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Commercial fridge buying guide: How to find the best fridge for your restaurant or catering business


In a commercial kitchen, the fridge is typically the most used and relied-upon appliance. Not only do most restaurants and caterers keep their fridges on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but yours will also be responsible for preserving hundreds ⁠— if not thousands ⁠— of pounds' worth of stock. So, when you're shopping for a new commercial fridge, it's vital you choose one that's going to work for your business.

However, this can be more difficult than it sounds. There are so many different styles of fridge out there, and they all have their own sets of features and capabilities you need to consider. So, we've put together this commercial fridge buying guide, which should help you to buy the perfect appliance to suit your needs. We'll cover:

What to consider when buying a commercial fridge

Before you start searching for your ideal fridge, you need to have a clear idea of what you're looking for. Shopping blind will increase the risk of you picking out an appliance that just isn't right for your space or business, so make some notes before browsing, and don't deviate away from them. Not only will this help to narrow your options down and make the whole process much easier, but it'll also ensure you end up with a fridge you'll be happy with for years to come. Here are the three main factors you need to keep in mind. 

Capacity

Of course, you need to ensure any fridge you buy will accommodate all the ingredients and dishes you need to keep cold. So, it's a good idea to work out what kind of capacity you're looking for. If you're replacing your existing fridge, consider whether the one you have provides enough space, or if your stock is often a bit too cramped inside. Alternatively, if you're preparing to open a new restaurant or catering business, consider what kinds of dishes you plan to serve, how much stock you'll require at any one time, and how much space this is likely to take up.

When you invest in a new fridge, you'll want to know it's going to suit your business for at least the next few years, too. So, it's also a good idea to consider how you expect your needs to grow, so you can factor this into your decision.

Size

You'll also need to consider how much space your kitchen has for a new fridge. Again, if you're simply replacing an old one, you should have a clear idea of what size you require. But, if you're fitting out a new kitchen or need some additional refrigerator space, you might need to get slightly more creative.

If you're short on space, a large upright fridge might be out of the question, but a single-door design can work well in a tight or awkward space. Alternatively, you can make the most of what little space you have with a slightly different design. For example, undercounter and low fridges are great in this scenario.

Efficiency

Because your fridge will very rarely be switched off, you'll want to make sure it's as efficient as possible. This will help to ensure all of your stock is kept cold enough, but electricity isn't being wasted. Not only will this limit the size of your carbon footprint, but it's also likely to save you a reasonable amount of money in the long run.

The European Commission introduced energy labelling for refrigeration equipment back in 2016 as part of its Ecodesign Directive. As a result, all new products entering the market are categorised with a rating between A and G, with A being the most efficient. So, it's well worth looking at this rating to ensure you're picking out the most efficient model to suit your catering needs.

Types of commercial fridge

There are lots of different styles of commercial fridge to choose from. And, they all serve slightly different purposes, which means you'll need to have a clear idea of what you're looking for before you dive in and start browsing. Here, we'll take you through the most common types and explain what they're best used for, so you can ensure you pick out a fridge that's going to suit your needs perfectly.

Upright fridges and refrigerated cabinets

Upright fridges and refrigerated cabinets are particularly common in commercial kitchens, and it's not hard to see why: they offer exceptional capacity, while having a relatively small footprint. In addition, there are lots of different styles of refrigerated cabinet you can choose from, so you should be able to find one that fits your space perfectly. Whether you have the room for a double-door model, or your kitchen is tight on space and you only have room for a slimmer design, an upright fridge will help you to maximise your storage space.

We stock a wide range of cabinet fridges here at Alliance Online, and they're available in an array of different styles. Whether you're after a steel model, or one with a glass door, we're sure to have the perfect one to suit your needs. 

Counter fridges

If you're particularly tight on floor space in your kitchen, a multi-purpose fridge might suit your needs best. So, you might want to consider investing in a counter fridge ⁠—the top of this will double-up as a worktop, so you won't have to choose between having more work or refrigeration space.

Counter fridges typically come with doors, drawers, or a combination of both, so you will have plenty of freedom to pick out a model that suits your kitchen perfectly. This design of fridge is also great if some of your dishes require a lot of ingredient prep, as it keeps everything you might need close at hand.

Here at Alliance Online, we offer a wide range of counter refrigerators that will make a fantastic addition to your kitchen. There are plenty to choose from too, so you should have no trouble finding just the thing to suit your needs.

Prep counter fridges

As the name might suggest, prep counter fridges are quite similar to standard counter fridges, although they're even more versatile, thanks to them having a feature that ensures certain chilled ingredients are even closer at hand than they otherwise would be in the fridges below the worktop. They’re equipped with an easy to access chilled top compartment, where you can keep all of the ingredients you’ll need during the prep stage of making certain dishes.

Again, these fridges are also available with doors, drawers, or a combination of both, and many feature a stay-cool worktop, which can be very helpful in the likes of pizzerias and bakeries.

If you're looking to buy a prep counter fridge, you'll find a number of them in our range of counter refrigerators. They're available with a whole host of different features and in a selection of designs, so you can choose the right one to suit your kitchen.

Low fridges

Low fridges are another solution that can help you to make the most of the awkward spaces in your kitchen. They're sometimes referred to as chef bases, underbroilers, and flexdrawers, and only come up to about knee height. But they can be used to provide chilled storage where other models would be too big and can even raise your other pieces of kitchen equipment up to a more suitable working height.

Under-counter fridges

If you simply need some additional space that will help you to access specific ingredients quickly and easily, an under-counter fridge could be the perfect solution. One of these should fit seamlessly under your existing worktops, optimising space you otherwise mightn't be making the most of.

Of course, these fridges don't have quite the same capacity as the likes of upright fridges so, on their own, they won't offer enough refrigerated space for busy kitchens. But they're ideal when your existing fridge is already at capacity, or you would like to keep certain foods closer to your prep station.

If you think you would benefit from having one of these in your kitchen, make sure you browse our selection of under-counter fridges, where you'll find a variety of different styles that include doors, drawers, and a mixture of both.

Counter-top fridges

Commonly used in sandwich shops and pizzerias, counter-top fridges are often used to display particular ingredients to your customers. This type of fridge also makes food prep incredibly easy, as you can access all of the different chilled foods you need quickly and with minimal fuss. They will typically also have a glass cover, which allows you to display your stock, while preventing any of it from getting contaminated.

Multidecks

Most frequently seen in retail establishments such as corner shops and supermarkets, multidecks give customers easy access to products without an inconvenient door to open and close. They're great if you're looking to subtly encourage more impulse purchases and, because there are so many different styles and sizes to choose from, you should have no trouble finding the perfect front-of-house fridge to display all of your chilled drinks, sandwiches, and snacks.

We stock a wide range of multidecks here at Alliance Online, and they come in a huge variety of styles and sizes, so you have the freedom to choose one that will suit your business perfectly.

Blast chillers

Blast chillers are designed to quickly bring down the temperature of cooked foods, helping to extend the shelf life, texture, flavour, and nutritional value. By rapidly cooling food, the growth of bacteria is minimised, promoting food hygiene, which is incredibly important in any commercial kitchen. You can read more about this in our guide to food safety and storage.

Blast chillers are often mandatory in professional kitchens, because they help to reduce the amount of time food spends in the "danger zone". This is the temperature at which pathogenic micro-organisms grow quickly, and when they're most likely to become dangerous. As a result, according to food safety legislation, cooked food must be cooled from 70°C to 3°C in less than 90 minutes, otherwise it isn't safe for consumption. If you're freezing food, this must be cooled from 70°C to -18°C in less than 240 minutes. This is where blast chillers can help you.

We're incredibly proud of the selection of blast chillers we offer here at Alliance Online. Make sure you browse our range if you think your commercial kitchen would benefit from this equipment or your current blast chiller needs upgrading.

Bottle coolers

You'll most commonly find bottle coolers in pubs, bars, and restaurants where bottles and cans need to be displayed. Because customers can see these fridges, they tend to have a sleek and stylish design. Plus, they'll typically fit seamlessly under your bar's worktops, so they don't take up any precious floor or work space, and you can easily access all of the drinks you need at a moment's notice.

If you're kitting out your bar or restaurant's front of house, make sure you check out our range of bar fridges, which offers the perfect refrigeration equipment to keep your bottles and cans cool.

Cold rooms

Cold rooms — or walk-in fridges — offer the most refrigeration space. So, if you're setting up a new kitchen from scratch, are currently using several fridges and would rather keep everything together, or your business is growing quickly, one of these could represent a fantastic investment.

Apart from the capacity, the main difference between cold rooms and other fridges is they typically can't be moved once they're in place, and they will need to be installed by a professional. Many models can also be used indoors or outdoors — basically wherever you have the room. So, you don't have to worry too much about squeezing one into whatever small amount of space you have in your kitchen.

Commercial fridge features

While commercial fridges work in much the same way as domestic models, many of them also come with additional features to make them perfect for professional use. Here, we're going to outline some of the most common features you'll see when you're shopping and explain when you're most likely to find them useful.

In-built defrost systems

Commercial fridges can be very powerful, which means ice can sometimes build up inside. But you'll want to avoid this in order to extend your fridge's lifespan and keep it performing at its best.

Fortunately, you can make this easy by choosing a fridge that has an in-built defrosting system that will kick in automatically whenever it's needed. This will save you a lot of time and energy in the long run, as well as reduce the risk of you having to empty everything out of your fridge from time to time, which can be incredibly inconvenient.

Security features

Fridges can hold thousands of pounds' worth of ingredients so, if you have any security concerns, it's worth looking at fridges that will offer an extra level of protection. For example, some come with an electronic lock you can activate before you leave the building, while others have a more traditional lock and key system you can use whenever you're preparing to leave one of your fridges unattended.

Being able to lock a fridge can be particularly helpful if your business is based in an area where burglaries are common, or you have front-of-house fridges that customers could access when your back is turned. 

Self-closing doors

In a busy kitchen where everyone's rushing around and trying to finish their dishes in a timely manner, fridge doors can easily be left open. However, this can have a detrimental effect on your fridge's efficiency and, if it happens too often, you could even put your stock at risk of going off prematurely. Luckily there are fridges with self-closing mechanisms, which will help you to ensure your fridge door is never open longer than it needs to be. This should help to save you money in the long run, as it'll keep your electricity bills down and also preserve your ingredients and dishes for longer. 

Stable doors

Choosing a fridge with stable doors can also help you to save energy, because you'll only have to open a particular section of your refrigerator whenever you're looking for a specific ingredient or finished dish. This will prevent too much cool air from escaping unnecessarily, reducing how hard your fridge has to work in order to maintain its temperature.

Best commercial fridge brands

You'll want to buy a commercial fridge you know you can rely on, which is why it's a good idea to invest in one from a tried and tested brand. Here, we'll talk you through some of our favourite commercial fridge manufacturers and explain why we like them so much.

Adande

Adande is a market leading manufacturer of refrigerated drawers. The brand started out as a specialist engineering consultancy for industry ventilation, refrigeration, and air conditioning in the oil and gas industry. But offshore chefs would frequently complain that their fridge-freezers couldn't provide a constant environment with their doors being opened so frequently. This is what led to the Adande refrigerated drawer being born. These modular units allow you to set a specific temperature that they'll stick to, which makes them ideal for use in busy kitchens where fridges are being opened and closed all of the time.

If you think your commercial kitchen could benefit from a product like this, be sure to browse our Adande refrigeration range.

Autonumis

Autonumis is best known for its refrigerated display cabinets, which are ideal for use in bars and restaurants. So, if you have lots of bottled and canned drinks you're looking to show off to your customers, this brand will help you to do just that. Not only are Autonumis' fridges sleek and stylish, but they also have wide glass doors, which means you can promote a wide range of drinks at any one time.

If you need some new bottle coolers that will do a fantastic job of displaying your stock, our Autonumis fridges are perfect.

Blizzard

Blizzard Refrigeration has been a leading manufacturer of high-quality commercial fridges and freezers for more than 20 years. Its steel fridges are known for being incredibly reliable, and they all come with digital temperature controls and fan-assisted cooling, so you can rest assured that your chosen appliance will be accurate and efficient. As standard, these appliances also feature lockable doors for extra security, as well as adjustable feet that are ideal if your kitchen has uneven floors.

Check out our Blizzard Refrigeration fridges if you think one of these is likely to suit your business perfectly.

Classeq

Classeq is a brand that focuses on supplying simple but effective catering equipment. Not only are its fridges and ice makers easy to choose and install, but they're also incredibly easy to use, clean, and maintain. So, if you're after a no-fuss fridge that will always get the job done, this manufacturer is sure to have just the thing to suit your needs. Its products also tend to be more on the affordable side, which means they're great if you run a small business or are just starting out.

Browse our range of Classeq fridges to see what we offer from the brand.

Foster

Foster Refrigeration is the UK's largest commercial fridge manufacturer, which means this brand offers a wide range of models to choose from. Plus, the company focuses on creating reliable, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly products, which means you can buy any of its fridges in confidence.

If you would like to see the products we stock from this award-winning manufacturer, take a look at our range of Foster commercial fridges now.

Gamko

Gamko is another brand that specialises in producing bottle coolers and display units. As a result, any of their fridges are perfect for upgrading your nightclub or restaurant's bar area. The company has been designing and manufacturing refrigeration solutions for more than 60 years, too, which means it has a wealth of experience in what works and what doesn't. As a result, you can rely on any of its fridges to be effective, reliable, and energy efficient.

Check out our range of Gamko fridges to assess your options if you're looking to buy from this trusted brand.

Gram

Gram fridges are used in Michelin-starred restaurants, five-star hotels, schools, hospitals, and staff canteens. And, it's not hard to see why: not only do they look great in commercial kitchens, thanks to their sleek and stylish designs, but they're also incredibly reliable. Plus, there are so many different Gram refrigeration solutions to choose from, including undercounter fridges and refrigerator counters, so this brand is great if you're looking for more than just an upright fridge (although they have those too).

Browse our range of Gram fridges to pick out the perfect refrigeration options that will help you get the most out of your commercial kitchen.

IMC

Imperial Machine Company (IMC) has been a catering solutions provider for more than 110 years now, which means a great deal of knowledge and experience has gone into making all of its products. The brand's fridges and bottle coolers can be found in clubs and bars around the world, and it's easy to see why they have such a large fan base: not only are they effective and reliable, but they also look great. So, they're ideal for front-of-house use.

Browse our range of IMC fridges, and we're sure you'll find the ideal refrigeration solutions to suit your bar.

Sirman

Sirman has been manufacturing catering equipment for more than 50 years, which means the company knows a thing or two about making effective refrigeration solutions. And, the business is particularly well-known for its reliable and efficient blast chillers, which will help to cool and preserve the dishes you make. If you're looking to upgrade your kitchen with a brand-new blast chiller, or you want to replace one that's seen better days, you're sure to find the perfect one from Sirman.

Browse our range of Sirman refrigeration to pick out your perfect blast chiller today.

Williams

Williams Refrigeration has been manufacturing professional fridges for more than 30 years, and the company has quickly become a world leader in the field. This is thanks to the fact that the brand is constantly making high-quality and innovative products that make chefs' lives easier. Plus, the company offers a wide range of different fridge models so, whether you're looking for a standard upright refrigerator, a refrigerated counter, or a multideck, Williams will have the perfect solution for you.

If you would like to see the range of products we stock from this innovative brand, be sure to browse our range of Williams commercial fridges.

How to dispose of an old fridge

If you're buying a fridge to replace an old one, you'll need to find the best way to dispose of your existing appliance. And, as fridges and freezers often contain hazardous components that need to be disposed of properly (gov.uk), it's vital that you do this in the safest and most effective way possible.

Often the best and most cost-effective way to get rid of your commercial fridge is through a licenced waste removal specialist. Just make sure you always check that any company you're considering using is completely qualified. The price you pay should cover everything from the collection of your waste to the safe disposal of it.

There are also some businesses, such as Pure Planet Recycling, who specialise in disposing of commercial fridges in the most environmentally friendly way possible. And, at a time when businesses should constantly be looking for new ways to improve their green credentials, going with a service like this is a good idea.

You should now be well-equipped with the knowledge you need to choose the perfect commercial fridges for your kitchen. But, if you would like any extra help with this, make sure you contact us — our team will be more than happy to help you choose the right model.

We also have a guide to buying a commercial freezer, as well as a knowledge base full of advice for restaurant and catering business owners. So, make sure you check those out for more information, too!

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