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A Guide To Refrigeration Equipment
No restaurant today can get away without purchasing or leasing some sort of refrigeration equipment. But what kinds of refrigeration do you really need?
* In the simplest small restaurant setup, like snack stands, a standard home kitchen refrigerator dedicated to restaurant business is adequate providing you use thermometers to measure temperatures instead of counting on the equipment to work properly. All others need something a little more complex.
* Refrigerators are the first and simplest. While stainless steel is the standard for an ordinary reach-in refrigerator, you can get away with anything that can be kept clean over the course of a normal business day. Be aware of what you need to store, and purchase a refrigerator with shelves that are strong enough to hold the weight of your products and that are easy to get to. Storing items in the door is a bad idea, as this part of the fridge stays warmer than the rest in a frequently-opened appliance, so don't count on that for a lot of your storage.
* If you have a medium to large restaurant, you'll probably have to consider a walk-in refrigerator. These are all industrial, so you won't have to worry so much about temperature control. Pay close attention when the salesperson tells you how much storage space you need; even though you may think you can get away with less, you're better off counting on needing more than you expect. This also allows for expansion if you branch into other things, like catering.
* If you go for a walk-in, consider whether this will be a permanent install or something you can take with you if you have to change locations. If you have a lease you may not be keeping long on your current space, it might be better to just be tough and purchase multiple movable refrigerators rather than go for a permanent install. Also, make sure your walk-in has an easy means for opening it from inside. This is generally only an issue with older units.
* In some cases, you may be better off going with a refrigerated display case, like the ones you see in delis. Examine your menu offerings before deciding.
*Freezers have approximately the same considerations as refrigerators, but ease of access is generally not quite as important. With freezers, it's even more important than with refrigerators that you are certain you want a walk-in before you get one; there are few standalone walk-ins on the market.
* A different type of refrigerated unit is an icemaker. This is totally different; before purchasing one, you should be clear about whether you want cube, nugget, or flaked ice for your business. You should also be aware of the space needed; an air-cooled icemaker requires a lot of space to function efficiently, while a water-cooled icemaker needs much less space, but also wastes a lot of water.
Also, if you use an icemaker to fill ice dispensers or transport ice in buckets to other locations, you have to be very aware that it must be kept sterile. Food poisoning is often caused by unsanitary ice bin conditions when employees assume that the cold will kill any bacteria.
Before purchasing any refrigeration equipment, know your restaurant, your needs, your space, and your customers. Making the right choices will save you more money in the long run.
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