One of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll be purchasing for your restaurant, your refrigerator will be cooling and storing your ingredients, prepped items, and cooked meals that your business will rely on for being high quality. They can also be a big investment, and you want to make sure you get the best bang for your buck. Also, there are so many choices out there, so how do you choose the best one for your restaurant?
In this article, we outline some of the most important points you should consider when shopping for your refrigerator, including what the refrigerator is used for, space and storage requirements, and compressor location, among others, so you can make an informed decision and a the very least have a better idea of which questions to ask.
Although commercial refrigeration products will all chill your food to some degree, they are each designed with a different functionality in mind. This is one of the reasons there is a large variety of refrigerator types to choose from; you’ll see everything from walk-in units and open-air refrigerators to freestanding deli cases and beverage displays. For example, some refrigerators—called blast chillers—will blast cool air over the food to quickly bring it down to the FDA-recommended temperatures, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria that can get people sick. Another example might be beverage coolers. These refrigeration units typically run about ten degrees warmer than food-storage refrigeration, and they are often see-through and organized and designed for display. Just keep the functionality in mind as you’re looking for a new refrigeration unit so you can be sure to get the product that fits your needs specifically.
Before you start your search for the right refrigeration unit for your restaurant, you’ll want to know where the refrigerator is going to be and whether or not you have a limited space. Ideally, you’ll want to invest in a unit that has plenty of room for the amount of food you need chilled, and then some. But if your foodservice establishment has a small kitchen or needs the refrigerator to be near the chef’s station for ease of use, be mindful of the space dimensions as well as other possible challenges, such as needing the doors to open right as opposed to left so the swinging doors don’t get in the way of your cooking staff or making sure it’s not too close to the cooktop and other heat sources. You also don’t want it near a drafty door or anywhere that might interfere with the unit’s ability to rapidly bring food down to required temperatures. In general, you’ll want your refrigeration unit to be in a well-ventilated area where your staff can access what they need quickly and easily.
Similar to the things you’ll need to consider as they relate to space constraints, make sure the unit meets your storage capacity needs. Do you need a walk-in unit that can hold a lot of backup food stores? You need to first sort out how much food you’ll be going through and then decide from there. If you will be storing a lot of items in sacks or containers, be sure to also check if the unit has (or has space for) shelving, drawers, or dividers. Ideally, the refrigerator should give you the space and organization capabilities that will cover your restaurant’s needs where they currently are while providing enough room to grow in the future.
When shopping for your refrigeration unit, be sure to consider where the compressor is located. This is the part of the refrigeration unit that will draw in outside air and use it to regulate internal temperatures—and they are all about air circulation. If the unit features a bottom-mounted compressor, this could potentially draw in grit and dust or flour from off the floor, making it easier for the unit to clog. When it is mounted on the top of the unit, it could pull in greasy vapors from cooktops and have the same outcome. They might also take up shelving space (do you want more shelving on the top or bottom of your unit?) or be more difficult to service, so there are pros and cons to each choice. If you’re unsure which you need, discuss your concerns with your refrigeration provider. They’ll likely want to know where the unit will be and the general environment of the area in order to help you make the best choice.
When it comes to purchasing refrigeration equipment for your restaurant, there are a few things you should keep in mind when it comes to energy use. First, there are units that limit the energy it uses, which will save your business energy costs. But consider whether that means it won’t be able to cool your food quickly enough, or maybe if you want to save on your refrigeration unit you also invest in a blast chiller that will cool the food quickly and then you can store it in the refrigerator. The choice is yours; just know you might be able to save on cost as long as you’re meeting federal and local food-cooling and storage requirements. Also pay attention to the type of outlet your unit will require. They typically have different electrical outlets and have a stronger electrical capacity that might not be compatible with your current electrical wiring. The unit’s sealing capacity should be strong and create a good suction so no cool air escapes, forcing the unit to work harder. And last, be aware of the type of lighting the unit offers. Any type of lighting sill creates heat, so be sure to have an automatic off switch or choose bulbs that give off less heat (whether by bulb type or lower wattages) so your refrigerating unit won’t have to work so hard to cool.
Can BHS Foodservice Solutions Help?
BHS Foodservice Solutions has over 80 years’ experience helping restaurants like yours find the best equipment and supplies for their commercial kitchens. If you have any questions, contact us, and one of our knowledgeable customer service representatives will help you find the equipment and services you need to increase kitchen productivity and maximize your food-industry investment with a solution that’s right for you.