Understanding where you will install your unit and what kinds of items you want to keep in it is the first step in deciding which one is right for your business. If you'll be putting it on a checkout lane, you'll want a different one than if you wanted to install it in a serving line.
Front-accessed countertop display refrigerators are the most common type. They have a sliding or swinging door on the front, and are usually used to hold bottled and canned drinks, as well as packaged snacks. These are common in retail environments and are essentially miniature glass door merchandisers.
For retail applications that serve customers in two register lines, pass-thru models have doors on the front and back of the unit, which enables one cooler to serve both lines. These can also be restocked from the back door by staff with items like baked goods, sandwiches, produce, and snacks without getting in the way of customers. To maximize their visual appeal, the compressors in these units will usually be mounted on the side of the unit or under the counter, if it's a drop-in unit. Some have glass on four sides to show off items like pies and cakes to customers.
A drop-in countertop refrigerator has external refrigeration components that are dropped into the counter beneath the cabinet so that the entire case can be devoted to storing merchandise. If you have space underneath the counter for the refrigeration unit and are willing to cut out the necessary hole, this can be a clever permanent solution for merchandising cold products.
You can get a small glass door refrigerator with swinging or sliding doors. Either option has advantages that may make more sense for your establishment.
- Swinging doors are mounted on hinges and swing outward. Because these doors are self-closing, they are less likely to be left open. They also form a tight, positive seal that helps retain cool air inside the cabinet. Swinging door models tend to be more energy efficient.
- Sliding doors are mounted on rails and slide left and right, which can conserve space in narrow or busy spaces compared to a door that swings out. However, these are more likely to be inadvertently left open by customers and the rails will need to be cleaned occasionally as they collect dust and debris. Also, as the unit ages, the seals on the door rails can become worn and will not close as tightly, increasing energy usage. One thing to remember about sliding doors is that they are only available on models that have at least two doors.
- Some models include a lit signage area that can hold interchangeable signs, either ones provided by the manufacturer or ones that you have custom made to support your brand.
- LED lighting is a brighter, more energy efficient alternative to fluorescent or incandescent lighting. It comes standard on some models and is available on many others for an upcharge. Some manufacturers offer a longer warranty on these more long-lasting lights.
- As an alternative to bolted-on handles that stick out into the aisle, recessed handles are built inside the door, flush with the cabinet. This can save a little space in close quarters and won't snag on clothes or carts as people come and go.