Which Type of Commercial Refrigerator Do You Need?

Commercial refrigerators are a necessity and a vital part of any food service operation. The layout and door style can have a huge effect on the refrigerator’s functionality, so it’s a good idea to learn about the various options. For example, a new restaurant may need a walk-in with ample storage space, while a deli may require a refrigerated merchandising station.

Each commercial refrigerator category is designed for specific applications, so if you have a business plan in place, it should be easy to narrow down your fridge selection. In this guide, we’ve explained the functionality of each commercial refrigerator type, so you can make an educated purchasing decision.

1) Reach-Ins

First, this is the most straightforward refrigerator type for restaurants, hotels, college dining halls, and any other commercial kitchen. Reach-in refrigerators are designed like a larger version of the fridge you have at home, with a door that opens to reveal rows of shelving. However, they offer much more cooling power and storage space. Depending on your needs, the reach-in door can be made of glass or metal, and the door design can be sliding or hinged. Almost every restaurant relies on at least one reach-in fridge.

Once you’ve decided on a reach-in size and door style, you can customize the fridge even further. Most of the Chefs’ Toys reach-in selection has rolling casters for easy mobility, while some are designed with solid half-doors or pass-through shelving that provides access from both sides. There are also reach-in freezers, which use solid metal doors to retain cold air and minimize temperature loss. 

Typically, reach-ins are found in the restaurant prep area, where cooks can store produce, prepared items, sauces, and other ingredients for easy access. In most cases, the walk-in refrigerator serves as a larger storage area, and cooks move important product from the walk-in to the reach-in to speed up the prep process.

2) Walk-Ins

Next, walk-in refrigerators provide ample space for restaurants that need lots of cold storage. They can vary dramatically in size, from small pods to large room-sized compounds. With a walk-in, it’s easier to keep items refrigerated and waste less energy as you browse the storage shelves, because you can technically close the door behind you (unlike a traditional reach-in fridge).

Typically, walk-ins are found near the receiving area (i.e. loading dock, alley) where fresh food is delivered every day. This allows restaurant staff to quickly move bulk ingredients to the walk-in, without creating bottlenecks in the kitchen. Once a delivery is made, the cooks can decide which items need to be centrally located in the reach-in refrigerators, and then transfer them accordingly. 

3) Undercounter Refrigeration

Like reach-in refrigerators, undercounter refrigerators provide easy access to ingredients while working the line. They can be installed directly under a kitchen counter or prep table, so you just have to reach down to find what you need. The form factor is perfect for food trucks and concession stands as well. When space is at a premium, undercounter refrigerators offer a lot of functionality in a low-profile design.

Typically, undercounter refrigerators are used to store produce, prepared meats, and any other mise en place (i.e. garnishes, sauces) that will be used throughout the day. When you run out of ingredients, you can take a trip to the walk-in cooler to restock. This is a much more efficient process than storing everything in the walk-in.

Depending on your needs, some undercounter units also have a worktop built into the design, so you can prepare dishes directly on top of the refrigerator. Just like reach-ins, the undercounter models are available in freezer form as well.

4) Refrigerated Prep Tables

Also known as mega top refrigerators, these specialty prep tables allow chefs to quickly grab ingredients for a pizza, salad, or sandwich. Designed with a refrigerated prep rail and a series of container slots for storing ingredients, they keep food at a precise temperature, while still providing easy access.

Typically, this commercial refrigerator type can be found at local delis, diners, cafeterias, and a variety of other restaurants. The convenient design allows chefs to prep food on the worktable, store the containers in the fridge/freezer until service, and then quickly move them to the line. Under the counter, you’ll also find reach-in refrigerator storage for extra food.

5) Bar Refrigeration

Next, bar refrigerators offer multiple solutions for keeping beverages cool. Typically, they are built with black vinyl or stainless steel, which looks incredible behind the bar. Depending on your preference, the coolers can have solid or glass doors, where you can quickly assess the bottle inventory. There are also horizontal bottle coolers, which have sliding tops that allow you to reach down and grab a drink. Finally, bar refrigerators can also be customized with a draft beer dispenser, so you can load a keg in the undercounter fridge area.

6) Merchandising Refrigerators

Many businesses choose to display their merchandise in the open, so that customers can explore the full selection and grab what they want. Merchandising refrigerators come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, so you can choose the best display for your business. Perfect for delis, convenience stores, and bakeries, you can keep items cool without needing a separate refrigerator to store them. Whether you need an open air merchandiser, a countertop fridge, or a traditional glass-door model, we have grab-and-go refrigerators for every setting.

Since 1988, Chefs’ Toys has been selling, shipping, and installing commercial refrigerators to the foodservice industry. It’s the lifeblood of our operation. We have a huge selection of refrigerators for fine dining establishments, bars, delis, and much more. Let us help you find the perfect refrigerator for your business. Click here to send us a message, or call (714) 665-CHEF (2433) to speak to our team.