Refrigeration is essential to keeping your restaurant's perishable ingredients fresh and safe to eat. With so many options out there to choose from, it can be difficult to know exactly which type would be right for you.
A good first step is to decide which of the two major categories of refrigeration would best suit your restaurant kitchen's needs: reach-in or walk-in?
Reach-in and walk-in refrigeration units are aptly named to highlight their most obvious difference. When a member of the kitchen staff has to retrieve an ingredient from cold storage, will they have to reach in or walk in?
The choice might seem simple, but there are several important factors to consider when making such a decision.
Reach-in refrigeration might be right for you if:
Your kitchen is short on space. Reach-in refrigerators and freezers are available in a wide range of sizes. Some models are even compact enough to be installed beneath counters and workspaces. So, even if your restaurant has a small kitchen, you'll still be able to find a unit to fit the space.
Convenience is a priority. Since reach-in refrigerators and freezers have smaller footprints, many kitchens have multiple units at key locations, so staff can quickly grab necessary ingredients without having to venture far from their stations or search through a large walk-in unit.
You value flexibility. Smaller and easier to install than walk-ins, reach-in refrigerators and freezers can be positioned wherever needed most within the kitchen. Reach-in units are also simpler to move if the layout of your kitchen changes in the future, since many include casters.
Walk-in refrigeration might be right for you if:
Your restaurant serves a large number of guests at a time. Few things are more irritating to guests than ordering a meal only to discover that the kitchen doesn't have the ingredients in stock. Restaurants with high 'front of house' seat counts should keep large amounts of necessary perishables in the kitchen at all times to avoid running out of ingredients. An appropriately sized walk-in unit will give enough space to do so in an organized fashion.
You have specific cold storage requirements. Unlike reach-in units, which come in standard sizes, walk-ins are more customizable, so you can create a unit well suited for your kitchen's unique needs.
You plan to buy your perishables in bulk. Buying in bulk is a great way to save money when securing supplies for your restaurant. However, it also requires plenty of storage space. Walk-in units offer the extra room necessary to keep those perishables fresh until they're ready to be used.
Don't be afraid to mix and match!
Valuing simplicity in your restaurant equipment, and limiting your kitchen to what it needs, is important. Sometimes, however, the answer is both!
Reach-in and walk-in refrigeration have distinct benefits. Many kitchens ultimately decide to incorporate a combination of the two into their design, to utilize the storage capabilities of walk-ins and the convenience and flexibility of reach-ins.