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GASTONIA, NC -- Just as restaurants in Arizona use misters on their patios to cool their customers during the hottest months of the year, two unitized, low-intensity gas-fired infrared tube heaters from Space-Ray of Charlotte, NC, are now helping a Hickory Hams restaurant in Gastonia, NC increase its seating capacity by 40 percent during cooler months by creating a warm, comfortable atmosphere for patrons to enjoy their meals on the restaurant's patio. Seating capacity at the restaurant has increased from 75 to 111 during cooler weather, allowing on-time seating with minimum waiting.

The two LTU90 infrared tube heaters, each with a 90,000 Btu/hr capacity, are mounted horizontally and end-to-end above the outside eating area in view of the customers. The heaters are normally used during the cooler months from October to March and can be manually adjusted to the desired temperature which averages 68° Fahrenheit.

Unlike other open-surface combustion heating systems available for patio applications, Space-Ray's LTU series heaters are not affected by outdoor environmental conditions. Since the flame is totally enclosed in the combustion chamber, strong gusts of wind do not affect the operation of the heater.

Marion H. Davis, Jr., president of Hickory Hams, said he decided to purchase the Space-Ray heaters for his patio to better serve his customers and increase business. He said that before the heaters were installed, the restaurant's patio was completely useless when it was cold outside. Davis also pointed out that on several occasions he couldn't accommodate all the people who wanted to dine at his restaurant.

"Our sales potential was really affected during cooler months because our outside eating area seats 36 people. Now when it's cool outside and the heaters are on, often times we fill up the patio before the inside area which seats 75," he said. "Customers are amazed at how warm they are under the heaters when it's 30° Fahrenheit outside

Another advantage to having the LTU90 tube heaters on the patio is the fact that since they are placed near the windows of the restaurant, infrared heat is transmitted through the windows which helps heat that side of the eating area. "In the cooler months I don't even have to run the heat on that side of the building because the Space-Ray heaters do the job from the outside," Davis noted. "That reduces my electric bill and produces a more uniform heat throughout the restaurant. I have definitely already gotten a return on my investment. We are also constantly getting compliments from our customers about the comfort of the patio eating area during cool weather," he added

"Hickory Ham's customers are amazed at how toasty they are outside when it's cold," noted Bob Genisol, Space-Ray's Vice President of Sales and Marketing. "They also comment on how quiet the heaters are when they're on. They help create a very unique and enjoyable eating experience.

Other area eating establishments where Space-Ray equipment can be found include Pop's Restaurant in Durham, NC, and Stockcar Cafe in Cornelius, NC.

Perry Stokes, Folger's Director of Service and Parts, reported that the service atmosphere improved which not only benefits customers but his service reps as well. "Before, the customer entered the general bay area in full view of the mechanics and with noise created by the tools of the trade," Stokes said. "It was also cold since we didn't have heaters directly over the drive-through area."

He added that the atmosphere now is like night and day. "We have been very pleased with the quietness of the unit's operation as well as its efficiency in heating objects and bodies first instead of just heating the air as do forced air heaters," he said. "In fact, they are so quiet most of our customers probably don't even know they are there. The area is warm and the atmosphere is friendly and quieter. This allows us to concentrate first and foremost on our customers' needs."