapes and warm air rushes in. A commercial fridge is powerful enough to chill down the interior quickly so that food stays safe, even if the door is being constantly opened and closed, A domestic fridge works much more slowly: it can't get the temperature down fast enough, so it can't store food safely.
Manufacturers like Williams are responding to demand with light-duty commercial equipment. They are less powerful than traditional commercial models and consequently significantly less expensive, but are ideal for lower volume catering sites.
Williams' Amber range of fridges and freezers is available in upright and undercounter versions.
Michael Shaw, marketing director of Modena Catering, has also identified the market for smaller commercial equipment.
He says that for independent convenience stores which want to expand into bake-off, the cost of big convection ovens on top of the expense of refrigeration and display equipment can be daunting.
"There is very little equipment available for stores that have a potential market for bake-off goods, but are not so big that they can invest up to £2,000 in a complete system," he says.
Modena's solution is a table-top bake-off convection oven that can bake four trays of frozen or chilled food at a cost price which it says is half that of similar sized machines currently on the market.
The RL2 has most of the cooking features found on big convection ovens for a selling price of less than £600. It can inject steam to assist crisping and browning, has a grill function for the top shelf, a double-glazed door for energy efficiency,
a timer up to two hours and, handily for the smaller store, it operates from a 13amp wall plug. The only extra utility connection needed is to the water mains.
Manufacturers also recognise that store staff may not have the catering training of their other customers. Oven supplier Rational, for example, has developed a unit with presets for each type of product that is cooked. Its SelfCooking Center allows the user to select the food to be baked and push a button to automatically select the programme and precisely control the bake-off climate within the oven.
Rational says the Center also saves money by using less energy and water than traditional combi ovens, and suggests that savings will pay for the unit within 13 months.