For restaurants and other food-related businesses, buying a commercial fridge isn’t a choice, it’s usually the law.
Most local health departments require food-service businesses to store perishables in commercial refrigerators, which are generally more powerful and of higher quality than residential-grade refrigerators found in the typical home. The question usually is how many refrigerators does the business need and which types.
Indeed, people looking for a commercial fridge quickly find there are numerous types, including the common reach-in refrigerator, the undercounter refrigerator, worktop fridges and chef bases, roll-in-style refrigerator and the display refrigerator.
The wide variety of choices doesn’t make finding a new fridge any easier, but there are steps commercial buyers can take to help avoid making the wrong decisions, everything from considering the fridge’s measurements to paying attention to the location of its compressor.
Each fridge type has its own special attributes
The reach-in refrigerator comes with either solid doors or glass doors, each with advantages and disadvantages. For instance, glass doors are convenient but less energy efficient. The undercounter and worktop fridges allow commercial kitchens to make the most out of the available space. Refrigerated chef bases are designed to allow prep equipment to sit on top of it.
Roll-in-style refrigerators allow for large racks of food to be rolled in and out, a feature that can come in handy at bakeries and catering companies. Display refrigerators are generally merchandising units that either have glass doors or are open-air, allowing customers to reach in and grab the refrigerated products they want.
And for each fridge type, there is a wide variety of brands and prices, too.
For example, a solid-door 52-inch reach-in fridge with double doors by Turbo Air has a price tag of about $2,400, while 52-inch reach-in from True can run about $5,300.
What should you look for when buying a new commercial fridge? The door configuration, as well as the width of the unit and interior cubic footage are important to note when shopping for a commercial fridge. Each factor can affect the price. But other measurements are nearly as important. The size of the doors and how they swing and which way they swing are crucial consideration since an open fridge door can disrupt the flow of the kitchen, depending on far it swings into high-traffic areas and which way it swings.
Glass doors are more convenient, allowing people to look in and located needed items before opening the door. Some refrigerators feature sliding glass doors that don’t swing outward to block passers-by.
The location of the refrigerator’s compressor can be crucial, too.
A commercial fridge that has compressor mounted at the bottom means the lowest shelf is higher than usual and people using the fridge aren’t forced to bend as far. The downside: Heat from the compressor might rise into the refrigerated part of the unit when the door is opened. That’s not an issue for refrigerators with compressors on top, but the refrigerator cabinet requires users to bend more to reach lower levels.
Here are the commercial fridge types, plus some of the available brands and their prices:
Reach-in fridges can be found in most commercial kitchens along the cook line, where cooks, chefs and other staff can get quick and easy access to refrigerated food. The doors are configured differently on various models and come in solid-door and glass-door varieties.
Ascend manufactures a 29-inch solid-door reach-in model with a price tag of about $1,200. Fagor has a 40-inch model with two solid doors that sells for about $2,250. And there’s a three-door unit by True that goes for about $7,200.
Undercounter fridges are a key space-saver in many commercial kitchens and under the bar. The units are typically sized to fit under counters that are at a standard 40-inch height. The fridges usually feature either doors or drawers, or both.
Price vary, depending on features and size. A 27-inch Metalfrio undercounter fridge sells for about $1,200, while a 49-inch, two-door True model goes for about $1,900, and a 82-inch multi-temperature Delfield has a $12,000 price tag.
Chef bases provide refrigerated cabinet that is designed to handle prep equipment to be placed on top of it. The bases typically have two to six refrigerated drawers for storage. While many models are refrigerated, other versions are freezers or convertible between a refrigerator and freezer.
A 36-inch True chef base sells for about $3,200. A 60-inch Beverage Air has a $4,000 price tage. And a 84-inch model that features multi-temperature “versa” drawers goes for about $8,500.
Worktop fridges are similar to chef bases except that instead placing kitchen equipmen on topt, worktop units have food-grade surface on top where food can be prepared, as well as the refrigerated space underneath. Like the chef base, the worktop refrigerator makes efficient use of foor space, which can be at a premium in many commercial kitchens.
A one-door 27-inch worktop fridge by Continental Refrigerator has a price tag of around $1,300. A Fagor 60-inch two-door worktop unit goes for $1,800. And a 72-inch three-door Victory worktop model goes for about $3,600.
Roll-in and rack refrigerators are useful for bakeries and caterers that make food in large amounts ahead of time and can store it in pan racks. This type of refrigerator allows those racks to be easily rolled in and out of the fridge. From the outside, the units look much like a typical reach-in model.
Continental Refrigerator manufactures a 35-inch roll-in model that sells for about $3,200 and a 69-inch, two-door model for $3,200. True has a 68-inch glass-door version of a roll-in that has a $7,400 price tag, and Traulsen makes a 101-inch three-door model that costs about $14,000.
Display refrigerators are design to appeal to customers. Upright display models can have self-closing glass doors that either swing or slide open. Unlike swinging doors, sliding doors have no impact on the flow of customer past the refrigerators. There are also open-air models, which of course are less energy efficient. There are also countertop versions that can be placed at the point of sale to increase impulse purchases.
Fogel makes a one-door 26-inch point-of-sale fridge for about $1,200, while Ascend Mfg. has a 54-inch two-door display unit for about $2,000. And there’s a 55-inch four-door model with rear-load capabilities by True that has a $3,300 price tag.