in high production. He adds that one-touch
cooking options help streamline menu execution and easy cleaning, while grease collection
allows for safe, end-of-day maintenance tasks.
Also, all products are designed to be energy
efficient, which in the end creates a greater
return on investment.
“We can offer retailers exactly what they
need, whether it is for a breakfast or lunch pro-
gram, or for their deli counter,” adds Maahs,
who joined Alto-Shaam in 1988 and rose to his
current position in 2000. “We have the tools to
do so and we realize that it is a very big part
of building and maintaining our relationship
with our clients.”
Noting that all manufacturing takes place
at the company’s 300,000-plus square foot
factory in Menomonee Falls, Maahs says that
Alto-Shaam clients can take comfort in know-
ing that a “big part of our value comes from
under one roof—all supplied by one entity. It
takes just one call and we can meet any need.”
TURNING ON THE HEAT
That seems to fit right in with the vision that
Jerry Maahs was looking for back in the mid-
1950s. As the owner of Chicken Delight franchise units, the elder Maahs was seeking a
solution to keep food hot during home delivery, particularly during cold Wisconsin winters. He designed a holding cabinet to fit his
needs and began spending more time developing his heated holding equipment. Chicken
Delight gave Maahs an ultimatum: either work
with them operating the franchises or go into
business developing foodservice equipment.
He went on his own, creating Alto-Shaam
(Shaam is the Maahs surname backward).
Experimenting with thermal heat cables, he
introduced Halo Heat by figuring out a way to
wrap these cables around insulated contain-
ers. That was followed by the invention of the
cook and hold oven, a low-temperature prod-
uct that allowed for overnight cooking. Then
came Combitherm ovens, which can oper-
ate as a convection oven, smoker oven, steam,
dehydrator, and more as an all-in-one solution
for preparing high volumes of consistent food.
“My dad fought through a lot of adversity
with that high-temperature product because
a lot of people were against that,” says Maahs.
“It was well known overseas, but he pushed
through and we became one of the first com-
panies to promote the system. With high and
low temperature products, we felt that we had
everything covered. It was a critical moment
for our company and it allowed us to keep
“Now we are doing business with just about
every major supermarket chain in the country
and we are confident that they know we can
satisfy all their needs in our category,” he adds.
The future looks bright for the company as
well. Maahs makes it clear that Alto-Shaam
will stay an independent, privately held operator for years to come. He also says that innovation will continue to come out of the company’s laboratories and the new product pipeline
is flush with items.
For example, the company is set to release a
self-cleaning electric rotisserie and a number
of heated shelf merchandisers.
“We know what got us to this point,” Maahs
says. “It was a combination of innovation, great
value-added service and focusing on what we
do best. We are going to continue to offer our
clients these things for a long time to come. We
are very excited about the future.”