How to Choose the Best Commercial Refrigerator
Providing the freshest food to your customers is always top of mind whether you are a restaurant owner or local grocer. There are many things that can interfere with the quality of the food you serve, including harmful bacteria growth when food is not stored at the right temperature. Your commercial refrigerator plays a key role in the quality of the food you provide your customers. Finding the best possible refrigeration equipment takes some serious research. These guidelines will help you find the right refrigeration solution for your business.
Consider the Location of your Refrigerator
This might seem obvious, but it is very important to ensure your refrigerator will work within the confines of your kitchen or shop. If you are a new business, you have an opportunity to look at several important factors that will impact not only the size of your fridge but also the functionality of your kitchen or shop. If you are a restaurant, some questions to ask your team include:
- How much food is served on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?
- What is the most efficient and safest way to move ingredients from refrigeration to service, to the prep area, or the cook line and back again if necessary?
- How accessible are the cold and frozen foods to the line?
- Will there be a self-service aspect to anything you serve, such as cold drinks?
Take accurate measurements of the space allotted to the refrigerator to determine the ‘footprint’ of your equipment in height, width and depth. When shopping you then need to consider the fridge footprint, the door swing dimensions and the interior cubic feet to understand how much storage space you will have with each model. The interior cubic feet will tell you how much space you have for storage. If you are replacing your current refrigerator, consider its size and how it is working for you. Do you have enough storage space, too much or not enough? If you don’t have enough space, will your kitchen or store accommodate a bigger model?
Food Quantity and Menu
Although floor space will have a direct impact on the size of your refrigerator, there are a few other things you should consider. For restaurants, your menu and the ingredients required will help determine how much cold storage space you need and what ratio of freezer space is required. You will have to try to figure out your stock purchase plans and estimate how much space you will need for the ingredients. This can be very important if you are planning a new menu. It is always best to speak to your chef to discuss other important details relevant to the menu, such as how much storage they will need for uncooked and pre-cooked menu items.
For grocers, there are considerations for how many frozen products you sell compared to how many products requires cold storage. How do your past sales match up to your inventory plan? Can you go smaller, or do you need to expand?
The Refrigerator Configuration
Once you have an idea about the size of the fridge you can accommodate, you can consider the configuration of your equipment. There are many configurations for commercial freezers and refrigerators including:
- Reach-in commercial refrigerators
One of the most common features of reach-ins refrigerators is shallow shelves for easy reach. They are upright for easier access and offer one to four doors depending on the make and the size.
- Countertop commercial refrigerators
These are ideal for prep lines as they can be utilized in smaller spaces, improving efficiency. They are also excellent for quick self-serve situations, such as pre-made sandwiches, salads, and drinks.
The Condenser Location
The location of the condensing component on your refrigeration system is important as there are advantages and disadvantages to both. The two most common locations include:
These units tend to provide better accessibility. Bottom-mounts also operate better than top-mount models in hot conditions. They do have a tendency to get clogged with dust and grease due to their location on the floor.
These models are best for cooler environments. They are less accessible when cleaning, but do not take up as much storage space. They are also less likely to clog.
Consider the Details Carefully
When researching the different refrigeration manufacturers, focus on the small details that you can use to set them apart, such as:
- Online reviews
- Warranty and service
- Energy Star status
- Energy efficiency rating
- Up to date with food safety codes
There are a number of types of doors to consider. Although solid doors tend to be better insulated, glass doors compensate for less insulation by being easier to use, as they allow kitchen staff or customers to see what they need without opening the fridge. Standing and looking into a fridge with the door open is a huge energy waster. Another factor for doors is that half-height doors offer better energy efficiency but can have less storage space. As already mentioned, make sure to keep the door swing direction in mind to ensure people have the space required to open the door and get into the fridge.
Used vs Refurbished
If you are on a tight budget, you might be considering purchasing a used unit. This is not advised as it is hard to determine the condition. Instead, an affordable but more reliable option is a refurbished commercial refrigerator. A used item is sold as is and leaves you on the hook for repairs or even replacement if the unit dies. Refurbished units, on the other hand, have been purchased while in good condition and rebuilt with new parts to provide longer life and superior performance.
There are many benefits to choosing a refurbished refrigeration unit including:
- They are usually covered by a warranty
- They can cost as much as 50% less than new units
- They are an eco-friendly choice
- There are often upgrades available such as LED lighting, new compressors or even the addition of new casters
This guide will help you address the key factors to consider when purchasing a commercial refrigeration unit. If you would like more information on refurbished refrigeration units, call Ancaster Food Equipment at 866-711-5486 or contact us here.