Holding Its Own
To say that food holding solutions are a ‘hot’ topic in hospitality these days would be an understatement as hoteliers wrestle with the challenge of trying to satisfy guests’ dining needs in both a safe and efficient way.
Fortunately for Carter-Hoffmann, a focus on food holding and transporting solutions is nothing new. In fact, the Mundelein, IL-based company—which was founded in 1947—has continued to expand and deepen its commitment to food holding since first entering the category in 1990. The company’s product lineup includes heated holding cabinets, banquet carts, dispensers, mobile refrigerators and freezers and transport carts.
David Abi, President, Carter-Hoffmann, elaborated on the company’s overall mission and some of its signature products, particularly emphasizing its pick-up cabinet.
“We saw that there was a need in the food pickup and delivery cycle and we wanted to complete that cycle by providing a secure, safe, temperature controlled environment that will maintain the food quality and streamline the process for the operator,” he said.
Carter-Hoffmann describes its new PUC Smart Cabinet Solution as a smart, self-serve, automated pick-up system that connects to your POS or software to improve speed of service and convenience for your customers. Whether it’s order pick-up, order return, hot pizza, bagged product, the PUC smart cabinet system offers a safe and secure automated environment for self-serve and connects with your POS or software for total kitchen management, according to the company.
For users, one of the main benefits of the system, according to Abi, is that they can utilize their phone to receive text messages with the unlock code. The unlock code is generated as soon as product is loaded in the cabinet. The unlock code can be scanned to open the door.
Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic and the desire for guests to pick up their food directly without having it handled by additional hotel staff has only accelerated the emergence of Carter-Hoffmann’s food holding solutions.
“It exponentially increased the interest in that product segment and the adaptation of that segment. Now instead of us speculating about what the future looks like we are talking about the present,” said Abi.
He further added, “Our cabinet is a secure medium, a neutral zone, where no humans are interacting with each other. Everybody is interacting with the cubby which eliminates chances of exposure.”
In response to the ongoing pandemic, the company has updated its cabinets to now include anti-microbial agents added to the paint designed to prevent bacteria and viruses from growing in that medium. In addition, the software has been adapted to trigger cleaning cycles based on usage patterns and warn operators when it’s time to clean the unit.
According to Abi, separate from the benefits with regards to the virus, the product was designed based on considerable data regarding today’s guests, particularly millennials, who have shown an overall reluctance to engage in face-to-face interactions.
To reinforce the point, Abi also noted some companies have strict policies in place regarding their employees and food deliveries as he recounted his own experience.
“Even as a hotel guest myself in the past when I used to order from a nearby restaurant I wasn’t allowed to have an Uber driver deliver in my room. I would have to go downstairs, wait in the lobby and then meet the driver and pick up my food. If that facility had the pick-up cabinet in their lobby I could go pick it up anytime,” he said.
The company is targeting a wide range of business segments with its pick-up cabinets, such as restaurants, pharmacies, pizza chains, retail, universities and corporate headquarters. However, Abi detailed its focus within hospitality.
Meanwhile, the company continues to expand its cabinet lineup with the recent additions of the GardenChef and TenderChef. The GardenChef micro green and herb growing cabinets are designed to enable operators such as chefs, school food-service directors and culinary schools to grow fresh garnish right in their operation, while the TenderChef is a new refrigeration system for dry-aging meats, cheeses and charcuterie within the restaurant.
Finally, Abi talked about how the company—which manufacturers the equipment in its own facility— stands out from the competition thanks in part to its long history and flexibility.
“Carter-Hoffman is the leader in food service and food holding. We understand food holding more than anyone else so consistently we provide that right environment for the product. We also produce our own equipment and we produce our own software. What that means is if your customer wants any custom features we can do that,” he said.