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What’s In “Store” For Startups: Food Storage and Transport Equipment

For many restaurant start ups, it can be a difficult process to sort out what kinds of equipment are essential when first getting started.  Storage and transport equipment are incredibly part of the equation when talking about a fully functional foodservice operation, however it is often one of the last things business owners think about when making their initial shopping lists.  Though storage and transport equipment should be purchased around the same time as or just after equipment, it is still an incredibly important part of both BOH and FOH operations and plays an integral part in the flow of a restaurant.  First we will look at the most common / important storage and transport equipment, and then we will look at some factors to look at when deciding at which will fit your business best.


Shelving is a necessity in every foodservice environment, however there is a tremendous variety of shelving that may or may not be needed in your specific operation.  To start, it is a good rule of thumb to remember that every item in a restaurant will need a place to be stored if when it is not in use. 

  • Wire Shelving & Dry Storage – Wire shelving is the most common kind of storage in the BOH of a restaurant or other foodservice operation.  Perfect for dry food storage, storing chemicals or even storing clean dishes to accelerate drying, your business will, most likely, require some wire shelving or something comparable.
  • Wall Shelving / Pot Racks – Wall shelving provides storage space in areas that otherwise may not accommodate fully assembled shelves.  It is a great way to keep items on hand and accessible, and, often times, wall shelves have attached pot / utensils storage hooks.  It is important to have pot / utensil racks (and even knife racks) accessible because these are some of the most frequently used items in the kitchen, and it isn’t very logical to store them in areas that are not easy for employees to get to.
  • Walk-In Shelving – Walk-in coolers and freezers need storage shelving, though the excess moisture in the environment is not optimal for standard wire shelving units.  To avoid shelf corrosion, heavy duty plastic shelving or epoxy coated wire shelving is commonplace in walk-in coolers.
  • Dunnage Racks – Dunnage racks are intended to store large or heavier items.  There are a number of regulations that specify certain items (like food products) cannot be placed on store on the ground, and close to the ground dunnage racks are the easiest way to store those heavy items without having to move them to heights that could result in injury.  These racks often have weight capacities that far exceed that of traditional wire shelving.
  • Bakery Racks – Bakery racks are necessary not only in bakeries, but in many foodservice operations.  Bakery racks are the best way to transport full sheet pans, and store them while cooling or waiting to go into an oven. 
  • Specialty Storage, Wine Racks, & Security Cages – Some items, such as expensive seafood, meats, or liquor are often kept under lock and key in a security cage.  These items account for a larger portion of food / beverage costs, and many restaurateurs prefer to keep track of them a bit more stringently.  Wine is also one of these higher cost items, and there are some security cages specifically designed to house wine bottles.  Standard wine racks, along with backbar shelving is a must in the FOH, and other FOH storage such as point of sale shelving and silverware storage will be necessary as well.

Food & Ingredient Storage

There are some storage needs that are necessary specifically for storing food and ingredients.

  • Refrigeration – Refrigerated storage space (including freezer space) is absolutely needed in a commercial foodservice environment.  Items such as like walk-ins, reach-ins, undercounter reach-ins, and refrigerated prep tables are necessary to keep food at the proper temperature while it is waiting to be prepared.
  • Hotel Pans – Both metal and plastic hotel pans are usually necessary for storing items on a kitchen line.  Hotel pans are standard fits for refrigerated prep tables and refrigerated drawers, and metal hotel pans can also be used to bake the items they are storing.
  • Sealable Storage Containers – Most foods need to be covered whether they are being stored in a refrigerated or dry storage setting.  Sealable storage containers are absolutely necessary in every foodservice setting for this reason.
  • Vacuum Sealers – Vacuum sealers are becoming more and more popular in BOH operations.  They help extend the life of food product, and are a great way to extend the life of foods that are being refrigerated or frozen.
  • Ingredient Bins – When dealing with large quantities of ingredients such as flour or sugar, ingredient bins are traditionally the best way to go.  They provide a mobile covered storage area, provide easy access, and reduce the mess that can be created when scooping ingredients out of a large bag.
  • Bakery Rack Covers & Dough Boxes – Bakery rack covers allow foods to rest undisturbed on a bakery rack, and allow cooks to store entire racks of product in walk-in coolers.  They are a necessary tool in most bakeries, along with other items such as dough boxes to store pizza or bread dough.
  • Heated Storage Space – There are a number of ways to adequately store hot food.  For more information on this, take a look at our Buyer’s Guide on Heating and Warming Equipment.

Heated Food & Beverage Transport

Caterers, banquet facilities, and even large restaurants often times have the need to move quantities of hot (or cold) food over distance without sacrificing temperature.  There are several ways they get this done.

  • Insulated Food Carriers – Operations such as traveling catering services need to move heated hotel or sheet pans over large distances while still maintaining proper serving temperatures.  Heavy duty plastic insulated food carriers are available in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit the needs of businesses, and there are a number of dollies to help ease the movement of these occasionally obtuse containers.  Additionally, there are a number of soft insulated food carriers (such as pizza delivery bags) that are more suited to smaller delivery operations, but still keep food temperatures for extended periods of time.
  • Beverage & Liquid Transport – Traveling caterers often need to transport beverages or other liquids, such as soup, to catered events with the same expectations as with food.  There are a number of heavily insulated beverage and liquid transport carriers that can keep liquids either hot or cold, and some that come with built-in dispensers.
  • Banquet Carriers – Large banquet facilities and other businesses often have to move pre-plated dishes rather than hotel or sheet pans, making the banquet carrier essential.  These heated mobile cabinets can facilitate either covered or uncovered plates, and keep the food inside warm until it is served to patrons.
  • Ice Caddies – Ice caddies are the best (and easiest way) to transport large volumes of ice.  They have tremendous volume capacities, are mobile, and many are actually made to fit underneath and ice machine head; eliminating the need for an ice bin.

Things To Note While Shopping

There are some important factors to examine when shopping for the right storage and transport equipment.

Space is important in every commercial foodservice environment.  Cooking equipment takes up a great deal of space, so it is important that storage equipment fit in around the kitchen’s biggest space hog.  Items including wall shelving, under shelves on prep tables, and even add-on shelving to ranges are great ways to get the most out of your space.

It is important to know where you will be placing your storage equipment.  As previously discussed, standard wire shelving do not do well in refrigerated areas, and likewise, it wouldn’t make much sense to place plastic shelving on or around deck or convection ovens.  Know what storage equipment should be where, and recognize that products stored on it should be able to withstand those same conditions

When it comes to storage containers, ingredient bins, and transport equipment, it is important to have a ballpark figure as to how much product will need to be stored or transported at any given time.  Oversized storage containers could take up too much space in a walk-in and it isn’t prudent to get several large insulated food carriers when a soft transport bag will suffice.

When transporting food, it is important to take into account how far prepared food will be traveling to its final destination.  Food needs to remain at proper serving temperatures up to and including the time it is being served, so it is important to get transport equipment that will adequately hold food temperatures the entire distance it is traveling.

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