According to Forbes, restaurants spend approximately 30% of their budget on ingredients, making the proper storage of refrigerated and frozen stock in walk-in coolers or freezers crucial to bottom lines. Simply stacking food boxes in your walk-in cooler or freezer isn’t enough to preserve food quality, and this practice can result in health safety issues along with the costly issues with walk-in coolers or freezers. With proper organization, however, these risks can be easily avoided. By optimizing storage space, restaurants and retailers not only maximize food quality and augment food safety but reduce waste as well as preserve equipment. Here are some helpful tips to organize your walk-in cooler or freezer.

Maintain Proper Spacing

Proper spacing of walk-in cooler and freezer items is essential to ensure proper air flow and cooling distribution. Without adequate air flow, cooling will not be even across the cold storage area. An insufficient distribution of air often results in the under-cooling of some products, which may spoil from being too warm, or the over-cooling of others that can ice over or incur freezer burn, all of which can translate to an expensive forfeiture of ingredients.

To avoid costly food loss, space items so that airflow passes easily on all sides of each product type—a good rule of thumb is to place items so that there is a 2” gap on each side. Also, items should not come in contact with the walls or floor of walk-in coolers or freezers. Also allow for space between shelving units and walls.

Avoid Cross Contamination

Cross-contamination of ingredients can be a significant health hazard, sometimes affecting an entire shelf or several shelves of food and leading to costly food waste. Shelves should be organized according to food types. For example, meats should not only be stored on their own shelf (or in their own space), but these shelves should be located below other foods (rather than over them) to prevent contamination in the event that juices drip from the meat containers. Foodstuffs that come in contact with meat or meat juices must be discarded, and if spills occur, make sure to clean and sanitize the area immediately to avoid other food safety concerns.

Restaurants can further avoid cross-contamination issues by categorizing and clearly labeling shelves. This will ensure that when items are stocked, they are placed in a manner that minimizes contamination risk while making it easier to retrieve products when they are needed, saving not only energy and time but facilitating easier inventory reordering processes.

Utilize NSF Approved Shelving National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) standards and certification serve as the benchmark by which all commercial foodservice equipment products are measured. Today, U.S. requirements for NSF standards certification are so prevalent that it is virtually impossible to build a new restaurant or commercial kitchen without NSF certification in food prep areas. It is the most specified certification and the most recognized mark in the industry. NSF standards are not

used in walk-in coolers and freezers but also for storage shelves. Using NSF-certified shelving means restaurants can rest assured that they’re using a rust-resistant and easy-to-clean shelving option in their cold storage. Additionally, NSF-approved shelving is available in a wide variety of options with parts and accessories that can include posts, individual shelves, and label holders for easy product identification. Read more about NSF requirements for your restaurant at NSF.org.

Rotate Inventory

As foods are used and restocked, some ingredients can be pushed aside and forgotten, even when used on a regular basis. These ingredients can ultimately expire and must be thrown away—a costly yet preventable mistake. By establishing a rotation system, restaurants can ensure that foods are used by their expiration dates while minimizing expired food waste. Organize ingredients so that expiration dates are clearly visible and older products are readily accessible to help maintain a successful rotation process. Another helpful system is to use color codes for different orders or products to improve the visibility of expiration dates.

A rotation system can save a lot of money by avoiding food waste, but it requires discipline. Make sure to have the necessary provisions on hand, such as labeling supplies, to keep the system going strong!

Organization is Key

Organization of products in walk-in coolers and freezers is key to efficient, safe food prep processes. With the proper spacing of items to foster proper cooling, grouping by food types and employing sanitary NSF-certified shelving to prevent spoilage or cross-contamination and a robust inventory rotation system to filter product usage via expiration dates, restaurants not only ensure food-safe conditions but eliminate waste, save time and minimize energy usage.

KPS Global® recognizes the importance of keeping foods safe and reducing food loss in the food chain. As an industry leader in the manufacturing of walk-in coolers and freezers for foodservice, supermarket and convenience stores and insulated panels for equipment enclosures, scientific chambers and cold storage warehouses, KPSG understand the importance of food safety and can support your project specific needs

Learn more about the accessory and component items KPSG offers customers including shelving.