The Refrigeration Guide: Reach-Ins and Walk-Ins

Every kitchen, no matter the size, requires one or more cold storage units. Your refrigeration will be the most heavily used piece of equipment in your kitchen, so you want to pick the best unit(s) to match your needs. A proper refrigeration lineup can save you money, improve the quality of your service, and improve the speed of your service.

The good news is you have plenty of choices to customize your refrigeration. From bottom mount compressor 2-section glass door reach-ins, to top mount 3-section sliding glass door reach-ins, to single door pass-thru refrigerators and more, we have you covered.

In this guide, we’ll answer these questions:

1. What are the refrigeration types? And where should each type go in your kitchen?
2. What’s the difference between a top mount compressor and bottom mount compressor?
3. What are the different door types and styles?
4. What other features should you consider?

1. Refrigeration Type

If you have the space for it, you can mix and match these types to create an efficient cold storage flow from the back of your kitchen to the hottest part of it. For example, position a walk-in at your receiving area, a multi-door reach-in, in your preparation area, and a single door unit in the cooking area. This area is the hottest part of your kitchen, and a single door unit won’t have to work as hard to stay cool as a larger unit would.

Walk-In Coolers & Freezers

Walk-ins are best used to store crates of items like produce, poultry, meat, fish, and more. Place one of these outside or in a receiving area to receive deliveries directly into it and reduce kitchen traffic.


Walk-ins can also be used for other purposes, like beer caves in convenience stores. If you’re looking to customize your walk-in, call us!

2 or 3 Door Reach-In Refrigerators & Freezers

A multi-door unit can easily store prepared items in bulk. Position one inside your kitchen in the prep area. All of the prepared food you might need throughout the week can be stored in one of these, which reduces the number of trips you need to take to the walk in. Fewer trips to the walk-in result in faster preparation times. Restock this unit weekly from the walk-in.

reach in refrigerator and freezer

1 Door Reach-In Refrigerators & Freezers

A single door unit works best in the cooking area and can store the prepared foods you will need for that day. Having one of these in your final production line allows for quick access, faster service, and happier customers. Restock from your walk-in weekly and from your multi-door unit weekly or as needed.

single door reach-in refrigerators

Roll-In Refrigerators & Freezers

Roll-in units accommodate roll-in racks. Prepare food, load it on the rack, and roll it into the refrigerator/freezer. You can locate one of these near your prep area since they’re great for preparing food in advance and keeping it fresh before service.

Roll-In Refrigerator

Roll-Thru / Pass-Thru Refrigerators & Freezers

Roll-thru and pass-thru units are characterized by their dual access capability – one door on the front and one door on the back. A roll-thru has an empty cavity to accommodate racks, and a pass-thru has traditional interior shelving. These work best when located between the prep area and a serving/stocking station. They allow kitchen staff to prepare, plate, and store items for wait staff to pull and serve as needed.

roll-thru and pass-thru refrigerators

2. Compressor Location

When picking out a compressor location for a walk-in, you want to consider your available space. Most of our walk-ins come with ceiling-mounted, wall-mounted, or remote compressors. Remote compressors can be placed away from the unit to reduce noise and heat.

For reach-in refrigerators and freezers, you want to consider the ambient air temperature of the space. The compressor’s job is to draw in ambient air to regulate internal temperatures. The warmer the incoming air is, the harder the compressor works. Because warm air rises and cold air descends, bottom mounted compressors and top mounted compressors function better in different environments.

Bottom Mounted

Bottom mounted compressors are ideal in hot environments since they pull in cooler air. While the compressor occupies a little storage space, it does create a “no-stoop” bottom shelf. The bottom shelf is a little higher and easier to reach. The biggest downfall with this compressor type is that it can clog with dust or grease from the floor.

Bottom mount compressor reach-in

Top Mounted

Top-mounted compressors are ideal in cool environments since they pull in warmer air. The compressor doesn’t take up any storage space. It is less likely to clog, but it is harder to access for routine cleaning and maintenance.

top mount compressor reach-in

3. Doors

When deciding on a door type, consider the location of any entrances, doorways, and other equipment and consider your kitchen space, layout, and aisle width.

Swing Door

Swing door units typically come standard with stay open features to make loading and unloading easier. However, they can block traffic flows if you have limited space.

swing door reach-in refrigerator

Sliding Door

Sliding door units are great for limited space areas, but not best in a super busy environment. Only one door can be opened at a time.

sliding door reach-in


Half-door units are swing doors with each door split in half. Because you only open one half-section at a time, these units help to conserve energy and promote more consistent internal temperatures. Like a full-length swing door, they can block traffic flow, though.

Half-door reach-in refrigerator

Pass-Thru Doors

Pass-thru units have both front and rear doors. They are available in various configurations of full and half door types with solid or glass doors.

pass-thru nor-lake reach-in

Solid Doors vs. Glass Doors

After you determine a door type, you can pick a style. Swing door, sliding door, half door, and pass-thru units can be purchased in solid door or glass door options. Half-door and pass-thru units can feature both solid doors and glass doors.

Solid doors are easier to clean and offer more insulation. With these units, you gain energy efficiency but lose product visibility.

Glass doors are great for product visibility. You can see what’s in the unit without opening the door. They do offer less insulation, though.

solid glass and dual door reach in

4. Additional Features

These 3 features you might also want to consider when buying a new unit.

Removable Gaskets

Removable gaskets make cleaning and sanitizing your unit easier. If something happens to the gaskets, you can easily replace them as well.

removable door gasket reach-in

Digital Thermostats

Digital thermostats give you a more accurate readout, allowing you to easily monitor and adjust the internal temperature. This precision lowers your service and maintenance costs.

digital thermostat turbo air reach-in

Specification Line vs. Standard Duty

Every reach-in refrigerator is designed to match the demands of a busy food service operation. However, some manufacturers offer a Specification Line of models. These are their top of the line offers. “Spec Line” models typically have more standard features and upgrades than “standard duty” models do. These include more sophisticated temperature controls, more exterior and interior options, and more upgrades in design and construction.

standard duty vs specification line reach-in

Questions? Contact us!