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Choosing Between Walk-In And Reach-In Refrigerators For Your Kitchen

by Yolanda White

Opening a new restaurant is no easy task. Kitchen design is one of the most significant components of launching any new foodery, but it can sometimes be too easy to get lost in the details. Unfortunately, those details can have a major impact on the efficiency of your kitchen staff. One of these small decisions that can be difficult to walk back on later is your choice of commercial refrigerator style. Once a unit is installed, removing and replacing a commercial refrigerator is not always easy, so it pays to get your choice right the first time.

Know Your Options

The first step to choosing the right refrigerator is knowing what's available. Although the commercial refrigeration market is certainly not lacking in options, most can be boiled down into a few general categories:

  • Large, walk-in units
  • Smaller, stand-up and reach-in units
  • Under-counter or worktop units

Each has its place in a modern commercial kitchen, although budget and sizing constraints may limit your decisions. In general, each refrigerator style has progressively less space as you move down the list. Conversely, each unit becomes less portable and more difficult to install as you climb higher on the list. Worktop units have the benefit of providing space for food preparation, although this comes at the expense of ease of access since your employees must reach down to access food.

One or Many?

As noted above, reach-in and walk-in refrigerators are not part of a mutually exclusive decision space. Walk-ins provide drastically more storage space, but access can be limited since employees can only enter or leave the refrigerator one at a time. Walk-in positioning is also heavily constrained by their large size, so it is not always possible to install one in the most convenient location. They are unbeatable for storing large amounts of food, however, and they can also be more energy-efficient than running multiple, smaller refrigerators.

On the other hand, reach-in and under-counter units are smaller, more portable, more straightforward to replace, and cheaper. The placement of these refrigerators can be closer to where kitchen staff needs them to be, and re-positioning is sometimes possible when necessary. Because smaller refrigerators offer their own sets of advantages, restaurants often choose to use a combination of sizes if they can do so within their budget.

Keep Installation In Mind

Commercial refrigerators are as simple to install as the refrigerator in a home kitchen. Smaller units generally still require professional installation, and walk-in installation is a highly involved process. Not only must you have the right amount of physical floor space for a walk-in, but the ceiling must also accommodate its refrigeration hardware. It is often a good idea to consult with commercial refrigeration installation professionals before deciding on a specific unit or size so that you can make adjustments before planning the rest of your kitchen. Remember that choosing the right installer is just as important as selecting the right combination of refrigerators, so making this choice early in your process will help you to plan the perfect kitchen.