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Undercounter Refrigeration: A Buying Guide

As the food industry advances, so does the corresponding technology, not to mention the consumer demands. Recognising this, business owners understand the importance of investing in modern kitchen equipment to ensure smooth operations and ultimately enhance customer satisfaction.   

Undercounter fridges have become quite popular in New Zealand, thanks to their generous benefits. Their compact sizes make them suitable for congested commercial kitchen spaces and retail stores wanting to display chilled products at point of sale. They can also blend seamlessly with the existing cabinetry, enhancing the room’s aesthetics.    

But how do you go about purchasing one that best fits your business needs? This article explores the factors to keep in mind when shopping for your food establishment’s under-bench fridges.

  • Dimensions and Configurations  

A key consideration is getting the dimensions right for your undercounter fridge to ensure it fits in the space you have. Having the correct fit prevents the equipment from sticking out excessively and allows it to fit seamlessly within your existing counters. Additionally, providing adequate clearance at the back and sides allows for proper air ventilation so it can work effectively and provide convenient access for maintenance. Taking into account both the height and horizontal space requirements is a must.  

After ensuring the undercounter fridge fits your existing kitchen or retail space, choosing the appropriate configurations for the door comes next. But which is the ideal option between hinged, sliding doors and drawers? If hinged, should they open to the right or left of your space?

You’d want your configuration to provide easy access to the contents of the refrigerator. For instance, in a tight kitchen space, opting for a sliding drawer design might be more practical as it requires less clearance when opened. Alternatively, hinged doors that open to the right or left might be preferable based on the flow of your kitchen or store.   

With accurate measurements and thoughtful configuration options, you ensure that your fridge fits seamlessly into the space and operates at its optimal capacity.  

  • Cooling Time   

Rapid cooldown can be a key factor for your business, especially during those hot sunny days. Imagine a scenario where you get a stock of room-temperature beverages, and you get an order for the same almost immediately. Serving carbonated beverages lukewarm can take the zest out of them, and that might hurt your restaurant’s reputation. This is where investing in undercounter fridges with rapid temperature pull-down comes in, helping you cool those drinks faster and improve customer experience.    

A dual temperature unit that provide both chilling and freezing can be a great option for food retail, commercial kitchens and busy restaurants. You can have one section of the unit dedicated to maintaining a cooler temperature for items like beverages, fresh produce, or dairy. The other section operates at a lower temperature, which is suitable for freezing items such as ice cream, frozen meals, or meats. We’ve also seen these dual temp drawers work well in food trucks or caravans.

These refrigerators often come equipped with advanced temperature control systems, allowing you to fine-tune the settings and reduce energy consumption.  

  • Storage Flexibility   

Under-bench fridges are designed to save space, but that shouldn’t limit their storage capacity. There are various models that can help free up some space in your kitchen and still meet your storage needs.    

If your sole purpose is for more storage then a drinks chiller may not be your best choice. You’ll want something suited for storage than for display.

Always insist on versatile storage solutions that are future-proof. For instance, cantilevered or convertible shelving offers a clever way of organising your fridge and can adapt to any changes in your storage plans.   

Another consideration is the frequency of opening the fridge. For busy commercial kitchens, the doors and hinges should be able to withstand the demands. In such cases, consider commercial-grade models. These are specifically designed to handle intensive usage and are equipped with heavy-duty doors and hinges.  

On the other hand, if the undercounter fridge is being purchased for a store or an environment with less frequent use, you can focus on other features or considerations, such as energy efficiency, storage capacity or colour and design.  

  • Finish   

While the performance of under-bench fridges is important, how they blend into your kitchen design and style is also a crucial consideration when updating your commercial kitchen.

Manufacturers today offer undercounter models in different designs. You can go for pre-designed styles, such as solid and glass-framed doors in stainless steel, which can either be grade 304 or 210. But what distinguishes these two grades of steel? While both are great quality, 304 stainless steel is exceptionally durable and corrosion-resistant, while its 210 counterpart is a more budget-friendly option.   

Another idea that might interest you is a customised under-bench fridge. This option gives you endless flexibility, allowing you to set up your commercial kitchen the way you want. You can customise your under-bench fridge to act as a display for your products, maximising the limited space.  

Key Takeaway

Many commercial kitchens and retail businesses in New Zealand today are adopting under-bench fridges, and rightly so. They are a space saver, minimise congestion in commercial kitchens and promote efficiency, making them a perfect choice for food trucks or caravans, takeaway stores and grocery stores. The insights above can be your guide as you explore your options.

Contact us to discuss your requirements further.