Mar 22
Some like it Hot

Some like it HOT

22 March 2022

by Hailey Settineri from Retail World March 2022 page 43-45

Whether it’s a freshly brewed coffee or a succulent roast chicken, a hot to-go offer is a great way of bringing customers into your store. And it all starts with the right equipment.

Throughout the recent tumultuous years of rolling lockdowns and shifting trade regulations, one shopper tent has remained: the desire for convenience. The rise in online shopping has been a testament to this, as the popularity of one-stop shops. 

Meris Food Equipment General Manager Michael Brick says customers are looking for more products from freezer destinations.

“They don’t want to travel as far and they want to make fewer stops,” he said.

“There’s demand for retailers to provide their existing customers with more, including food to go and food for now.

“Chilled food to go is easier for stores to get right, but without a hot food component, it’s not a complete offer. We see some great opportunities for stores to build a quality and consistent hot food offer that will separate them from the pack.”

As Australians love affair with quality coffee continues, an in-store barista coffee offer is also becoming an important drawcard for many retailers.

“Barista-quality coffee in most retail spaces offers consumers the ability to grab and go without the fuss on finding a local coffee shop to get your daily fix,” Barista Technology CEO Brett Bolwell said. 

“There’s demand for retailers to provide their existing customers with more, including food to go and food for now.”

“For owners, the attraction is having a regular customer purchase coffee along with other items, such as food and other grocery items.”

So, what should retailers look for in hot equipment and when is the best time to invest or upgrade? Retail World spoke with Barista Technology and Meris Food Equipment to find out. 

Promoting perfection in the brew

Barista Technology was established in 2013 by Mr Bolwell following his success with one of Australia’s leading automatic coffee franchise businesses, Espresso Essential. In a short time, Barista Technology has built a reputation as a market leader by providing a high-quality, innovative cafe product with unique benefits for specialty coffee outlets, coffee roasters and franchise chains.

“Our barista solution is now proven in over 1000 cafes, including McCafė, Wild Bean and most leading brands, reducing the requirement for a trained barista,” Mr Bolwell said. 

Asked what coffee offers work best for grocery retailers, Mr Bolwell cited the benefit of creating an experience in-store. 

“Australian consumers definitely favour a barista offer, as this adds the theatre to the process and offers a superior experience compared with a push-button machine that requires extensive cleaning and expensive maintenance” he said.

Coffee machine features such as automatic tamping with Puqpress, and automatic milk texturing with Perfect Moose, help to remove all the variables associated with making “amazing” coffee. he says

“We assist retailers in a full solution that is 100 per cent proven and fits within their budget,” Mr Bolwell said, adding that this covers design, workflow management, store layout/fit-out, installation and training if required.

“Our best example of the success of a coffee program that actually works is within the McCafé business, turning them into one or Australia’s largest retailers of coffee,” he said.

Elevating food to go

Meris Food Equipment’s purpose, says Mr Brick, is to make it easier for businesses to offer “radically improved food to go” to their customers

“We want to lift the standard of food to go across the market,” he said “In an attempt to offer convenience to customers, the industry has broadly sacrificed a lot of freshness and range we want to see greater convenience for for food, but also fresher and better, and we want to help out clients to achieve this.”

When retailers look to build on food for now, Mr Brick says, they often run into some difficulties as areas that are not normal parts of retailing need to be managed. Meris, he adds, can help retailers by breaking down the food offer into components.

“We could [simply] recommend the equipment for the job, but if we don’t work with our clients on the other variables – the other thins that are involved in the process – ultimately there’s a lot of room for the offer not to be a success,” he said.

“So we would look at the actual food and menu, how it’s cooked or heated. what type of food display it would go into, the most appropriate food packaging for the job, and then the in-store process to ensure that it works at a store level.

“We can help with the right equipment. menu development. food packaging, cooking process, in-store process and more.”

Old versus new

Mr Brick notes that demand is there for retailers to increase the range of food types they can offer. which is just one of the benefits of updating hot equipment.

“The traditional styles of equipment can reduce their ability to hold at appropriate temperatures and quality, he said while newer models ” increase the freshness and hold time of hot food, making a greater customer experience”

New equipment can also reduce food wastage.

“Holding food cooked and hot has a shorter shelf life than chilled and thus the equipment choices can have a long-lasting impact.” Mr Brick said. “When wastage is reduced, you obviously save on that cost but, perhaps more importantly, you allow stores to cook and display more. This leads to greater sales. It’s a twofold effect and is often underestimated, as stores typically don’t measure the opportunity cost on not displaying as much.”

As with many equipment upgrades, energy savings are an important consideration.

Mr Brick says traditional hot food display cabinets typically use “huge amounts of energy” as plenty of heat escapes the cabinets and continually needs to be replaced.

“Holding food cooked and hot has a shorter shelf life than chilled, and thus the equipment choices can have a long-lasting impact.”

“They typically also have a heat source under the shelf that continues to ‘cook’ the product, leading to faster deterioration of the food.” he said. “With the patented technology of Flexeserve Zone hot holding, we’ve seen many clients achieving longer hold times, increased food quality and now the ability to dramatically increase the range of hot food they offer.”

Mr Brick says he’s yet to see a hot food type that this equipment hasn’t been able to hold.

“This means that retailers are no longer constrained by their cabinets as to what they can sell,” he said, “which allows for future expansion of hot food range.”

With Flexeserve Zone, the air is recirculated inside the cabinet with a tightly controlled air curtain, meaning retailers see reductions in energy consumption and gain the ability to run different temperatures on each shelf to cater to different food types.

On the cooking equipment front, Mr Brick says different lines offer various benefits, but these can be summarised as:

  • Reduced operating costs (including energy consumption and amount of labour required).
  • Reduced footprint
  • Easier to install without the surrounding infrastructure.

He says such benefits are “effectively making it easier for stores to offer a greater range of better quality food without the hassles”.


When it comes to the best time to upgrade your hot equipment, Mr Brick says any time is a good time.

“But why delay the food sales you could be achieving today for some future store renovation date? he asked.

“The beauty about a lot of the equipment that we help clients with is that it’s self-contained, generally combat, and can de installed relatively easily, he said. “You don’t need to wait for a renovation to expand your food offer.

“Of course, if you’re renovating. then that provides greater opportunities for development and enhancement.”

It’s also important to consider the Improvements In technology that come with new equipment, and the benefits, as mentioned above, that they can bring.

“If you own a fridge, as long as it continues to do the job and doesn’t have excessive cost to maintain or run you don’t need to upgrade.” Mr Brick continued. “But we’re seeing some advances in technology at the moment that are producing a greater output and in some cases doing it with a reduced consumption and/or environmental impact. Achieving some good results in any or these areas can produce a retailer a good ROI on replacing relatively newish equipment.

“So. retailers should consider an update when there’s something better available that will allow them to offer greater quality or range of product and potentially do It using fewer Inputs, such as labour. infrastructure, energy, etc and ultimately deliver more than it costs to implement.”

What’s to come

Meris is launching the Flexeserve HUB, built on the heating technology of the open-front Flexeserve Zone unit, the HUB has a door fitted and is designed for hot-holding large quantities of packaged food products for the delivery/pick-up market.

“As we see food being prepared or picked in-store, but not collected for some time, the HUB ensures product quality and customer experience remain as close to an in-store experience as possible,” Mr Brick said.

“We’ve also found some even greater energy efficiency, so holding cooked chickens and meats and other hot foods on the shop floor is also picking up demand.

He says international operators, such as Amazon in the US and UK, have adopted both HUB and Flexeserve in their stores.

“Retailers should consider an update when there’s something better available that will allow them to offer greater quality or range of product and potentially do it using fewer inputs.”

“HUB allows them to cook larger batches of bakery items. better utilising their oven and allowing faster replenishment of the Flexeserve Zone on the retail floor,” Mr Brick said.

“This has seen good reduction in labour inputs also.

In Australia, some in-store trials are underway. which Mr Brick says are showing improvements in customer feedback scores, process improvements for store staff, better utilisation of existing oven equipment, and more.

“We’ll continue to partner with our clients to understand their needs in food to go, and their pain points and challenges, and bridge the gap with equipment, technology and expertise to allow them to continue to grow and expand their offers.” he said. “We love the opportunities and challenges presented to us and the reward in seeing our clients succeed in this exciting space.”

Learn more about Meris Food Equipment and the growing opportunities in ready to eat / food for now / food to go in retail and book your consultation with us now through 1800 265 771 or

#meris #merisfoodequipment #foodequipment #foodtogo #food #foodie #fastfood #streetfood #foodtok #foodstagram #foodtrend #profit #business #smallbusiness #foodbusiness #petrol #convenientstore #supermarket #restaurant #cafe #pub #club

To read the full article head to Retail World March 2022 page 43 

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