Refrigerated prep counters
Catering Appliance Superstore stocks refrigerated prep counters by trusted brands such as Polar and Gram, amongst many others. While on the face of it a commercial refrigerated prep counter represents a fairly uncomplicated purchase, it helps to know which are the key features to focus on when making your decision.
External dimensions, capacity and configuration.
Whether the prep counter will fit in your commercial kitchen is obviously critical, but this is easily checked by taking the external measurements provided against each product. Generally no clearance is required (but check specific products) so your prep counter can go flush against the wall and up against your other countertops.
Number of doors will be obvious, and internal capacity will generally be expressed in litres or cubic feet. Internal configuration is generally down to the number of shelves provided and can be easily altered on site, but some makes and models have optional storage extras. Check for prep counters that are standardised to take gastronorm pans and shelves to ensure compatibility with your existing kitchen equipment (most are)
Most, but not all, of the prep counters we stock come with fitted castors for ease of movement (for instance, for cleaning).
Energy efficiency is generally the most important thing to fix upon when choosing any commercial refrigeration unit. Remember, refrigeration is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, so trying to save a bit of money on purchase at the cost of energy efficiency is false economy. A good prep counter needs high quality insulation, efficient refrigeration technology, and good recovery in temperature after the doors are opened.
Fridge doors in busy catering operations can be opened up to 100 times a day, and for prep counters the figure can be even higher as by their nature they are often situated right in the centre of the production environment and used to supply fresh produce during service, opening and closing for most orders.
Refrigeration technology has also come a long way in recent years, and if you're running old fridges using traditional HFC technology you'll be amazed at the difference in energy usage by switching to modern energy-optimised unit. For instance, energy efficiency market leaders Gram are able to achieve over 1000 kwh in their range of refrigerated prep counters, vs comparable older units.
When browsing prep counters on the Catering Appliance Superstore site, keep an eye out for the Watt usage of comparable units (using the handy compare feature by every product listing), to get a sense of how much energy is used by the fridge. Higher does not necessarily mean less efficient, it's just a measurement of the amount of work the unit is doing - some of that extra work might be going in to recovering temperature faster, for instance. Premium branded refrigeration tends to achieve the same or better results with less power, however, through the use of good air circulation, efficienct construction, and good insulation.
Compared to some other commercial catering appliances, refrigerated prep counters are not high powered units; they are designed to run as efficiently as possible over long periods of time, so you shouldn't have any particular difficulty with there being spare capacity on the circuit you want to install them on. That said, it can still be a good idea to check the amperage rating of the device, the circuit, and the other appliances on it. Our guide to electrical power supply for commercial appliances will take you through a few easy steps if you aren't sure where to start.
Reliability and warranty options
Constant refrigeration repair can become tedious, fast. Most catering businesses will be hoping to keep their refrigeration units running for at least ten years, if not more, and of course no manufacturer offers warranties for that length of time. However, the confidence of the manufacturer in the warranty options they do offer is here says a lot. Good warranty packages are available with all the manufacturers stocked by Catering Appliance Superstore at no extra cost - 2 years parts and labour for Polar and Apollo, for instance, but Gram's 5 year parts and labour warranty speak loudly about the confidence they have in their build quality.
Finally, look out for features such as lockable doors, digital displays, auto defrost functions, and fan assisted cooling (for quick return to temperature). Some models like the Polar G378 even come with reprogrammable defrost intervals so you can adjust the prep counter to start the defrost cycle more or less frequently depending on your use of the unit and the atmospheric conditions in your kitchen.