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


A Guide to Reach-in Refrigerators

Reach-in refrigerators are versatile for use either for front-of-house grab-and-go items or long-term back-of-house storage.

Reach-in refrigerators, also known as uprights, store food between 36 and 38 degrees F. These units can hold a variety of perishable food, including produce and dairy items as well as packaged sandwiches, beverages and impulse items by the point of purchase.

Operators often use units with glass doors to display and store impulse items, while custom models contain white wine, beer, hard seltzer and other alcohol best served chilled.

Reach-ins come in both pass-thru and roll-in models. The pass-thru type provides better access as there are doors on the front and back. For those seeking additional storage for service or prep areas, smaller reach-ins that can fit under counters work well. Units with refrigerated drawers situated waist high keep food items separate to prevent cross-contamination while also ensuring fast, easy access to the contents. Operators can choose models with casters or legs, depending on the application.

Reach-ins can have one, two, three or four doors, depending on the size and configuration needed. Single-door models usually measure 27½ inches wide, while two-door units are 55 inches and three-door reach-ins measure 80 inches in width. Heights range between 81 and 84 inches, while depths are between 33 and 36 inches. Operators should note that not all interior space may be available for storage in a reach-in since the interior must also accommodate evaporators, lights, tray slides and other components.

In terms of construction, reach-ins are available in all stainless steel, with galvanized steel tops, bottoms and backs or with aluminum interiors that resist rust, corrosion and odors.

Operators can choose from either bottom- or top-mount compressors with this type of refrigeration. When space above a reach-in is limited, a bottom-mounted compressor may be the best choice. Although this format is user-friendly and offers easier maintenance, it is best used in cooler kitchen areas as these units expel heat. Bottom-mounted compressor reach-ins also have reduced interior storage space and require doors about one-half the height of a typical door.

Because top-mounted reach-in compressors run cooler, these models don’t add extra heat in the back of house. Requiring increased clearance compared to reach-ins with bottom-mounted compressors, the top-mount style maximizes available internal storage capacity, product access and display space.

Reach-ins with electronic controllers display error codes that help service technicians more quickly diagnose and fix problems. This expedites repairs, minimizing downtime. Units with this feature also have built-in alarms that alert staff if appropriate temperatures are not being reached or doors are left open.

The wide range of reach-in options includes epoxy-coated, chrome-plated or stainless-steel shelves; pan slides; temperature monitoring and alarms; digital or dial thermometers; half-solid or half-glass doors; antimicrobial coatings; ozone air systems; fluorescent or LED lights; and advanced electronic controls, such as motion sensors, which turn lights on as needed.

The U.S. Department of Energy has developed maximum energy consumption levels for all commercial refrigeration equipment that set limits on daily energy consumption to reduce energy use and save operators money. For this reason, energy-efficient features for reach-ins are available, such as larger condensers, high-efficiency compressors and EC evaporator motors.

Energy Star-rated reach-in units provide high-efficiency compressors and fan motors. These units can reduce energy consumption by as much as 35% as well as utility costs of up to $120 annually per freezer and $170 annually for refrigerators. Many utilities also offer rebates toward the purchase of qualified products.


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