Commercial refrigerator manufacturers are getting smart with how they create space inside their cabinets without increasing the overall footprint, a boon to the increasingly space-limited kitchens across the country.
So when distributors are looking to specify a back of house refrigerator for a small area, what are the latest options out there? Catering Insight talked to major manufacturers to find out.
For instance, at Hoshizaki UK, the Gram Compact series is designed to cater for those with restricted space yet still require a good quality refrigeration offering. The space saving features include units compatible with a suspension kit, enabling the cabinet to be hung from a wall, or units with a height of just 1,300mm.
Director of sales and chain accounts Simon Frost said: “Dealers and distributors can offer suitable alternative to full height models when planning a kitchen. What’s more, these ergonomically designed models allow the operator to position other equipment such as microwaves on top, further saving space in the kitchen.
“We’ve worked closely with end users and dealers across many of the industry’s sectors to offer a range of appliances that meet the requirements of all commercial kitchens. These include units that fit neatly under worktops and in spaces that would otherwise be wasted within a compact workspace.”
Through research and development, Hoshizaki has been able to maximise the usable space within the Compact range, apparently without compromising on the level of insulation and the ongoing efficiency of the units. Plus the manufacturer has also designed stackable appliances, including those in the Compact 210 range.
“This stackable design means operators can effectively double their refrigerated capacity using the same footprint within the kitchen,” added Frost.
“Over the last few years, we have seen kitchen footprints increasingly get smaller and smaller, often as the desire for larger front of house, dining facilities grows stronger. This is something that dealers and distributors are having to accommodate when specifying refrigeration equipment for projects going forward.”
Useable capacity is also something Electrolux Professional has been working on. According to category manager for refrigeration, Steve Bowler: “The main priority for any manufacturer should be to provide the most space for the smallest footprint. Much of the current compact refrigeration market seems to be focused on reducing depth, which can quickly eat into usable capacity. Instead, we looked at others ways we could make the most of smaller areas without having to compromise on capacity.
“The only way to increase capacity without also increasing footprint is to raise the height of the unit. So, when it came to designing our new ecostoreHP counters, we made the cavity taller but reduced the height of the feet so that the actual worktop height wouldn’t increase.
“We also brought the ventilation system to the front of the cabinet. This eliminates the need for clearance at the back and sides, meaning the cabinets boast 50L greater storage capacity than the industry average. Effectively, that means for every four ecostoreHP counters, you’d need five competitor models to get the same capacity.”
The trend towards smaller kitchen footprints was a key concern during the development of the ecostoreHP counters. “One way this affected the design was to make sure the product lends itself to an efficient kitchen workflow. For that reason, units can either be free-standing, or fully integrated within a range of work tables, storage cabinets, hot cupboards and sinks to create the most practical working environment for each business,” detailed Bowler.
Over at British manufacturer Adande, it believes that ease of access and a smaller footprint can be achieved by refrigerated drawers.
Karl Hodgson, UK and USA sales director said: “Adande drawers take up a smaller footprint than conventional units, holding the same quantity of food within a large plan area with produce conveniently in view so access/stock rotation is fast and efficient.
“Typical fridges have other problems – for instance, shelves allow access to the front items but users inconveniently have to remove these by reaching in for those items at the back. So apart from accessibility issues, this affects time, efficiency and creates an inconvenience, obstruction or hazard in a busy corridor/prep line.”
He added: “Where possible, equipment with more than one function provides additional flexibility – Adande has a fridge to freezer -22°C to +15°C temperature range, while modular stacking or combining with blast chill or a shallow drawer maximises utility and space.
“Adande’s Compact Unit is a real favourite with QSRs and slots conveniently into narrow spaces beside hot fryers. Thinking of every ergonomic practicality is something that is consistent in our research and development alongside energy saving technology and convenience.”
The usable capacity hasn’t changed for the manufacturer’s drawers recently, but it forecast that the adaptations and accessories available for 2018 will increase efficiency within the footprint and further maximise production.
Hodgson concluded: “The Combi Stand and Fry Stations are new and something developed in line with feedback from the industry designed to enhance the equipment, space, convenience and accelerate production.”
Uropa Distribution too recognises the importance of compact units. Head of brands Richard Ebbs explained: “Space within kitchens continues to be limited, therefore manufacturers have needed to develop ways to maximise the internal footprint, whilst not increasing the external size of the product.
“Whilst there are many brands that put a greater focus on aesthetically pleasing models, with curved or rounded edges, all this is actually doing is limiting the space available within the cavity. All Polar refrigerators have been designed with a rectangular finish to maximise the internal capacity, to give greater usability in a confined space. In addition, we have a range of slimline models that increase the footprint to storage ratio even further.”
As the Polar Refrigeration brand produces a wide range of models, the firm feels there is generally a capacity to fit the requirements of every site. The three main ranges comprise Polar Pro, Polar HeavyDuty and Polar Plus. The Polar Slimline G590, for example, is designed to offer 440litres of capacity in a width of 685mm and a depth of 710mm.
Ebbs underlined: “In many ways the demands of distributors haven’t really changed significantly – it is about a great offering, that optimises available storage, in a minimum footprint. This is exactly why Polar has such a wide range of models to cater for every opportunity and demand.
“Sometimes this means that a counter fridge is a better option, as it also gives additional workspace to the customer, whilst other times a standard upright will provide the exact requirements in a minimal footprint.”
Elsewhere, Liebherr feels it has always carefully considered the issue of reduced footprint and space allocation for refrigeration as part of a three-pronged approach, with energy efficiency and capacity completing the trident.
However, commercial sales manager of Liebherr-Great Britain, Mark Cooke, warned: “Producing smaller footprint cabinets is achievable but we have to be careful to maintain sufficient usable volume and of course a positive energy rating (which is as important if not more-so in the long term) and they are the factors which ultimately help to determine how small we go.
“Here at Liebherr we strive to achieve the highest possible capacity within the smallest footprint. Cabinet footprints have certainly not increased, but with innovation and technological advances we have been able to maintain, or in some instances increase capacity, whilst crucially also reducing running costs and improving energy efficiency.”
During the manufacturer’s regular dialogue with distributors, they have underlined the need for smaller footprints yet increased capacity and efficiency.
“We continue work hard to achieve what the marketplace requires,” said Cooke. “Liebherr constantly looks at new developments and products which we can bring to the market in order to fulfil the changing needs of kitchens and back-of-house operations.
“The current GCv 4060 fridge-freezer combination, for example, provides chilled and frozen storage in a commercial cabinet, ideal where footprint is an issue.
He added: “We look forward to launching more refrigeration solutions that meet the need for smaller footprints, combined with performance, reduced running costs and low environmental impact.”
At Precision Refrigeration, its latest compact undercounter fridge, the HPU150, is designed to deliver a storage solution where space is limited. With a footprint of 600 x 640mm, it is said to have low power consumption and low running costs. Under the Ecolabelling test it achieved ‘A’ rating, using 1.27kWh in 24 hours.
The company has also developed a Space Saver range of counters and undercounters. For example, the HSS 300 is claimed to offer the same internal storage capacity as a traditional two door GN1/1 counter but with a 28% smaller footprint.
MD Nick Williams commented: “Customers may notice that manufacturer’s stated ‘Net Useable Volumes’ have actually decreased over the past 18 months. This doesn’t actually mean that the cabinets are smaller, it’s just that the EN16825 test standard used for EcoLabelling required a very specific method to calculate volume. The vast majority of our products are built around the gastronorm shelving system, so that does somewhat dictate the cabinet’s footprint.
“We have recently upgraded our narrow profile 520 counters to take advantage of the latest technologies to offer caterers the best refrigeration possible in the littlest space. These durable all-stainless steel refrigerated counters are capable of meeting the highest demands from commercial catering kitchens and are now even more energy efficient.
“A front breathing and venting refrigeration system means they can fit into the tightest gaps without requiring additional space for ventilation. There is a built in air duct for even temperature distribution throughout the cabinet, ensuring maximum food safety. Built for ease of use, the GN 2/3 shelving system has anti-tilt slides and doors are self-closing.”
Precision says it is constantly upgrading its existing products and adding new ones into the range. “Offering different footprints is a key part to this so I’m sure you will see new space-saving products from us throughout 2018,” concluded Williams