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Hatco Heated Zone Merchandisers – Hot New Energy Saving Solution

By: Lee Davis

The local truck stop in my hometown is by far the hottest lunch venue for miles around. The main attraction is a variety of boxed grab-and-go hot sandwiches of the burger, fried chicken patty, meatloaf and bar-b-que variety: hearty if not heart healthy.

The sandwiches are merchandised in a traditional self-serve, slanted shelf warmer with two tiers. As you grab a sandwich from the front, the sandwiches behind slide forward. The staff keeps the shelves full by adding new sandwiches from behind. The shelves are heated from above and below to ensure safe serving temperatures.

The problem arises after the lunch rush subsides. You can stop in about 3:00 PM and find only two or three remaining sandwiches left on the largely empty merchandiser shelves. The staff has long since stopped refilling the unit, but it’s still turned on and it’s still cranking out enough BTUs to give you a light tan in December.

“That is the problem we set out to solve” said Mark Ecker, the Regional Manager West for the Hatco Corporation in a recent telephone conversation.

“These units are most commonly marketed to schools, stadiums and convenience stores for dispensing grab-and-go sandwiches, subs and boxed pizza slices. For the typical unit, there is always a time during the serving cycle when the shelves are less than full and energy is wasted heating empty space.”

Hatco’s solution: the exclusive Heated Zone Merchandiser (“HZM”). It was first introduced at the 2011 NRA show as a prototype, but just last week the first production units rolled off the assembly line.

Each warming shelf on the HZM has multiple heat zones, and features what Hatco calls “Spot-ON Technology.” Click here for the full product spec sheet. When a food item is placed on either shelf, electronic eyes “spot” the item and turn “ON” the warmers in that zone only. As customers remove food from the shelves, electronic eyes spot when a zone becomes empty and turn off the warmers in that zone. Less energy is wasted heating empty parts of the shelves.

The units have a sleek modern look and are available in seven designer colors plus bold black. They feature single or double shelves, either slanted or horizontal, in widths from 24” to 60”.

“Energy Consumption Testing isn’t complete,” said Ecker. “But preliminary results suggest up to 35% energy savings for the typical end user.”

Now that’s a hot solution.