Serve-over refrigerated counters are the centre piece of most fresh foods departments or specialised stores. They’re the heart and soul of the business and as such they’re often the single element around which all the rest of the furniture is organised. Fresh meat, fish, delicatessen and bakery get literally staged on this sophisticated and indispensable piece of equipment, looking their best to entice ever-more refined clients.

A fresh make-over


Epta, an Italian-based manufacturer of commercial refrigeration equipment, is a leading player in the industry, with brands recognised as household names on the serve-over scene. As a very visible element of a shop’s setup, serve-overs are also quite sensitive to design trends. In 2016, time was ripe for Epta to evolve its signature design and its brands’ visual identity. Studio Volpi was involved in the project from a very early stage.

Modular and customisable


But beyond any style consideration, part of the brief was that the products remain entirely modular and customisable. Which made perfect sense since, on one hand, modularity offers that family feeling visual identity is meant to create, regardless of the configuration of the product, and on the other hand, customisation is the name of the game nowadays: clients need total freedom in creating the most versatile “stage” to display and sell their produce. This includes the physical dimension, like space, shape and accessories, but also temperature and lighting, both ambient and technical.

Light has become increasingly important in creating the right kind of emotions in the… spectator, or customer. Every product type has specific ideal temperature and humidity levels for perfect preservation and presentation, and the same goes for the technical lighting within the cabinet: a colder or warmer temperature of light will make all the difference in making those sirloins look absolutely gorgeous, or the Danish pastries as if they just came out of the oven.

A defining design


Studio Volpi’s team started off by spending some time with the client at their headquarters, working together at identifying the brands’ defining elements, which would then need to be translated into a physical shape. At the same time we researched and benchmarked the leading trends in the industry, in order to produce updated style guidelines for the product’s evolution.

The team came up with several interesting concepts, with equally inspiring names: Incline, Dynamic, Frame, Intersection… which interpreted the brand’s personality as customer-oriented, fast-moving but also rigorous and open-minded. In particular, Dynamic’s stood out for it gave the impression the entire cabinet was leaning forward towards the customers, with a distinctive, wide moulding wrapping it. The moulding started from the hind legs of the cabinet and went up, at an angle, on the sides and round the front.

Winning Velvet shape


Dynamic then evolved into the “Velvet shape”, which is now Epta’s brand COSTAN new signature design. Velvet Shape was the winner of the German Design Award in 2020, and the same year it was included in Italy’s ADI (Associazione per il Design Industriale) Index.

Today, upon entering a store or a food department with a Velvet serve-over counter, you immediately feel as if the entire display was moving towards you, offering its treasures. Sideways, the shape of the moulding resembles an arm holding a tray, leaning forward in a welcome gesture of offering.

Never as in Epta’s case has Design truly been a matter of… taste!