Refrigeration takes many forms in foodservice operations including walk-ins, reach-ins, and display cases.


Purchasing Considerations for Refrigerated Display Cases

When deciding on a refrigerated display case, operators should determine the type of application to decide if a refrigerator, freezer or open-air merchandiser is most appropriate.

For merchandising product, glass doors or open-air models are best, but users need to weigh energy usage versus convenience.

If the operator plans to showcase items that are considered impulse purchases and wants to place the unit near the front of the store, then a lower-profile glass door or open display unit may be more suitable.

Combination cases with one refrigerated and one non-refrigerated section in the same unit without a physical divider have become more common. This is accomplished by placement of the refrigeration coils inside the case, which can be divided either vertically or horizontally. These units work well with grab-and-go applications since operations can offer wrapped sandwiches on one side and chips on the other, for example.

Ensure the refrigeration system is adequately sized for the amount and type of product as well as usage. Consider the ambient conditions the case will be in as well as how heavily used the case will be to see if expansion valve systems or remote applications are warranted.

Space availability for the refrigerated display case is a factor. Also determine if the unit will be incorporated into existing cabinetry or fixtures.

The type of unit needed depends on the application. Unpackaged foods must be displayed in a closed display and served by an attendant, while packaged foods can be available for customer self-service in open-front displays. Product shelf life can also help determine which type of case will work best in an operation. For example, unpackaged food displayed in a closed case is exposed to cold air blowing inside the unit or heat from the internal lights inside a non-refrigerated display, which can cause food to dry out.

Self-service displays have been shown to increase sales by at least 50% because they provide quick and easy access to food, which stimulates impulse sales. For optimum accessibility and viewing, product should be displayed at eye level whenever possible.

Evaluate the length of the display and number of shelves to determine how much product can be displayed and how fast the operation anticipates that product will sell.

Shelf adjustability can provide added flexibility for operators with changing menus and different-size products. Refrigerated display cases generally require an electrical supply and drain within 6 feet of the unit.

With open-air merchandisers, the availability of a floor drain is important. Humidity in the air will result in a certain amount of condensation within the unit that can drip down the inside of the case, resulting in the need for a floor drain. If a floor drain is not available, then it is important to specify a unit with an electric condensate evaporator.

Also, with open-air models, identify a location that does not receive direct sunlight and is not beneath any heating, ventilation or air-conditioning ducts. The additional heat and airflow will result in a disruption of the air curtain circulating throughout the merchandiser, which keeps stored items cool. As a result, the case may not be able to hold food at safe temperatures.

Ventilation is necessary to adequately exhaust heat away from the refrigeration system.

Although closed refrigerated display cases are Energy Star-rated, open units are not. Operators can use night curtains with open-air models after hours to hold in cold air and reduce energy usage at non-peak times or while operations are closed.

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