One of the biggest challenges starting up a restaurant is getting everything ready. It gets very stressful, there’s so many things to take care of! Licenses, furniture, an epic restaurant design, an awesome menu, but let’s not forget what you need the most! You need commercial refrigeration! Without refrigeration, where will you store all your inventory? Truth be told, your commercial refrigeration should be on your high priority list, if it isn’t right now you should definitely move it up to the top.
If you are looking to start up a restaurant, are you educated to make a positive decision about your commercial refrigeration? Through this guide, I want to educate you on commercial refrigeration. After reading through this, you should be confident and know exactly what refrigeration equipment is best for you, how you can save lots of money and energy, and the benefits of scheduling preventative maintenance.
Choosing a Refrigeration Model
Not every restaurant sells the same food, nor does each use the same restaurant refrigeration equipment. Building up your restaurant depends hugely on your refrigeration and how you organize your inventory. It seems silly to have a walk-in freezer and use half of it shelving soft-serve ice-cream, or store sodas in a blast chiller, yet stuff like this still happens. Not using your refrigeration equipment correctly or for the right merchandise can damage and/or decrease its efficiency. To make sure you are using the right refrigeration equipment in your restaurant, take a look at the different types of refrigerators.
Reach In Refrigerators -
These are the most common refrigerators found in almost every single kitchen. This is where you should put your food you frequently prepare. Typically, each reach-in refrigerator is divvied into 3 sections by shelves or panels, and are designed to store mostly anything – from sodas to fresh produce.
Glass Door Merchandisers -
Typically, glass door merchandisers are used to show off your goods openly to your customers. They have self-closing, swinging, or sliding doors, and most have bottom-mounted refrigeration systems, making them simple to access for cleanup and maintenance.
Under-counter Refrigerators -
An under-counter refrigerator provides space-saving storage for cold items you’d like to keep handy. This is great if you have a bar, where you can store beer underneath the counter, or at a frying station, where you can have your ingredients on-hand and cool.
Deli Cases -
Show off your recently sliced meats and cheeses in a deli case. These are great to show off your produce in a sandwich shop. There are many options – straight glass, curved glass, and countertop units – that you can choose from that best matches the style and layout of your entire restaurant.
Blast Chillers -
The cook/chill process is a revolutionary refrigeration product. If you are starting up a fast food restaurant, or one that you need only to heat up your food prior to serving your customers, you need to get one of these. Food safety regulations state you have to have cooked food brought from 160° to 40° Fahrenheit within 4 hours. A blast chiller is able to accomplish this in a simple manner, and are designed to store food until re-thermed for consummation.
Walk-In Freezers -
This is the epitome of commercial refrigeration. Walk-in freezers are essential to most restaurants, as they allow you to store much of your inventory in bulk and keep it cold. You can walk into many different sized freezers, from 6′ sq. to others that are custom built and have no size limitations. Since you are able to walk into your freezer, you can be very organized with your stock, and not have to dig behind other items to get what you need.
Picking a Model that Matches Your Needs
Now that you know what type of refrigeration models there are, it’s time to decide which ones are best for you! Here are some really great tips you should take into consideration when shopping around for your refrigeration equipment.
Trust the Best Brands -
As you would with any other product you’re shopping for, you want to compare brand names to one another and see which ones is best for you. There are many refrigeration manufacturers, so it is very important that you find and zero in on one company you can rely on.
Every company has its strengths and weaknesses. Some companies’ main goal is to produce high quality units; others are going to cut their quality short in order to be the cheapest on the market. Your best bet is to check out True, Turbo Air, and Delfield. These three companies are well-known and highly respected in the commercial refrigeration industry, and are definitely worth getting your equipment from.
Take a Look at the Warranty -
Whatever goes up, must come down. That applies to everything in life, including your refrigeration. Eventually, you will have to get commercial refrigeration maintenance.
Most refrigeration brands offer 3 year warranties on their products that covers labor and replacement fees. Oftentimes, you’ll be insured by a large network of certified technicians that are on hand and are ready to get your restaurant refrigeration back up and running as soon as possible.
Should your commercial refrigeration ever break down, you want someone on top of it to fix it immediately. You don’t want to wait long, else you could be looking at some seriously spoiled food and large replacement costs. If you ever require emergency repair, there is always an option available for you.
Choose a Size -
Commercial refrigerators and freezers come in all sizes and shapes. Depending on what type of commercial refrigeration model you need, you will need to measure out the space you have for your refrigeration and work from there. Don’t forget to measure out and make sure there’s enough room in your restaurant for your refrigeration equipment to open and close.
Now that you made sure you have room for your commercial refrigeration, you need to take a look at the interior dimensions. How much food are you looking to store? Do you know how much storage space you require? Some refrigeration units may have the same exterior dimensions, but will widely vary inside due to different designs. Consider what food you will regularly store inside it, and choose the best unit that will accommodate your restaurant’s needs.
Remember About the Condenser Unit -
Don’t overlook the importance of a condenser unit in your refrigerator unit. The condenser unit is the part of your refrigeration that works nonstop to keep your stored food cold. You can get a refrigerator with either a top-mount or bottom-mount condenser unit.
There are advantages and differences between the two positions. Bottom-mount condensers are often easier to clean, maintain and cause less strain on the refrigerator during the summer days. On the other hand, top-mount condensers are preferred by most restaurant owners because they don’t get caught up with much dust and debris, and don’t cause hot air to circulate inside the refrigerator when it’s open. While the two locations have their own pros and cons, you should take into consideration which one is best for your restaurant needs, and make a good judgement call from there.
There are several options you have to look at when you are shopping for your commercial refrigeration, so by applying these tips above, you’ll make a great buying decision.
Once you have your refrigeration units, what then? You just spent a lot of money on getting awesome refrigeration equipment that’ll last a long time through proper usage and maintenance, so how can you save money to make your refrigeration equipment worth it? The easiest way is to save on energy!
Here are some awesome tips you can practice that will save a lot of money annually on your refrigeration costs. By benefiting off of these savings, you can totally put that money towards promoting your restaurant and getting more customers!
Turn off Door Heaters -
Most walk-in freezers have a door heater so it’s easier for you to open and close and not have super cold hands afterwards. However, unless there is a lot of frost on the door, or a bunch of condensation building up along the sides or the front of the unit, you don’t really need to have the door heater on. By turning off door heaters, you can save yourself over $75 annually.
Give your Refrigeration Room -
When you are taking measurements to see what sized refrigerator you can place, you want to give it some wiggle room. Make sure that you aren’t installing your refrigerators or freezers in tight spots. Doing so will allow better air circulation and waste less energy. You are preventing heat from building up in tight spots, which would cause your commercial refrigeration to work harder, use more energy, and consequently, unnecessarily raise your energy bill.
Monitor Your Refrigerant Charge -
If you have a walk-in freezer, you want to make sure you don’t run low on refrigerant. Having too little will cause extra strain on the compressor. Each walk-in freezer is built with a sight glass, which is used for this very reason. If there are visible bubbles building up on the glass while the unit is running, you should schedule a maintenance check with a HVAC company as soon as possible. Not taking action can cause your walk-in freezer to cease up and not work, which is way worse and more costly than getting the help you need.
Add Night Covers to Display Cases -
While open-case refrigerators are a great way to show off your food, they can become a huge energy expense, especially during closed hours. By investing in night covers, you can trap the cold air inside the case so your unit doesn’t have to work as hard at night.
Install Electronically Commutated Motors (ECMs) on evaporator fans -
ECMs are more efficient evaporator fan motors than existing standard efficiency shaded-pole motors, and once ECMs are installed, rebates between $35 and $50 may be available to businesses that apply with PG&E. This simple add-on to walk-in refrigerators and freezers can reduce restaurant costs substantially over the long term, with lower monthly utility bills and less need for maintenance
ECMS are evaporator fan motors that are more efficient that standard shaded-pole motors. On average, you can be getting back $35 to $50 in rebates from PG&E if you have your ECMs registered. This is an easy upgrade for walk-in freezers that can lower your restaurant costs by a lot in the long run, with lower monthly costs and a lesser need for commercial refrigeration maintenance.
The Benefits of Scheduled Preventative Maintenance
So far I’ve gone over refrigeration models and choosing the ones that work best with your restaurant. I’ve gone over how to save money and energy with some simple, easy to do tips. The only thing left to talk to you about is how to protect your commercial refrigeration and keep it running for a long time.
Your best option to protect your commercial refrigeration is to schedule preventative maintenance for it. You wouldn’t want your car’s engine to cease up halfway down the freeway, so why would you not treat your commercial refrigeration the same? Both a car and your commercial refrigeration are important assets, and you wouldn’t want either one of them to suddenly stop working. That’s why you should be taking your car in for regular maintenance, and have a certified HVAC technician come by and thoroughly inspect your commercial refrigeration system.
What’s so great about commercial refrigeration maintenance?
First off, you’ll know about any refrigeration problems before they become a real problem. One nightmare you don’t want to live through as a restaurant owner is to come in and find your entire stock spoiled and smelling profuse.
Second, you won’t have to worry about making repairs yourself. If refrigeration repair is not your thing, you don’t need to spend hours watching how-tos online, stressing about whether you’ll mess up and ruin your entire unit. There’s a reason there are certified, highly-skilled technicians available to help you!
Lastly, getting help will save you money over the long run. Having regular maintenance almost guarantees an extended lifetime for your commercial refrigeration system, and you don’t have to worry for a very long time the need to replace your refrigeration units.