In its simplest terms, storage in foodservice comes down to what you put things in, or what you put things on—in other words, containers and shelving. There are three simple questions to ask if you’re considering adding to or replacing your storage racks or containers.
Rack it up
Where will you be using your shelving? Obviously, wet and dry environments need different types of shelving; any place where moisture is a concern calls for corrosion-resistant shelving materials. One helpful guide is to look for an NSF International seal, indicating whether the product is approved for use in dry, dry/wet or heated environments.
If you think you may need to shift your shelving around frequently, check for the availability of casters. Units on casters can aid in more thorough cleaning, as they improve access to the nearby wall and floor areas. More importantly, though, units on casters can be set into tracks on the floor, creating a library-style system to maximize available space. In Cambro’s Camshelving High Density Storage System, for example, the tracks connect directly to the stationary end units, requiring no bolts or drilling into the floor.
What will you be putting on it? Twenty years ago, just about every food product came in #10 cans. While this packaging is still widely used today, if you’re purchasing a greater number of pouch or dry products, you might not need the same depth and weight of shelving as the heavy user of cans.
For stand-alone units, check to see if side braces are available to help prevent items from falling off if they get jostled. Solid shelves are often positioned on the bottom of many units, while easy-to-clean slotted shelves are used above. Some shelves, such as those on Metro’s MetroMax Q system, also contain an antimicrobial coating to help inhibit the growth of microorganisms—something to consider if you’re going to be storing fresh fruits or vegetables on the racks.
Can you reconfigure it easily? If you know your shelves are never going to be reconfigured, this probably isn’t an issue. But if you think you may ever need to add or subtract shelves, check to see how easily you can insert or remove the shelving. Eagle’s new Quad-Adjust system features a special “collar” design to make shelf addition, removal or adjustment easy without tools. Some shelving units also feature easy rack-mounted connectors so you can attach additional units, either in a row or in “L” or “T” configurations.
While containers may not be as major a purchase as shelving racks, they are an integral component of any storage system. Here, too, there are a few simple questions to ask when buying.
Which containers are better, clear or opaque? Again, the choice here depends on where you’ll be using them. Opaque canisters work fine for standard dry ingredients, such as flour, because their content level can easily be seen. For containers used in the cooler, however, where proper rotation and food safety procedures are even more important, clear containers may
be a better choice. To help insure proper ingredient stacking in coolers, Carlisle offers StorPlus storage boxes that are color-coded in standard HACCP colors yet still allow visibility of the product inside.
How frequently are the ingredients used? For dry ingredients that are accessed fairly infrequently, a standard canister with snap-on type lid is a sensible choice. For ingredients that are accessed more often—particularly during rush periods—storage bins, like Rubbermaid’s ProSave system, might be the way to go. The bins in this system allow for one-handed access to contents, and have integrated portioning scoops.
Is there a warranty? Like it or not, your storage containers are going to get banged around. So buying strictly on price isn’t necessarily a good idea, especially if you find the containers are cracking or breaking during use. Therefore, check the warranty/replacement policy of the manufacturer to see if they’ll replace defective containers. Most major manufacturers, such as Carlisle and Rubbermaid, will replace any containers found defective under normal usage.