When you’re running a restaurant or catering business, it’s natural to need a walk-in cooler or freezer. Both are useful to keep a substantial amount of produce at the right temperature to maximize how long it’ll stay fresh before use.
A regular residential refrigerator won’t cut the mustard because it’s simply too small for any decent sized operation, and buying a series of them proves cumbersome for food management, costs and energy usage too.
In this article, we cover coolers and freezers, when each is appropriate, and how to select the right one.
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What Type of Businesses Use a Walk-in?
Walk-in coolers or freezers are used with many types of business. They’re even used on ships out to sea to store food for the long journey.
Most commonly, a walk-in is used for a business operating a food service where there’s a considerable amount of produce being prepared daily. While there will often be plenty of fresh vegetables and meats purchased from local markets to ensure absolute freshness, there will sometimes be the provision for frozen food to keep it longer and these may be stored in freezers too.
Restaurants and bars that serve food, online food production and delivery services, bakeries and breweries will all use coolers to keep food and drinks cold.
Must a Business Always Have a Cooler/Freezer, or Will a Cooler Be Enough?
In most cases, a walk-in cooler is sufficient. Not every business requires a cooler/freezer or a freezer on its own. When they do, they may opt to have one cooler and a separate freezer side-by-side to keep things simpler. This way, if there’s ever a problem with the freezer part of the cooler, it doesn’t make the entire walk-in problematic to continue using it.
If you’ve ever seen a Gordon Ramsey TV reality show, he’s a stickler for restaurants using fresh produce every day. The reason, other than for taste, is that when a restaurant starts to struggle for customers, they being to forego fresh produce because it keeps going off, in favor of frozen. At this point, they reheat pre-cooked food instead of cooking from fresh which causes their customer reviews to decline in ratings.
When you consider the above, there’s a far greater need for a walk-in cooler in most restaurants and commercial kitchens than for a freezer. It also avoids chefs getting into bad habits that are tough to break once started, like most bad habits are.
Three Options to Choose from
A walk-in cooler is one that’s designed to be built-in, is prefabricated from a modular design, or it’s a custom design.
Built-in coolers aren’t as common these days. They were often produced on-site when the building was constructed, or the kitchen was designed. As such, it’s possible that they’re older than they look and have seen better days.
At a minimum, they’ll probably need some replacement parts and a service to get them working a bit more reliably. In the end, this type of cooler is difficult to use the older it gets and will create future problems with spotty cooling performance the longer a business suffers along with it.
A prefabricated cooler is a modular cooler that’s been produced to a popular common size that suits many different commercial kitchens. It will often have a frame that’s several inches thick to give it greater strength and rigidity. The door and mounting system are designed to close flush to the exterior to remove any air gap within the door mechanism for a solid seal to keep food at premium freshness for longer.
A well-made prefabricated cooler from KPS Global is usually available within three days. Their coolers use high-quality materials and provide a consistent performance. You can learn more about their design and models from their website.
Custom coolers are ideal for business customers that need something specialized to fit into a specific space. They’re either width, depth or height restricted, or they want to make full use of the designated area available to fit a walk-in cooler. To optimize the space that they do have, only a custom cooler design makes sense over a modular or standard size that may only suit other commercial kitchens.
The custom coolers from a producer like KPS Global include stainless steel or galvanized steel, foam insulation, secure flooring, and a cam-lock design to secure the door to provide a better seal. Polyurethane foam is used for interior insulation instead of XPS which is of lower quality. All foams used are CFC free. The texture and color selection for internal and external finishes is also selectable to fit into the décor in the kitchen too.
With a walk-in cooler, it’s sensible to learn a little bit about the refrigeration as that’s what you’re buying the product for in the end.
Coolers require space to fit them into, but also clearance beyond that for the ventilation to expel air too. For instance, a smaller cooler may use a ½ horsepower compressor system to maintain the internal temperature at around 40-degrees Fahrenheit. The larger the walk-in, the bigger the compressor is required. For walk-in freezers, they require 1 HP compressor to maintain a colder temperature. Alternatively, with bigger coolers, they may require a more powerful compressor that uses extra energy too.
With insufficient clearance beyond the standard size of a walk-in cooler, different configurations and fittings may be required. If a standard walk-in cooler size wouldn’t work with the space requirements, then you’ll probably need a custom walk-in cooler to get a model to fit perfectly.
A walk-in cooler is an essential part of any commercial kitchen that produces a reasonable amount of food. While food operations might start out small when opening a restaurant or an internet-based food delivery service, the reality is that won’t last. It won’t take long to reach a stage where you’ll run out of space to store cold ingredients that will go off quickly when not refrigerated right away.
Talk to professionals who produce coolers for commercial use to see how they can help you.