The Downside of Open Air Refrigerated Display Cases

open air merchandising case
Display cases can be convenient for customers, but a hit on your bottom line.

Open air refrigerated display cases commonly seen in grocery stores can provide easy access to products for customers. The main problem with these refrigerators is that they are constantly fighting the ambient air, causing their refrigeration units to work much harder than if they were enclosed. They also increase heating bills for grocery stores in the winter as they constantly dump cold air into the heated building. You’ll know this to be true if you’ve ever caught a chill while walking through grocery aisles with display cases. Grocery stores are starting to catch on to the benefits of walk-in coolers and substituting glass-door merchandising walk-ins and walk-in dairy rooms for these cases. The following article details the energy saving efforts of a grocery store chain in Britain.

Makro is to install walk-in dairy rooms at 17 of its 30 cash & carries by the end of the year.

The move is part of an energy saving drive which will enable pubs to source supplies with a smaller carbon footprint. The dairy rooms save energy compared to fridges and chillers in the main store area.

How To Pass Restaurant Inspections in Your Walk-in Cooler or Walk-in Freezer

Restaurants are supposed to be checked by health inspectors twice a year. Walk-ins can be a source of food safety violations if not properly maintained and cleaned. If you run a restaurant you can also be stuck with fines totaling thousands of dollars or face temporary closure of your establishment. After the restaurant is closed, an inspector will generally return within 24 hours and will continue to visit until these violations are resolved and the restaurant can reopen.1 Lost days of operation can cost your business not only revenue, but your reputation as well.

One restaurant in New York paid a total of $8,600 in fines from a food inspection, including $1,200 directly relating to their poorly maintained walk-in cooler.

· $600 – The walk-in cooler was dripping water from the ceiling. Ice build-up on the condenser was present in the walk-in freezer dripping into extra ice storage in a garbage can below. Shelving in multiple refrigeration units was rusted and therefore not easy to clean and particles of rust able to flake off into food products below. The condensation line for the cooler was not connected and the condensate was dripping into a pan at the bottom of the unit.

· $600 – The floor in the walk-in cooler was in disrepair and no longer an easy to clean surface.2

Health code regulations and requirements vary from state to state. The following are areas you could be cited for in your walk-in or other refrigerators:inside of a restaurant walk-in cooler

  • Lack of interior release in walk-in.
  • Spoiled or improperly packaged food in your walk-in.
  • Any spills or pieces of food in the walk-in not cleaned up.
  • Mold present in the walk-in cooler.
  • Refrigeration unit poorly ventilated and in close proximity to combustibles.
  • Walk-in not held at the proper temperature for food storage.
  • Improper organization of the walk-in or obstructions in the area around it, making it hard to service or clean.

Do Walk-in Cooler & Freezer Walls Wear Out?

Hi there,

Do walk-in cooler walls wear out over time?

I build restaurants and we are renovating a restaurant we built 17 years ago.  A supplier is recommending we replace the walk-in box, because they “break down”. I find that hard to believe. Could you please give me your opinion?


– Len Chaston


On the surface, your walk-in box probably has a few scratches, dents and slightly worn metal but overall it appears serviceable and is likely structurally sound. However, the insulation inside the panel can take a much more severe beating over the years than the exterior. The insulation has to deal with huge temperature differentials between the inside and outside of your box. Depending on the material used to insulate your box it could have absorbed a good deal of moisture, which degrades the thermal resistance of your insulation. Your old walk-in was also not built to meet modern efficiency and safety requirements and it could even contain a large amount of wood (which is a poor and water permeable insulator). If you have a walk-in freezer, one indication of trouble is ice buildup on the inside of the box. This is a sign that water vapor has been able to infiltrate the insulation.

At 17 years old, the cost of running the walk-in for several years as well as the added load and wear on your refrigeration unit will far overshadow the cost of purchasing a new walk-in unit. If you do decide to opt for a new walk-in, I want you to take a look at the inside of the panels when your old unit is disassembled. A panel that is now leaking all over the floor was no longer doing the job it was intended to.

leaking walk-in panel
Ice buildup in a walk-in panel

Building a Green & Sustainable Restaurant

Green Made Easy

“Sustainability” may sound like a destination too far, but you get there the same way you get anywhere—one step at a time.

By: Mike Sherer

If you’re like many, when you think of “green” or “sustainable,” you probably think of much-publicized certification programs with strict definitions you either meet or don’t. But as concepts, green and sustainable are not like on-off switches. They’re more like dimmers. They’re gradated, and you achieve them to varying degrees in incremental steps. The important thing is to start moving and gain momentum as you go.

Most of you are already taking the early steps. You’ve changed some incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents, and you recycle glass, metal and paper. You’ve installed low-flow pre-rinse valves. But what’s all this about “reducing your carbon footprint” and “becoming sustainable”? Can you do more?

What’s Green, What’s Sustainable?

Absolutely. Being green—by which we means being environmentally friendly—is getting easier. Greener products are more plentiful and less expensive, and greener practices are more widely understood these days. And becoming sustainable—which means you can sustain your activities long-term without going broke or using up the planet—is likewise more widely understood than ever before.

“Sustainability, from a big umbrella perspective, means running an operation that doesn’t negatively impact future generations’ ability to operate a restaurant,” says Don Fisher, president and CEO of Fisher-Nickel Inc., which runs Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, Calif. “From a practical standpoint, sustainability means staying in business when the price of oil hits $100 a barrel.”

Getting Started

As with every other aspect of your business, becoming sustainable will never happen without committing to it. And you won’t know where you’re going unless you find out where you are.

“Audit where you are,” Fisher says. “And get top-down commitment. Assess your state of sustainability unit by unit, and commit long-term to solutions that will get you to your goals one step at a time.”

Get Colored Metal for Walk-In Refrigerators

In addition to our standard metal finishes, U.S. Cooler now offers over 20 different smooth metal colors for the interior and exterior of your next walk-in refrigerator. The new metal colors are available for any of our standard sized walk-ins. When designing your next walk-in project, you can now design your walk-in to blend in or become the focal point of your business.

colored walkin cooler
Click on picture to view other color options.

Feds Urged To Include Green Construction Code In New Government Buildings

Citing the gap between existing construction codes and green rating systems has been filled, the International Code Council (ICC) encouraged the U.S. government to reference the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) in an effort to apply sustainable design principals to the design and construction of new federal buildings.

“Prior to this year, voluntary ‘rating’ type programs were among the only options for guiding the design of green buildings,” said Code Council CEO Rick Weiland testifying at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) public hearing. “Such programs, including LEED, were not designed to act as regulatory language. The gap between existing codes and rating systems has now been filled…. [and] are now available to address federal goals as well as meet the needs of state and local jurisdictions.”

The Code Council also offered specific comments to improve the usefulness and measurability of the proposed rule, Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Design Standards for New Federal Buildings. The IGCC, Weiland said, is a tool available to federal agencies for efficiently and rapidly achieving measurable levels of compliance with FEMP goals.

Industry support signals a consensus of key industry leaders around the necessity of a code to guide green construction, Weiland said. In addition the Code Council, IGCC sponsors are the American Institute of Architects (AIA), ASTM International, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Illuminating Engineering Society. The IGCC has the support of more than two thousand organizations and individuals.

10 Tips for Restaurants on Saving Money, Energy & the Earth

Are you investing your energy resources wisely? The following tips provide ideas for maintaining an energy efficient operation.


1. Track energy consumption

Tracking your monthly electricity, water, sewer, trash and natural gas consumption is a first step toward managing your impact and monitoring the effectiveness of efficiency improvements. If you’re an independent operator or local chain, get audits from local utilities and municipalities. Many organizations provide free energy, water and waste audits in addition to advice, technical and sometimes financial assistance for upgrades and program development. Take advantage of these free professional services.

2. Allow for air circulation around refrigerators and freezers

Refrigerators remove heat from inside the box and eject that heat through the coils on the top or bottom of the unit. When you are cleaning around these units, do not push your reach-ins into tight spaces where the heat will build up, forcing the unit to work harder and use more energy.

3. Defrost food regularly

Develop a frozen food pull schedule to avoid the practice of defrosting food under running hot water. If a two-gallon-per-minute faucet is used for this purpose one hour every day for a year, the cost may exceed $800.

Brew Cave Takes Beer Storage to New Level

The U.S. Cooler “Brew Cave” is a high efficiency cooler package to small commercial and residential customers. brew beer caveWith the  unit’s lower price, higher efficiency, and several color choices; this commercial grade walk-in will be of great interest to home brewers, microbreweries, small bar/club and residential users. Unlike the usual beer caves found in Convenience Stores, U.S. Cooler has designed Brew Cave to fit in a small space and still offer tons of storage for beer, soda or any cold beverage at a very competitive price. This convenient high efficiency package includes everything necessary for a walk-in beverage cooler; refrigeration, shelving and draft beer dispensing system.

The Brew Cave is available in one standard model size, 6’10” x 4’10” x 7’6” but dimensions can also be customized to suit your requirements. The small size lends itself to the ability of fitting in most basements, garages, bars or clubs. The Brew Cave can store over 30 cases of beer and 6 or more kegs, all while keeping them cold and ready to enjoy.