The confluence of high labor costs and consumers’ need for speed creates a recipe for accessible, portable food options, either as the main meal or as add-on items. As a result, the role of the reach-in continues to evolve from simple storage item to profit center for many foodservice operators, including fast-casual and quick-service operators.
Arlene Spiegel, president of New York City-based Arlene Spiegel & Associates, shares a few details on what operators need to know to properly specify this equipment.
The real estate in the restaurant becomes the biggest issue for reach-ins. I always recommend that guests intercept the reach-in offerings on their way to placing or picking up their orders.
The items stocked in the reach-in should be complementary and relevant to the core menu items served at the counter. These include beverages; dessert items; grab-and-go sandwiches and salads; and buy now, eat later meals, which add to ticket averages and spend.
The other issues to consider are the equipment’s mechanical requirements, such as the location of the compressor and how much electricity it will require, as well as how the overall dimensions fit in the space.
How the staff will stock these units, either from the front or back, represents another key consideration.
Other factors to consider when purchasing a reach-in include space constraints and whether the unit will be incorporated into existing cabinetry or fixtures. If the operation will use the reach-in for merchandising product, consider a unit with glass doors. For operations with limited space, 180-degree doors facilitate easier loading of pans and trays.
It is important to note that energy-efficient reach-ins, which include three inches of insulation, operate on less horsepower and can save operators money over time. Consider the unit’s temperature maintenance and recovery time in relation to its application when purchasing a reach-in. Units with half doors are recommended for hot environments since this design provides less space for cold air to escape.
Replacing refrigeration systems is expensive, so operators should confirm that the warranty is comprehensive. Reach-ins with gaskets that don’t need tools to replace offer easier maintenance. Operators should consider features that help minimize service costs, such as microprocessors.
Configuration and storage needs should be factored in. Operators should verify whether top-mounted versus bottom-mounted refrigeration is better for the particular application. Also, be sure to match the proper shelving kit, including racks, pan guides and universal tray slides, to the needs of the facility.