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
- To avoid juices, marinades, and fragments falling into stored meat products onto other foods, experts propose the storage of meat products on the lowest shelves in walk-in coolers. Non-meat products should be kept away from meat products.
- This is considered a best practice because it prevents food contamination. The practice is also mentioned in multiple reports.
2. AVOIDING FREEZER BURNS
- To prevent freezer burns, delicate items such as berries should be kept away from fans inside the refrigerator. The airflow can be strong, which causes freezer burns.
- This is considered a best practice because it prevents food freezer burns. It is also repeated across multiple sources.
3. SORTING ITEMS BY EXPIRATION DATES
- In walk-in refrigerators, it is a best practice to place older items with a shorter shelf life toward the front of the shelf. This prevents inventory loss since the older items are used before their expiration date while the ones with a longer shelf life are used last.
- This is considered a best practice because it prevents unwanted product expiration. It is also repeated across multiple sources.
4. TRADING SPACE FOR AIR CIRCULATION
- Instead of packing food items as close together as possible, products should be separated by at least three inches to allow air circulation, which prevents uneven cooling and food spoilage.
- This is considered a best practice because it prevents food spoilage. It is also repeated across multiple sources.
GENERAL BEST PRACTICES FOR MANAGING WALK-IN COOLERS
- Improper insulation causes cold air to escape the cooler, which in turn causes food spoilage. This is especially important if the cooler is in a hot warehouse or kitchen.
2. AVOIDING STACKING ITEMS ON FLOOR
- Some dry ingredients invite pest infestation or otherwise jeopardize food safety. To avoid this, such items should be stored away from the floor surface.
3. MONITORING THE REFRIGERATOR TEMPERATURE
- To avoid melting, spoilage, and health code violations, the walk-in refrigerator temperature should be monitored constantly. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) suggests that the walk-in refrigeration units should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
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
- 7Eleven has started to use a new type of walk-in refrigerator, which operates without the circulation of cold air.
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.