Food safety is not necessarily something consumers think about when they enter convenience stores, but the issue is top of mind for the industry.
Consider the price of not having it. Foodborne illness costs the United States $55.5 billion annually, according to Fortune magazine. This includes foodborne illness at c-stores, restaurants, food recalls and other safety issues. A foodborne illness can cause a major or even permanent hit to a food service establishment, resulting in lost revenues, lawsuits, reduced customer loyalty and a diminished reputation.
One recent fast-casual Mexican chain has been battling bad press and numerous scares in recent years. This has racked up hundreds of foodborne illnesses, as recent as this summer. Health officials noted that the most recent outbreak was caused by bacteria commonly found in meat or precooked food that’s been kept at unsafe temperatures. The company’s stock fell 4% after the cause of the outbreak was revealed. Additionally, the chain announced plans to close between 55 to 65 locations, in a restructuring move that could cost the company as much as $135 million.
This underscores the importance of food safety and temperatures. Since these incidents have gone public, the company has rolled out new training programs and other initiatives to help ensure better food safety at its restaurants.
How to avoid problems with temperature
One of the best ways to ensure food safety is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This helps deter the growth of harmful bacteria. Hatco, which creates warmers, cabinets and other functional displays for the c-store industry, is cognizant of the health and financial effects of foodborne illness. As a result, its products pass rigorous NSF International testing, says James Jakubowski, project leader of business development for Hatco, which is based in Milwaukee. “As far as food safety is concerned, it starts on our end with design and testing,” he says. “At Hatco, we have stringent testing policies and it’s at the forefront to pass all the [thresholds for] food holding temperatures.”
All of Hatco’s warming products keep hot food at the right temperature, and these heated systems are continually improved upon, too. One of the company’s newer products, the Intelligent Display Cabinet with Humidity, regulates air temperature and simultaneously balances humidity levels to provide the best environment for holding pizzas and other food products. Its air flow rate enables the cabinet to recover temperature rapidly after opening and closing the doors.
While consumers may not be focused on food safety, they are drawn to appetizing food and enticing displays. Food safety equipment should help sate consumers’ hunger for aesthetics with modern design and attractive LED lighting. “In addition to maintaining safe temperature and quality, the other function of the warmer display is to enhance food through lighting and visibility—to make the food pop and be attractive to the consumer,” Jakubowski says.
He points to the Heated Zone Merchandiser, which holds hot grab-and-go packaged food products. It incorporates energy efficiency, LED lighting, and it has a sleek design that is appealing to the eye. “The function of the warmer is to keep food products safe, and fresh and also enhance the design of a convenience store and attract people to that,” Jakubowski notes. “At the end of the day, the store wants to sell as much food product as possible.”
Going forward, as c-stores continue to provide fresher, healthier and more prepared options to go, they will strive to provide a high standard of food safety through aesthetically pleasing displays, Jakubowski says. “As they move more toward having more robust foodservice programs, they’ll think ‘how do we do it fast but do it safe?’” he says. “I think you’ll see holding become more important because retailers are going to want to be able to prepare food at the convenience store and then hold it to ensure maximum ROI.”
Manufacturers of this equipment will help retailers achieve these goals. Displays likely will include more glass (instead of metal) and feature better design, easier-to-use controls, technology that allows the food to stay fresher longer, more sightlines to the food and improved lighting – all of which work well for making the food stand out to the consumer.
Smaller food-holding products might be on the horizon as well. “Smaller grab-and-go heated solutions will be a wave of the future,” he says. “There could be more emphasis on that type of equipment as well, smaller and near the POS.”
From the corporate offices in Milwaukee to the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., Hatco Corporation is a proud employee-owned company. Since 1950, Hatco has a history of excellence in the quality design, production and servicing of warming, toasting, holding, cooking, sanitizing and cooling equipment. To learn more about Hatco, visit the company website at https:///www.hatcocorp.com.
This post is sponsored by Hatco