Food Spoilage Prevention

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Part
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Food Spoilage Prevention

Preventing cross-contamination, avoiding freezer burns, sorting items by expiration dates, and trading space for air circulation are examples of best practices for organizing walk-in coolers in restaurants. In-depth information regarding the four best practices for organizing walk-in coolers in restaurants is elaborated below.

BEST PRACTICES FOR ORGANIZING WALK-IN COOLERS IN RESTAURANTS

1. PREVENTING CROSS-CONTAMINATION

2. AVOIDING FREEZER BURNS

3. SORTING ITEMS BY EXPIRATION DATES

4. TRADING SPACE FOR AIR CIRCULATION

GENERAL BEST PRACTICES FOR MANAGING WALK-IN COOLERS

1. INSULATION

2. AVOIDING STACKING ITEMS ON FLOOR

3. MONITORING THE REFRIGERATOR TEMPERATURE

4. PREVENTING FILTH SPREAD

  • In case of spills and spoilage, affected areas should be addressed immediately to prevent unwanted effects such as mold growth.

OTHER HELPFUL FINDINGS

RESEARCH STRATEGY

To find the information presented above, we searched through industry-related sources for reports from sites such as the FDA, Fesmag, and Statefoodsafety. These websites often publish relevant information to the topic, including comprehensive reports that describe best practices surrounding reducing food spoilage in walk-in coolers, or at least insights surrounding the topic. This approach retrieved two best practices for walk-in organization in restaurants, hotels, and catering; however, we could not find reports focused on walk-in cooler organization, specifically in convenience stores and supermarkets. Though, we found reports with information about walk-in cooler organization best practices in general, and not specific to facilities that use coolers.

Next, we expanded our scope to search for information on walk-in cooler organization best practices in supermarkets and convenience stores. We searched industry-specific brand blogs and walk-in cooler distributor blogs, which are a potential source for relevant information on the topic. We hoped to find advice and tips published directly by the stores and manufacturers that focus on walk-in cooler organization specifically in convenience and grocery stores, including any pieces of advice and tips. Our search focused on supermarkets' blogs, including those for Whole Foods, 7-Eleven, and Publix. Further, we searched through walk-in cooler distributor blogs, such as Ohheating and Nrminc. Majority of these blogs had information about general tips on reducing food spoilage when refrigerating items but no data about tips surrounding walk-in coolers. Distributor blogs contained information on tips for organizing walk-in coolers to prevent food spoilage and few details about walk-in fridges in general, but no data specific to convenience store and supermarket refrigerators.

Second, we decided to search for any recent interviews with convenience store and grocery store C-level executives to try to find relevant insights or advice or things they have done to decrease food inventory loss in walk-in coolers. We found interviews with Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey; Trader Joe's CEO, Dan Bane; and Kroger CEO, Rodney McMullen. These interviews featured varied information on minimizing food inventory losses. However, the closest information we found included mentions of best practices regarding energy saving when using a refrigerator, which lacked insights into best practices, specific to reducing food spoilage.

Third, we attempted to locate cases where convenience stores and supermarkets have reduced their food inventory loss rates in walk-in coolers, to search for information on what they did to accomplish this. To find the specific cases, we searched convenience store and supermarket chain business and result reports. In the reports, information regarding general practices implemented to decrease inventory loss was mentioned, but none was specific to walk-in cooler performance. The closest we were able to get was a mention of investing in new types of walk-in refrigerators; however, the report lacked insights into food spoilage investments.

As we could not retrieve information on best practices for organizing walk-in coolers specific to supermarkets and convenience stores, we provided the best practices for preventing food spoilage in restaurants, along with best practices regarding walk-in cooler organization in general, as helpful findings. Further, while we also did not find at least one example of a specific restaurant that is carrying out the identified practices, we attempted to find the information, by examining several restaurant business reports, hoping to find mentions about how they use this service; however, we found no relevant mentions. The reports contained insights into restaurants' marketing or strategic practices as opposed to practices they have implemented regarding their walk-in coolers. Lastly, we also scanned third-party publications, looking to find connections between specific restaurants and the identified best-practices, but found none. In summary, we have presented the available information in public, which focuses on restaurants that maintain their walk-in coolers in an environmentally friendly way.
Sources
Sources

Quotes
  • "Juices, marinades, and meat fragments can fall from stored meat products onto other foods. You can prevent cross-contamination by storing meat products on the lowest shelf. Keep all non-meat products away from meats. If any other food does come into contact with meat or its juices, you must throw away the contaminated food."
  • "Commercial refrigeration units like walk-in coolers have strong fans to maintain a safe air temperature for food storage. Because of the vigorousness of the air flow, it's a good idea to store delicate produce items away from the fans to prevent the possibility of freezer burn. Fresh greens and berries are examples."
  • "Give yourself or your employees enough time to stock newly delivered food items. Taking a few extra minutes to organize new items can prevent food loss from spoilage. Check use-by dates on old and new items, and move things around as needed so that the items with a shorter shelf life are placed toward the front of the shelf. Items that will keep longer should be placed toward the back, and they should be used last."
  • "It might seem like packing everything as close together as possible would be an efficient use of your walk-in cooler space. But actually, the cold air needs to be able to circulate. Uneven cooling may lead to food spoilage. Leave about three to six inches of space between food items, and between the food and the walls."
Quotes
  • "In any situation the cool air from a walk-in cooler or freezer can escape if not properly insulated, or warmer air from the outside of the cooler may penetrate the cooled air. This can result in not only the loss of inventory due to spoilage or damage, but a loss of money spent on those goods. "
  • "The location of your walk-in cooler or freezer makes a huge difference in how well it functions. For instance, if a walk-in is located in a hot restaurant kitchen or warehouse, the competing temperatures can lead to problems including not only spoiled or defrosting foods, but issues with the floor depending on the material it’s made of."
Quotes
  • "When walk-in cooler space is at a premium, it’s tempting to use floor space for stacking certain items. Not only is this a health code violation, some dry ingredients invite pest infestation or otherwise jeopardize food safety. To keep this rule top of mind with team members, you may consider posting a friendly reminder on the cooler door."
Quotes
  • "Although this seems obvious, it’s always important to monitor the temperature of your commercial kitchen’s walk-in freezer. According to the FDA, walk-in refrigeration units should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit,1 but temperatures vary depending on the foods you’re storing. Make sure to research optimal temperatures for the products your walk-in freezer stores to avoid melting, spoilage and subsequent health code violations."
  • "Make sure that part of your kitchen staff’s daily prep includes checking and cleaning the walk-in freezer and that the freezer is checked again at the end of every work day to maintain a clean walk-in refrigeration unit all week long. Any spills, spoilage or mold growth should be addressed immediately to prevent filth from accumulating and making cleaning and control more difficult."
Quotes
  • "Fresh produce and prepared foods should be stored on the top shelves. Raw, thawing, or marinating meats and poultry should be kept on bottom shelves away and below fresh produce and prepared and cooked food. Bottom shelves should be at least 6 inches off the ground for cleaning and to prevent contamination with floor dirt. No food products should be stored on the floor."
  • "Fruits and produce can be damaged if stored too close to the cooler’s fans. Many produce items can be damaged if stored in a cooler, including bananas, tomatoes, and basil leaves."
Quotes
  • "It’s important to leave space above & below shelving units as well as between stored food to allow ample room for cleaning and air flow. Install the lowest shelf of your refrigerated case shelving least 6 inches above the floor. (Note: food cannot be stored on the floor of the refrigerator!)"
  • "The common adage “first in, first out” is a simple phrase to remember to use the oldest (non-expired, of course) product first. Establish clear restocking methods to place new food toward the back, allowing things that need to be used first to occupy space most accessible on the shelf. Which brings us to our next point…"
  • "Many food contamination concerns can be avoided by cleaning your refrigeration unit regularly, both in and out. In fact, it’s recommended that commercial refrigeration system coils are cleaned every 30 to 90 days."