New-fangled refrigeration for old-fashioned frozen custard

April 10, 2000
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TONAWANDA, NY — Anderson’s Frozen Custard won’t be making its last stand any time soon.

In fact, six Anderson’s custard stands have opened in the last two years, for a total of nine Anderson’s locations in western New York, from Cheektowaga to Niagara Falls.

However, refrigeration methods suitable throughout Anderson’s 53 years in business became increasingly outdated as menu selection and service offerings greatly expanded from its original stores.

Freezers had to be monitored

Owner Keith Anderson realizes the importance of preserving his parents’ legacy (see accompanying article). He says he will not leave something as crucial to Anderson’s as refrigeration to chance.

“When we began making our own ice cream, we needed a way to monitor our freezers after hours, in case any of them stopped working,” Anderson explains. “We were looking for a refrigeration system with an alert component.”

Anderson went to Ralph Hoerner at United Dairy Machinery Corp. (UDMC), a full-line distributor operating since 1923. UDMC today services not only the dairy industry but the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, biotech and cosmetic industries as well. The company has worked with Anderson’s since the beginning, according to Hoerner.

“Anderson approached us four or five years ago about changing their refrigeration system,” Hoerner recalls. “We needed to supply them with a far more reliable system to not only reduce callbacks, but also system downtime and product loss.”

Hoerner worked with Paul Sullivan, a Chandler rep with D&M Associates, who recommended the “Beacon” refrigeration system with the “Smart Controller.”

Making ice cream via remote control

Hoerner and Sullivan demonstrated the system’s capabilities to Anderson, particularly how the stores’ needs for an alert system could be serviced by the control feature, which allows users to monitor and change refrigeration setpoints remotely.

“The system can be hooked up to an automatic dialing system,” explains Sullivan. “The controller has the capability to sound an alert if the temperature of the room or storage area goes above or below the predetermined setpoint; then the system calls a series of people at Anderson’s and UDMC so the problem can be corrected.”

The controller allows users to remotely monitor a wide range of system conditions, including box temperature, superheat condition for each evaporator, evaporator entering temperature, compressor discharge temperature, ambient outdoor temperature, daily accumulated defrost time, and whether the system(s) are on, off, cooling or defrosting.

Additionally, the controller makes it possible to change box temperature through remote computer access using a computer modem.

System details

Hoerner has installed these refrigeration systems in many Anderson’s locations and continues to install additional systems in the franchises.

Each restaurant has two unit coolers equipped with Beacon systems paired with a 1- to 1 1/2-hp medium-temperature, hermetic Chandler outdoor condensing unit and a 3-hp low-temperature, hermetic outdoor condensing unit.

The units maintain the temperature of the cooler, used to preserve food products such as deli meat, at 35°F, and the temperature of the storage freezers, where the custard, ice cream, and frozen desserts are kept, at -10°.

The ice cream manufacturing plant required a lower temperature than the retail locations and has a 3-hp hermetic condensing unit paired with the Beacon to maintain the temperature at -20°.

Hoerner says he chose to use center-mount unit coolers, which are mounted in the middle of the cooler, because they are more compact coils and allow for more shelving in the storage areas.

“There have been several situations where we’ve had phone calls in the middle of the night about power outages causing freezers and coolers to shut down,” says Anderson. Without the new system’s remote monitoring capability, “We would not have known about that equipment failure until it was too late and we would have lost a lot of product.”

Sidebar: Founded on frozen custard

Anderson’s has been in the frozen custard business since 1946, when Carl and Greta Anderson opened the first stand in the Bronx on the advice of a friend.

With $5,000 of Grandpa Anderson’s money, the young couple started their business in an old ice cream parlor, with a sign in the window that read “Frozen Custard” as the only way of letting people know they existed.

Even that was taken away, when an inspector realized that the dairy supplying Anderson’s with its product was missing some ingredients that qualified the frozen treat as true custard.

Carl and Greta sold the business and returned to Buffalo after a year, determined to make a bigger and better start at home. The Andersons opened a Buffalo location and again sold their custard, offering three-scoop cones for the same price as their competitors’ two-scoop cones. In 1953 they moved operations to a new store on a one-acre lot and added milk, eggs, and orange juice to their offerings as a way to meet expenses.

For the next 30 years, Carl and Greta continued to run Anderson’s on their belief that one of the most important things they could offer customers was value.

When sons Keith and Nels and son-in-law Kirk took over the family business in 1983, that philosophy didn’t change. However, they did open a Williamsville location in 1989, with an indoor dining area, and a Cheektowaga store in 1994.

The menu expanded to include sandwiches and french fries and, in 1993, Anderson’s began making its own ice cream and frozen yogurt. The first franchise opened in North Tonawanda in 1997.

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