Types: Shelving materials include wire in multiple finishes such as zinc and chrome-plated epoxy coating with a zinc substrait, polymer and a hybrid of wire and polymer. The majority of shelving used in foodservice is traditional wire and polymer. One type of commercial foodservice shelving is made of a steel core encapsulated by a thick polypropylene outer layer. The most recent entries into the shelving market are made from a lightweight composite material that contains no metal and a new hybrid of wire and polymer. Shelving is available in various configurations, including stand-alone stationary units; single units fitted with casters; multiple units mounted on track systems to maximize storage capacity in limited space; and single shelves hung from wall supports. Combinations of these provide storage flexibility for operators, depending on their needs.

Capacities/Footprints: Generally, shelf lengths tend to come in 6-inch increments, ranging from 18 to 72 inches. Composite shelving is available with a 78-inch shelf. Common shelf widths range from 14 to 36 inches. Stationary units range in height from 24 to 72 inches. Some manufacturers offer up to 84 inches in height for maximum storage capacity. Typical load capacities can go up to 800 lbs. per shelf.

Standard Features: Manufacturers now offer a variety of polypropylene or composite finishes for shelving, which are ideal for humid or wet storage, as they provide the most corrosion-resistant surfaces. Most shelves are attached to posts with built-in or snap-on wedges and/or corner connectors, which allow end users to assemble them without using any tools. To storage shelves operators can add custom accessories, such as tray racks, security cages, divider bars for food pans and drying racks.

Most manufacturers use antimicrobial coatings on their shelving units to inhibit the growth of mold, fungus and bacteria and to suppress the growth of microbes between cleanings. Staff can clean shelf plates by hand or by running them through a dishwashing machine.

New Features/Options: Current shelving models are generally easier to adjust and require no tools for construction, which makes them easier for operators to modify as their storage needs change. Most wire and composite lines allow two shelving units to share a single post — with no loss of weight-bearing capacity — for better space utilization.

Label holders and shelf markers are other available options. Shelf ledges can help prevent objects from being knocked off the backs or sides of shelves.

Key Kitchen Applications: Shelving units store and display food products, supplies and cookware in both dry and wet areas of foodservice operations. Wet storage applications, such as in walk-in coolers and freezers, require an epoxy-coated wire that is NSF listed or made of composite shelving material. Some manufacturers offer lifetime warranties against rust and corrosion on shelving. Note some shelving listed as NSF is suitable for dry environments only and not suitable for walk-ins.

Operators can choose to place multiple mobile shelving units on tracks that allow them to slide back and forth, conserving space while granting staff access to the items stored. To stabilize these storage systems, the tracks are bolted to the floor; instead of feet, the shelving units rest on skates that include ball bearings. Some systems are held secure by the force of gravity alone and require no bolts to hold them to the floor. Other systems utilize top tracks, keeping the floor free of obstructions and also facilitating easy cleaning of the floor.

Purchasing Guidelines: Consider the application: Will the shelving be used in a wet or dry environment? Will the system be moved? If so, bumpers and casters will be necessary. If the unit is in a corrosion-inducing environment, a corrosion-resistant system should be used. Operators should confirm that a shelving system's height will clear doorways and walk-ins that it must fit through.

In addition to simply providing a place for goods to be stored, shelving can address a number of other concerns. Is there poor work flow in the back of the house? Do improperly stored items make it difficult for kitchen staff to find what they need? Is an ineffective storage system affecting an operator's ability to serve customers properly?

Food Safety and Sanitation Essentials: Proper cleaning of food-storage areas and shelving is extremely important in preventing food-borne illness. Some shelving systems will allow an operator to remove and run the actual shelf mats through the dishwasher without disassembling the entire shelving unit.

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