Consultant Q&A: Rick Sevieri, president, RJS Barber Associates, Old Lyme, Conn.

FE&S: How do operators determine the size of the walk-in they need?

RS: Walk-in size is dictated by the menu and the number of seats in the restaurant. From there, the square footage needed is calculated. Operators also need to consider the food delivery process, looking at the amount of food that will need to be stored at one time and the length of storage time.

FE&S: These are large units that require dedicated space. What should operators be aware of with placement?

RS: When walk-in placement is being considered, much depends on how many units are needed and the size of the kitchen. Separate units are necessary for beer kegs and liquor, which should not be stored with food. Also, produce and dairy need to be kept separate from meat and fish.

FE&S: Are there issues to consider with the flooring when installing walk-ins?

RS: The key in most cases is to ensure the kitchen floor is level so there’s no transition or ramp needed, which can be difficult when moving carts into the unit. Operators can choose to install an insulated floor above the finished floor, in which case a walk-in with either a 4- or 8-inch pit is optimal.

FE&S: What finishes are recommended?

RS: We like to use white finishes for HACCP reasons, since this color not only provides a cleaner look, but also shows if mold is growing. White also is preferred by health departments, and is typically not much of an upcharge.

FE&S: Are there lighting options operators should be aware of?

RS: LED lighting is better for HACCP compliance, as this type doesn’t give off heat like fluorescent bulbs. It also is brighter and more energy efficient.

FE&S: What are the material considerations for walk-in doors?

RS: On the exterior, we recommend stainless rather than galvanized. This material is more durable and holds up better with carts, hand trucks and forklifts. All of our specifications include diamond tread on the door’s lower section with a bumper rail on the walk-in panels, which extends the unit’s service life.

FE&S: When it comes to refrigeration packages, what options are available?

RS: With multiple walk-ins, we prefer to use independent refrigerated rack systems. This is where all compressors are in a centralized rack, which is easier to service than having multiple areas around the roof. If there is only one walk-in, then one compressor for each compartment works. However, these are best positioned off site on a roof or pad, which keeps the heat and noise out of the kitchen.