The open-air cooler is used to merchandise everything from bottled drinks to packaged sandwiches, and is available in a number of sizes and designs. First, find an appropriate space to dedicate to the unit. Because they're meant to be convenient to your customers, you want them in an area that is visible and accessible. It's best to place them out of direct sunlight and away from doors and HVAC registers - drafty conditions can interfere with the cooling process and prevent the contents from staying cold.
Horizontal merchandisers are usually waist-height, meaning they can be installed along a counter or underneath shelves containing merchandise. These are ideal for delis and bakeries, holding everything from bottled drinks to packaged sandwiches and items that are meant to be impulse purchases.
Vertical coolers stand about six feet high, depending on the model. These can go inside a lineup of other merchandising equipment, or they can stand alone. Often, these are used to hold packaged meals, snacks, and drinks. These are commonly found in cafés, grocery stores, and convenience stores.
Self-contained units have their refrigeration equipment built into the cabinet. These all-in-one open-air coolers are the least expensive and the most common, and they're ready to run right out of the box. The downside is that they generate noise and heat that exhausts in customer areas.
Remote refrigeration systems are installed away from the open air merchandiser itself, in another room or outside your building. The roof is a popular location for remote refrigeration. This type has the advantage of removing the noise- and heat-generating components from customer areas, helping to maintain a pleasant environment. The tradeoff is that they will cost extra to install.
Like any other refrigerated equipment, air curtain merchandisers work by removing heat from inside the cabinet and blowing it outside. These units will have their air exhaust on either the front or back. The important thing to remember is that the exhaust location must be unobstructed by nearby walls and equipment. If the open-air cooler is to be placed against a wall, choose one with the air exhaust on the front of the cabinet.
- A lit signage area can be used to display advertising to attract customers. These hold custom graphics that you provide, or you can order ready-made graphics from the manufacturer.
- A great option for stand-alone units, glass sides let customers see inside the cooler from the sides, providing further enticement to check out the contents.
- LED lighting can help illuminate the contents of your open air cooler better than traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting. These come standard on some models and are available for an upcharge on others.
- Many models feature an adjustable shelf angle, so you can adjust the tilt of the display depending on what you're displaying.
- Curved glass is an option on units with glass sides. These create a more attractive display and might fit in with the décor of your establishment.
- A night curtain can be pulled over the front of your open-air cooler when it is not in use to conserve energy by keeping cool air in and warm air out. They can also deter potential thieves if your merchandiser is in a public place. Some models come with one, while others can be equipped with one by ordering it separately.