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The Ins and Outs of Commercial Refrigeration

commercial refrigeration
What is Commercial Refrigeration?

A commercial refrigeration unit is a device that provides cold storage for food, beverages, and other products that require refrigeration in a restaurant or other dining establishment. Commercial refrigeration encompasses both refrigerators and freezers, and refrigeration units are available in a variety of sizes and styles to suit your kitchen’s particular needs.

When do you need a Commercial Refrigerator?

No matter what sort of foodservice establishment you have, refrigeration is a critical part of any restaurant environment to avoid spoilage and preserve freshness. Foodservice health and safety standards are very strict, and keeping your perishables refrigerated is crucial to the quality and longevity of your business. With proper care and maintenance, a quality commercial refrigeration unit will offer years of convenient and reliable refrigeration.

What are the Different Types of Commercial Refrigeration?

Commercial refrigeration units come in a wide variety of styles and sizes to fit a multitude of different applications. From reach-in refrigeration for your kitchen to refrigerated merchandisers for displaying items to your customers, there is a refrigeration unit to fit any need.

Reach-In Refrigeration

Designed for easy access and are used in kitchens to keep ingredients cold throughout the day until they're needed.

reach-in refrigeration

Walk-In Coolers

Shipped disassembled and constructed on-site, walk-in coolers and freezers are used for larger-scale bulk storage refrigeration.

walk-in refrigeration & coolers

Refrigerated Prep Tables

Usually used on the cook line or in the prep area, prep tables feature refrigerated food bins on top, reachin storage below, and a spacious countertop work surface.

food prep refrigeration

Undercounter Refrigeration

These reach-in refrigerators can either be fit neatly under existing countertops, or pulled out and used as stand alone work surfaces.

undercounter refrigeration

Refrigerated Merchandisers

Perfect for displaying drinks, sandwiches, and other small food items, these units feature glass doors or open fronts that allow customers easy access to the products inside.

merchandisers refrigeration

Bar Refrigeration

These refrigerators are made to fit under the counter and out of the way in a commercial bar setting. Some units feature built-in keg storage for serving draft beer.

bar refrigeration

What Type of Refrigeration Do You Need?

The type of refrigeration that you will need varies depending on your business type. A commercial kitchen, will need different equipment than a convenience store, bar, or other establishment. Here is a quick reference guide of which types of refrigeration are best for various restaurant types.

Reach-in Refrigeration:

Standard reach-in refrigeration is perfect for your all-purpose refrigeration needs. Typically used in the back-of-house of most restaurants and dining establishments, these refrigerators are used primarily for storing items that are frequently needed throughout the day. The durability and easy to use design of most commercial reach-in units make them ideal for routine use in any commercial kitchen or smaller scale refrigeration application.

Walk-in Refrigeration:

Walk-in coolers and freezers are less convenient to install than their smaller reach-in counter parts, but for foodservice providers with larger storage needs, they are a practical solution. Obviously, walk-in refrigerators have a much larger area than a reach-in unit, and are well suited to storing items in bulk or keeping larger items refrigerated without consuming excess space in the kitchen’s reach-in units. Larger restaurants with high turnover rates may find great use in a walk-in refrigerator for storing larger amounts of their most commonly used ingredients. Walk-in units are also ideal for other food service providers that require large amounts of refrigerated storage, such as butcher shops and bakeries.

Undercounter Refrigeration:

Undercounter refrigeration is most often used in bars and restaurants to add extra refrigeration for smaller items without taking up extra floor space. This is great for restaurants with limited floor area, and Most undercounter units are available with an optional, fortified top surface that can be used as a work surface or prep area if the unit is positioned out in the open.

Refrigerated Prep Tables:

Refrigerated prep tables are similar to undercounter units, but feature a few key differences. Prep table units typically come with reach-in (or drawer-style) refrigeration on the bottom with a refrigerated food pan tray and plastic cutting/prep surface on top. The food pans hold your cold ingredients at a suitable temperature until you are ready to open the lid and begin preparing your next dish or sandwich. These prep tables are perfect for sandwich shops and pizza restaurants that frequently need to select from an array of common ingredients in an assembly line style prep method.

Bar Refrigeration:

Bar refrigeration is designed specifically with beverages in mind. Bar refrigerators typically feature a lower profile than standard undercounter units to better fit under taller but shallower bar counters, and are designed with shelving intended to comfortably hold larger amounts of beer (and other beverage) bottles. Many bar refrigeration units also feature built-in keg storage with taps for serving draught beer, with some even including refrigerated glassware storage on the side for frosting beer mugs and other glassware.

Refrigerated Merchandisers:

These refrigerators typically feature insulated glass doors that allow customers to see into the cabinet without opening the door. Other refrigerated merchandising cases feature completely open designs that display items prominently and increase impulse sales by making purchasing an item as easy as reaching into the cabinet. These are most commonly found in convenience stores, delis, and other environments in which self-service is encouraged, but some restaurants also use them as dessert or beverage displays at the front of the restaurant.

Commercial vs. Residential

residential refrigerationThe differences between commercial and residential refrigeration are often brought into question while upcoming restaurateurs are outfitting their first kitchens. The noticeable disparity in pricing is usually enough to tempt unfamiliar shoppers to purchase residential equipment for their commercial kitchen, but there are several very good reasons for not cutting corners with your refrigeration units.

  • Designed to meet health and safety regulations for commercial food service environments
  • Made of high-quality materials that will withstand heavy use in busy commercial kitchens
  • Offers more internal storage space than residential units of the same exterior size
  • Operation is carefully regulated by thermostat to ensure that temperature stays within tight margins of the desired temperature
  • Constructed to avoid temperature loss or interference from the surrounding temperature
  • Not guaranteed to meet commercial health and safety regulations; creates potential liabilities in the kitchen
  • Made of lighter-duty materials suited to less frequent residential use
  • Less powerful compressors are not designed to compensate for commercial use and therefore increase the risk of temperature fluctuations
  • Minimal insulation can result in heat loss and potentially unsafe refrigerator/freezer conditions

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