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Reach-in refrigerators and freezers are used in supplement bulk cold storage equipment. Some restaurants install these in preparation areas next to primary cook stations, in pantries, and in waitress stations. Some very small kitchens may actually use reach-ins for their bulk storage.

Reach-in units are available with one-, two-, or three-doors, plus half-door models. Doors may open on one side only or from both sides (called pass-through refrigerators). Sliding and glass door designs often have controlled compartments with variable temperature regulation devices. Typical reach-in refrigerators are available in 10 to 75 cubic feet of capacity, and average about 50 cubic feet.

Reach-in refrigerators and freezers may be mounted on castors for added flexibility or designed to receive roll-in carts or racks. Refrigeration systems for reach-in refrigerators can be self-contained or remote.

Ice Machines

Commercial ice machines are actually small manufacturing plants that use water and electricity to produce cubed or flaked ice. Cube ice is clear and most often used where appearance is important, such as cocktail ice, carbonated beverages, and ice water for table service. Flake ice is used mostly for packing around food containers in self-serve cold food displays and salad bars. However, it is also used for beverages in smaller food service establishments, despite its reduced visual appeal.

Water purity to the ice machine is important and a water filter should be installed regardless of water conditions. Sizing the ice-making capacity of the machine depends on the type of restaurant and the number of patrons served. It is generally wise to size the storage capacity appropriately to minimize the ice machine on-peak operating time.


When a large amount of refrigeration space is needed, a walk-in unit is often the best choice. Walk-in units easily accommodate the bulk storage of refrigerated and frozen foods. They are manufactured in virtually any size or custom design, ranging from as small as 4 by 6 feet to units so large they approximate cold storage warehouses.

Walk-ins are available for both indoor and outdoor installation. Most are prefabricated, permitting flexible design and allowing manufacturers to meet nearly any special need.

Most restaurants use walk-ins predominately for bulk cold storage. However, restaurants may also use a portion of this space for pantry items. To accommodate this need, a popular option for a walk-in unit is one or more glass reach-in doors for easy access, with incidental access to the walk-in refrigerator. This option is considerably more efficient than using a separate small reach-in cooler.

The primary access doors for walk-ins come in a wide variety of designs. Traditional hinged doors with safety latches can be replaced with insulated double-swing doors. Some larger walk-in coolers also have sliding or overhead doors to provide clearance for forklifts.

Larger facilities often use multiple refrigeration units or zones. For example, one unit may be used to store fresh produce at 32° to 36°F, while meats are stored in a separate unit at 34° to 38°F. Dairy products and seafood are often kept in their own separate refrigeration units. However, it is obviously not feasible to have a separate walk-in for every type of product.

Smaller food service facilities with only one cooler generally operate them at 38°F with a typical freezer temperature kept between 0° and 5° Fahrenheit, or slightly colder if ice cream is stored.