These units are a valuable addition in foodservice establishments where quick access to cold food is necessary, but they're useful in other commercial environments, as well. You'll find these at sports arenas in premium skyboxes for storing cold drinks and snacks and in hotel minibars, where they can provide a significant source of additional revenue. They're great for any business looking for a longer-lasting alternative to a residential mini-fridge.
Different Types for Different Purposes
We have several hundred different models to choose from. Those can all be separated into three distinct groups of models.
- Hotel Minibar
- Standard Undercounter
While all three groups have similar components and perform the same overall function—keeping items cool—each one has a different purpose. Below is a brief description of each group and what each is best used for.
These models have a capacity of around one cubic foot for items such as soda, chocolates, or wine. Because they are designed for hotel rooms, they operate nearly silently and have an automatic defrost function that takes the responsibility of manual defrosts off your already busy employees. A lock on many models can be used to secure the unit if the room is being used by individuals who shouldn't have access to the contents.
These are typically larger than hotel bar models, but neither as wide nor as deep as standard undercounter models. However, with four to six-and-a-half cubic feet of storage space, they are great for the following uses:
- Employee break rooms
- Small cafes
- Church kitchens
- Convenience stores
- Lower-volume restaurants
Solid doors are standard on most models, but some come with glass doors standard. Models with glass doors are a good choice for convenience stores or other locations where you want customers to see be able to view the contents.
The standard undercounter model is found on kitchen lines throughout the country. They offer plenty of space, while neatly fitting underneath the counter. Because of the large amount of interior space, combined with the compact exterior, they are the best-selling type of commercial undercounter refrigerator. Single-door models start at 27-inches wide, with 7 cubic feet of storage space. If more interior space is needed and more floor space is available, two-door models start at 48-inches wide and have 12 cubic feet of storage space. The largest models are multi-door units that are up to 93-inches wide with around 40 cubic feet of storage space.
No matter which of the three you go with, you will need to make decisions on how to equip your model. The construction of the interior is one such option.
- Some models use ABS plastic for the lining, providing an interior that is easy to clean, but is not as durable as stainless steel or aluminum. These liners are formed as a single unit, which means there are no seams or sharp corners that can provide a home for bacterial growth.
- Aluminum interiors provide a bit of increased strength, though its durability still falls below that of stainless steel. Aluminum is the most economical option for a metal lining and it will not rust.
- Stainless steel offers substantial durability and will likely stand up to years of use. Like aluminum, stainless is unlikely to rust and units with coved corners eliminate places where spills might foster the growth of bacteria. Because of those spills, some models with an aluminum liner pair that with a stainless interior floor, which makes liquid and debris that ends up there easier to clean up.
You can buy counterheight or standard undercounter models with either solid or glass doors. Solid doors tend to be more energy efficient, since they are fully insulated. Glass doors allow for easy interior viewing. To ensure safe food holding temperatures are maintained, glass door models typically have two panes of some sort of insulated glass. If you are buying a unit for self-service, such as at a convenience store, glass doors are the obvious choice. They also allow employees to see inside easily, which prevents employees from holding the door open while looking for items.
Casters or Legs
These models are offered with either casters or legs. Legs are a more economical choice than casters because they have fewer parts. However, the wheels on casters allow for easy movement of the unit throughout the kitchen. When movement is done, simply lock the casters into place and they will stay put. This ease of mobility makes cleaning underneath or behind the unit significantly easier. Casters are also a good choice if you wish to move your unit to different locations in your establishment.
Several specialty options are available as well. Models that are ADA-compliant have shorter legs in order to fit underneath a wheelchair accessible 36-inch tall counter. These models have the same interior space as regular models, with the only difference being shorter legs. Low profile models are more compact to fit underneath even-lower counters. While many of these models have the same interior height as standard models with the only difference being shorter legs, some special low profile models have an interior compartment that is shorter in order to fit under the lowest of counters. If placing a model underneath a countertop that is either shallower or deeper, extra depth or shallow depth models are available.