Published on Monday, 02 August 2004
Written by Toby Weber, Associate Editor
As heavily used and (too often) abused products, undercounter refrigerators distinguish themselves in part by how much of a beating they can take.
Undercounter refrigerators are highly commoditized and, frequently, poorly treated products that many operators view as interchangeable. The challenge for DSRs selling such items is convincing end-user customers to invest more than the bare minimum. It is important, then, for salespeople to stress the durability and warranty of the units they wish to sell.
- When an operator first broaches the subject of undercounter refrigeration, DSRs must be sure to clarify the term. While for E&S professionals, undercounter refrigerators are exactly that - refrigerators that sit under counters - operators could be referring to another item, such as a refrigerated worktop or work stand.
- The most important step when recommending an undercounter refrigerator is knowing where it will be placed in an operation. If a unit is going to be located in an area where it will have ample air circulation, a standard "rear-breather" unit with a side-mounted compressor is usually appropriate.
- However, if an undercounter refrigerator is intended for a tight space where it will be enclosed on three sides - such as a niche in a millworked counter - a front-breather is the only option that offers the necessary ventilation. If a rear-breather is placed in such a space, it will almost certainly break down, possibly in a matter of weeks. One downside to front-breathers, however, is that due to the location of their compressors and vents, they provide less storage space than rear-breathing models with similar dimensions.
- On a related note, DSRs must be sure to measure accurately the space in which an undercounter unit is expected to fit. The sizes of these pieces vary greatly from model to model, so mistakes are often made in width, depth and height. Remember, even a half-inch mistake can result in a returned product and an unhappy customer.
- Another key choice for operators is deciding whether they should order a model with a door or with drawers. Door units typically have more storage space than those with drawers and are well-suited for front-of-the-house, non-cooking applications.
- Drawer units, however, offer the specific ability to store foods separately. This makes them especially useful as cooking line components where, for example, one drawer can hold chicken, another can store seafood and yet another vegetables - thus lowering the possibility of cross-contamination incidents. In addition, because drawer units offer small, discreet compartments that are opened independently of one another, they impose less work on their compressors. Also, since the drawers can be removed, such units are easier by design to clean than door models.
- Another option for undercounter refrigerators are units with glass doors. These allow foodservice employees to find items more easily that could be stored in a number of places. In addition, if a unit is positioned below a counter but facing toward customers, it can be used to display and merchandise food and beverage items.
- In most operations, undercounter refrigerators take a significant amount of abuse. They are often opened with cooking utensils and slammed shut with a kick, for example. DSRs should confirm this reality with customers, and then encourage them to invest in a higher-end model that will provide greater durability. Another advantage of more-costly models is that they will also likely have features that simplify cleaning, such as easy-to-remove gaskets.
- On a related note, warranties for undercounter refrigerators vary greatly among different manufacturers. For this reason, DSRs must clearly communicate to end-users exactly what will be covered by a warranty and for how long.
- Since they do endure a significant amount of hard use, DSRs should also be sure to encourage operators to clean their undercounter refrigerators' compressors regularly and to vacuum the coils of their chosen models as often as needed.