What is a "Walk-in" in a Restaurant Kitchen?

Posted on 31 Oct 2015 22:44

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Walk-in is the shortened or slang term for the "walk in refrigerator" in commercial restaurant kitchens. This is not to be confused with the term walk-in as used in the front of the house.

These are simply refrigerated spaces that are so large you can walk into them. Like a large refrigerated walk-in closet, they have shelves on either side and are used for the extended storage of bulk food items such as large boxes of vegetable or fruit, or for the shorter-term storage of batch prepared foods.

Modern walk-in cooler units come in many different sizes to suit the space available and storage needs of smaller and large restaurants.

They are built from insulated wall panels.

An entire walk-in unit does not have to be transported to a restaurant to be placed inside the kitchen.

Even if this were true, it could be impossible to get it into the restaurant. Instead, the wall panels can be snapped together on-site.

Although walk ins do come in smaller and larger sizes, they a great deal of space, which most Smaller refrigerators are called reach-ins and many kitchens make do only with these.small kitchens cannot afford to give up.

However, walk-in refrigerators can also be placed outside and fitted with a weather-cap over the top. Many restaurants have their walk-ins just out back, and some even have a hole cut in the back wall so that the staff can enter the walk in from the kitchen without having to go outside.

Walk-ins are meant to be accessible with wheeled carts for carrying heavy items and boxes in and out, so a ramp must be fitted at the entrance to the fridge.

interior of walk in restaurant kitchen refrigerator
interior of walk in restaurant kitchen refrigerator

Just because walk ins are so large, doesn't mean that everything can be stored in them together. Some larger restaurants will have more than one. For example, a steak-house which dry-ages large cuts of beef will need a very large walk in for just this purpose, to provide the space needed and to allow the beef to age at the proper temperature and humidity. As well, strong-smelling foods, such as stinky cheese, should not be stored with vegetables, as the vegetables may pick up the odors.

The walk-in is just one of several different types of refrigerators that may be found in a restaurant kitchen.

For shorter-term storage oft-needed items a "reach-in" is used, which themselves come in many different configurations. A reach-in cooler that is installed below a counter is sometimes called a low-boy.

Also common are refrigerated drawers that are installed under the line, perfect for something like fish, and allowing staff to access frequently used foods without having to leave their station.

Storage of Multiple Types of Items in Walk-In Refrigerator

Although it would be nice to have one walk-in for meat, another for vegables and other items kept in cold-storage, and perhaps even a separate place for oft-accessed service items, most restaurants will have to serve most of these items together.

To avoid contamination, meats, poultry, and fish should always be stored on the bottom and never above another item, where juices could drip down. Vegetables should be stored above and service items like cream, butter, lemons, and other condiments, if they are stored in the walk-in, should ideally be up top.

Good restaurants take pains to organize their walk-in and know how long everything has been in storage. When a container is opened, the date it was opened is written on the container, and the FIFO rule is observed: first in, first out, which keeps the stock rotated and fresh.

FOH Meaning of Walk-In

As mentioned above, the term walk-in has two meaning in restaurant jargon. Kitchen staff may refer to the large refrigerator as a walk-in, but when FOH] staff use the term walk-in, they more often are referring to a customer who has 'walked-in' without a reservations. On busy nights with no spare tables due to a large number of reservations, "no walk-ins" is frequently ordered, meaning that nobody should be seated without a reservation. See also FOH and BOH.

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