As we’ve already discussed, choosing the right refrigeration unit (or units) for a commercial kitchen is an essential part of setting up a food-service business. A full range of refrigerators – all with a different purpose – includes reach-in units, undercounter fridges, walk-ins, merchandisers, and more. Figuring out the type and size of kitchen refrigeration equipment you will need depends mostly on the products you will store and serve. If you can determine the number of products you will need to store and your available space, you will be able to determine the right unit for your area.
Every restaurant can increase the quality of their food and maintain safe food temperatures with a proper refrigeration solution, and one of the most versatile and useful solutions is the pass-thru refrigerator.
Pass-thru Refrigerators: What They Are
Pass-thru refrigerators are ingenious pieces of equipment that are furnished with front and rear doors, making them accessible from either side, allowing employees to pass food through the unit from one side to the other with ease. Many commercial kitchens feature pass-thru units that are positioned in between the food-preparation and serving areas to help streamline the food preparation and serving process. With a pass-thru, kitchen workers can prepare cold food items, such as salads, deli platters, and desserts place them in the rear of the pass-thru, and then the wait staff can find what they’re looking for, remove the item from the front and serve as needed. This reduces the time that cold food may be exposed to unsafe kitchen temperatures, as well as speed up service times.
If you are setting up a restaurant or food-service operation and expect a high volume of business, you’ll find that a pass-thru refrigerator is particularly helpful when it comes to efficiency. The two-sided access that the pass-thru offers will save time and effort for many members of a restaurant’s staff.
Versatility: The Pass-thru Refrigerator’s Middle Name
The pass-thru refrigerator is nothing if not versatile, and they are available in a wide range of configurations that include single- and double-door units, units with half doors and full doors, and units with glass or solid doors (or a combination of both). Each type of pass-thru has its purpose and – perhaps more importantly – can fit the budgetary and space requirements of most restaurant kitchens.
The Roll-In Refrigerator
Roll-in refrigerators are a particularly versatile form of refrigeration. These refrigerators have no interior shelving and sit directly on the floor. They greatly simplify food storage and help to streamline the food handling process as they have an empty cavity so that roll-in racks with prepared foods can be rolled right in and stored until ready for use. Roll-in units accommodate full size roll-in racks on casters, and the roll-in configuration helps to maintain proper temperature levels to keep food cold until ready for use.
Roll-in refrigerators – like pass-thru units – are usually located between the kitchen prep area and the service/stocking stations. They are convenient and space saving, and come in a variety of configurations, including one-, two-, or three-section configurations with solid or glass doors.
Determining the Size and Placement of Your Pass-Thru Refrigerator
The design of your restaurant’s kitchen layout and space should determine where your refrigeration unit should be located. It is important to consider how ingredients are moved from the refrigerator to the prep or cook line; or from the refrigerator to the service area. In addition, you will need to figure out how items will be returned to refrigerated storage.
Reach-in refrigerators –including pass-thru units – come in a variety of sizes. Measure the space in your kitchen designated for the refrigerator to determine the exact dimensions of the refrigerated unit you will need to purchase. The interior dimensions (usually shown in cubic feet) are key, as well. Although it’s hard to know in advance what your regular stock purchases will be and how many customers you will be serving daily, these criteria will help to inform the size of the refrigeration unit you will ultimately need to accommodate your business needs.
A large, two-section pass-thru refrigerator, with as much as 56-cubic-feet capacity, can be as wide as 53 inches, and while a unit like this is ultra-convenient, it is appropriate only for a kitchen or dining room that has abundant space. On the other hand, a one-section pass-thru unit, with a width of 27.5 inches, may only give you a capacity of 31 cubic feet, but will fit in limited spaces, and that may be sufficient for your needs.
Purchase with Care and with Energy Usage in Mind
Before you make a significant investment any commercial refrigeration unit, in general, check the warranty and service history of major brands then determine what unit will give you the best value, leveraging best quality against best price. Energy Star listings are also critical; commercial refrigerators that are marked with the Energy Star emblem are up to 30 percent more efficient than non-Energy Star appliances. Industry technology and FDA codes change frequently, so make sure you have the latest approved refrigeration type and make it a primary criterion in your choices.
Aside from double- and single-section styles, you can choose from units that have cabinets with temperatures that can be controlled digitally. Many of these units are equipped with energy- efficient motors and features that help prevent cold air from seeping out, plus low-maintenance and energy-efficient interior LED lights (in different colors). The advantage of LED lighting is that it is 50% more efficient and has a 20% longer life.
Door Configurations of a Pass-Thru Refrigerator
You can find pass-thru refrigeration units with doors that either swing out (hinged) or slide, depending on your space needs. Hinged-door models have one, two or three doors on each side, while sliding-door models come with two doors on each side. Some commercial kitchens find swing doors are easier to use, especially if you frequently load products in bulk and want to easily prop open the door; while others appreciate the convenience and space efficiency of a self-closing sliding door.
In addition, pass-thru refrigerators come in a range of materials, from stainless steel-doors, to glass-and-steel doors. Depending on your needs, you can choose either full doors: solid or glass or half doors, either both solid, both glass or a combination. When checking out the different models, you should make sure that the unit you want to purchase is equipped with a mechanism that eliminates condensation, which impedes the ability to see inside. This is called automatic condensate evaporation and should be a top priority.
Consider the Pass-Thru Option
If you’re still not exactly sure which type of commercial reach-in refrigerator would be right for your operation, take the time to assess what is available and compare what is out there with what you need. Selecting the right commercial refrigeration can have a huge impact on the efficiency of your kitchen’s workflow, and a pass-thru refrigerator can improve the workflow in establishments that can accommodate them. Pass-thru commercial refrigerators offer conveniently accessible storage from either side for busy food-service operations, and they come in a wide range of solid, glass and half-door options to meet your requirements for visibility and access. When you are designing your kitchen and your dining area, keep the pass-thru refrigerator in mind as a useful addition to your restaurant and a great way to connect the back-of-house with the front-of-the-house areas.