Is a Walk In Cooler or Reach In Cooler Better for Restaurants?

With over a million commercial restaurants in the US, the American food industry is a behemoth. Currently, it generates about $863 billion in revenue for our economy, so if you own a commercial restaurant, you can rest easy knowing that you're part of an industry that's doing its part to produce jobs and build revenue.

However, to continue to be a productive part of this industry, your restaurant has to remain efficient and effective. Without the right cooler to store the food that you serve to happy customers, this is impossible. That's why you need to take a look at reach in and walk in cooler options and ask yourself: which is better for commercial kitchens like yours?

Here, we're going to answer this question. Read on to gain some insight into whether a walk-in cooler or a reach-in one is right for you!

How Do Reach In Refrigerators Work?

A reach-in refrigerator is likely what you first picture when you think of a restaurant cooler. These are compact, insulated spaces in which food supplies can be stored prior to preparation. They're installed into a wall or counter in your commercial kitchen and can't be moved away from where they're carved out.

Read on to learn some of the biggest pros and cons when it comes to installing this type of cooler in your restaurant!


Reach-in refrigerators don't take up too much space. They're installed in easy-to-access locations and have a wide variety of differently-sized models that you can choose from. While many opt to install these refrigerators into the wall of their restaurant's kitchen, there are also versions of reach-in coolers that can be easily installed underneath counters. The sheer variety of sizes and models that you can choose from makes reach-ins a formidable option.

Reach-ins also provide kitchen workers with easy access to the ingredients that they'll be using when making food for hungry restaurant guests. Since 45% of US diners eat out multiple times a week and the average restaurant sees about 30 guests an hour, this makes all the difference when you want to keep wait times down and still serve high-quality dishes.

Also, reach-in refrigerators generally come with shelving. Those who buy walk-ins, on the other hand, need to install shelvings in addition to the cooler itself.


Most reach-in refrigerators can't be moved, and they're also self-contained. Every function that they perform goes on within the machinery itself. This adds additional heat and noise to an already hot and noisy kitchen, which is frustrating and exhausting for your valued employees.

Reach-in refrigerators also have significantly shorter average lifespans than walk-in coolers do. This makes sense, considering that the smaller machinery will become damaged more quickly.

These smaller refrigerators also don't often have much storage capacity. They only usually have 3 or 4 shelves inside, so they can't hold bulk quantities of foods. Not only that, but they also can't store anything larger than the space that exists between shelves, making for a somewhat inefficient system.

What's a Walk In Cooler?

A walk-in cooler is a large freezer that contains frozen food items and ingredients that your restaurant needs in order to operate. Generally, they're used for bulk storage of items like meat patties and frozen vegetables. Walk-in freezers also tend to have lower temperatures than reach-in coolers do, though this isn't always the case.

Read on to learn some of the greatest benefits and downsides to investing in a walk-in cooler for your restaurant!


First and foremost, walk-in coolers are ideal for commercial establishments because they're larger and able to hold more than a reach-in refrigerator. This means that your restaurant can order popular menu items in bulk shipments and get the deals that come along with buying more of a product at once. Buying in bulk also ensures that you won't run out of ingredients for your customer's favorite dishes.

Another reason that people tend to use walk-in coolers is that they can be customized to fit any space within your restaurant. Because of this, they won't stick out into other areas where waitstaff or kitchen workers are performing their jobs. They also won't become an eyesore to those who patronize your establishment and contribute to your restaurant's neat, clean aesthetic.

Finally, walk-in coolers can be stored outdoors rather than inside your kitchen. This means that it doesn't take up space in the kitchen where employees are trying to maneuver, nor does it make a loud noise that disturbs people that have to stand near it for long shifts.


While walk-in coolers are perfect for bulk, outdoor storage, you're likely still going to need a reach-in as well. Employees will want a small reach-in to be accessible to them while they work in your restaurant's kitchen, which makes sense- it's inefficient to need to make the trek outside multiple times a shift.

Walk-in coolers need more add-on accessories than reach-ins do, too. This includes items such as shelving, air curtains, and strip doors. Without these add-ons, your cooler isn't going to function effectively. For this reason, a walk-in cooler may end up costing your commercial restaurant more money than a couple of reach-ins would.

Which Option Is the Better Alternative?

So, which is better for commercial restaurants: reach-in coolers, or walk-in ones?

That depends on your needs.

Generally, walk-in coolers are higher-quality than reach-ins are, but they also take up way more space and can't be stored near the kitchen. If having only a walk-in cooler were an option, this would probably be your best bet, but this is unfortunately not feasible for pretty much any restaurant. The easy access of a refrigerator that actually is in the kitchen is essential for daily workplace operations. Without a reach-in refrigerator at hand, wait times would increase, employees would begin to dislike their jobs, and everyone would (rightfully) begin to complain.

The best option, then, is to get one of each: a walk-in cooler to sit outside your restaurant and store bulk shipments of food, and a readily accessible reach-in.

Install a Commercial Refrigerator Today!

Both reach-in and walk-in refrigerators have their benefits, no one can truly tell what you need more than you can. You're the only one with enough familiarity with your needs and space to definitively be able to say which option is best for you.

Now that you have the knowledge to decide whether a reach-in refrigerator or a walk in cooler is better for your restaurant, it's time to start thinking about installation. Click here to view the many services we offer when it comes to commercial refrigeration. Once you have a good idea of what may work for you, make sure to contact us for more information about pricing, installation processes, and more.

Stay chill!

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