Product Knowledge Guide: Reach-In Refrigerators

Reach-in refrigerators or uprights, which keep food temperatures between 36 degrees F and 38 degrees F, can store a variety of perishable food. Glass door models can help foodservice operators merchandise packaged sandwiches, beverages and impulse food purchases, while custom models can store temperature-sensitive items such as wine and chocolate.

iStock 000020879103 LargeBasic models include one-, two- and three-door sizes, although operators can select four-door units, too. These units typically measure 27½ inches wide for one-door refrigerators, 55 inches for two doors and 80 inches for three doors. Depths vary but generally range between 33 and 36 inches. Heights can range from 81 to 84 inches, including casters or legs.

Reach-ins come in a variety of configurations, including with solid or glass doors. Some manufacturers consider pass-thru units and roll-ins as a type of reach-in as well.

Smaller undercounter reach-ins can provide added storage space for products staff need at a display preparation or service point. Combination refrigerator-freezer reach-ins have separate temperature readouts, while pass-thru units allow access from both sides. Some reach-ins have waist-high refrigerated drawers, which provide quick and easy access and reduce the chance for cross-contamination between different food items.

Foodservice operators will often turn to another type of reach-in unit, refrigerated grab-and-go displays, to stimulate food sales. Operators can choose from upright multishelf refrigerated grab-and-go models, low-profile units with one or no shelves, island reach-in grab-and-go models and equipment that drops into or slides under counters. Typical lengths range from 2 to 10 feet.

Bottom- or top-mount compressors are available. While bottom-mount systems can be more user-friendly and easier to service and work best in cooler areas of the kitchen, top-mounted reach-in compressors not only run cooler but can keep kitchen temperatures cooler as well.

Operators should note they may not be able to use all of a reach-in’s interior space for storage since evaporators, lights, tray slides and other components must fit in the unit. When space above a reach-in is limited, a bottom-mounted compressor is recommended, although this will reduce interior storage space and require installation of a door about one-half the height of a regular door. Top-mounted reach-in models require greater clearance but can maximize available internal storage capacity as well as product access and display space.

All reach-ins use a compressor, evaporator coil and evaporator fans for cooling, yet metering devices may differ. While some units have a capillary tube that carries refrigerant, others use an expansion valve flow device, which offers faster temperature recovery, a must for high-volume operations.

In terms of materials, higher-end models usually feature stainless steel construction inside and out. The exterior top, bottom and back usually will be a different metal, like galvanized steel.

Most refrigeration equipment now includes features to help prevent spoilage.

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