A walk-in cooler and the food items stored inside are enormous investments for any business. As with any investment, you want to maximize your return and protect against loss.
One of the best ways to ensure ROI is to optimize and organize your walk-in space properly. With a little planning, you can protect yourself from food spoilage and contamination while increasing productivity.
There are two parts to effectively using a walk-in cooler or freezer space: using as much of it as possible and organizing it for safety. Here are a few ideas for accomplishing both.
Making The Most Of Your Space
Installing shelving is one of the best ways to utilize your cold storage space. Shelves increase stackable surface area within the cooler and are popular options. Available in multiple tiers, shelving is easily assembled, usually without special tools.
Shelving choices include welded wire, stainless steel, plastic, and solid. No matter the type, it should be NSF-certified for easy cleaning. Cleaning is essential to keep food from getting trapped in crevices and corners, leading to mold and bacteria formation.
The type of refrigeration system in your walk-in also determines how much usable space you have. If buying a new walk-in, consider a self-contained refrigeration system with an evaporator coil that mounts flush in the ceiling panel. Flush-mounted coils don't protrude into the walk-in and take up valuable storage space.
When optimizing your space, squeezing in everything you can is tempting. However, it is essential not to overload. Your aim is consistent cooling throughout your walk-in, which requires proper air circulation between items. A two-to-three-inch gap around each item is an excellent general rule. Packing warm foods will raise the inside temperature of the walk-in, placing added stress on the refrigeration system, which can lead to system failure.
Organizing Walk-In Space For Safety
Once your walk-in space is optimized, the next step is to organize it for food safety. Bacteria, spoiled food and pest infestation can develop if a walk-in isn't correctly maintained. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep your space organized and clean. Here are a few suggestions:
- Follow a progression from prepared, pre-cooked items on top shelves to raw meats on bottom shelves. That way, no liquids drip from one container to another, which causes cross-contamination.
- Label containers with production and expiration dates as well as ingredients. Labeling not only helps with safety but aids in productivity by letting all employees quickly see what is stored. Also, remember to mark shelves so it is clear where to place different foods.
- Rotate ingredients or prepared foods. Follow the first-in/first-out rule.
- Allow space between the bottom shelf and floor for mopping up spills. A six-inch high space is a good rule of thumb. Keeping the floor clean promotes proper sanitation and prevents pest infestation and contamination.
- Keep delicate fruits and vegetables away from evaporator coil fans. Exposure to constant airflow can cause freezer burn and food spoilage.
Your walk-in is one of your most essential investments. These ideas will help keep it organized and safe for storing equally valuable food items.
Contact Norlake today if you’d like more assistance designing the ideal walk-in space for your needs.