Display coolers or display refrigerators have become an important part of marketing food.
Coolers keep perishable food safe until purchase and chill beverages so they are ready to drink right after purchase. Refrigeration is an important part of both quality control and food marketing.
However, just because coolers are important does not mean that it is obvious how to use them well. Properly used, display coolers are components in a well thought out quality control strategy that also includes walk-in coolers, flash freezers, and sometimes short-term cool storage used for food preparation. As marketing tools, display coolers also have to work as just one element of an entire store that presents its products in an appealing and convenient way. Finally, coolers must be in good working order in order to do their job. After a cooler can no longer cool properly, it must be discarded, unless a new use can be found for it. Clearly, taking full advantage of display coolers requires some careful and creative thought. No less than seven creative ideas are available in order to help a new cooler owner get going.
Selecting Display Coolers and Refrigerators
Before exploring how to use a display cooler, it is important to get a good idea of how to buy coolers, including looking at the different types of coolers and finding out what to look for in a quality cooler.
Types of Display Coolers
Food safety regulators maintain very specific standards for commercial refrigerators, including display refrigerators and coolers. For regulatory purposes, therefore, there are a number of very precise types of display refrigerators. From the perspective of the buyer, however, there are just two main groups: food display refrigerators and beverage coolers.
Food Display Refrigerators
Food display refrigerators include all machines used to keep food from spoiling while on display. These coolers may be open or closed, large or small. What they all have in common is that the food inside them is perishable. These refrigerators therefore must keep food below a specific maximum temperature. Allowing perishable food to get too warm or to stay unfrozen for too long exposes customers to the risk of food poisoning. Food display refrigerators are designed to keep food cold, not to make food cold. They are typically not powerful enough to properly chill warm or hot food.
Sodas, beer, and other canned and bottled drinks do not have to be refrigerated for safety before they are opened. The only reason to chill them is for the enjoyment of the customers, so the precise temperature and the speed at which the product sells are less important. Coolers designed to hold non-food items, such as floral refrigerators, are like beverage coolers in this way.
How to Pick a Display Cooler
There are three main choices to make regarding coolers. First, what size the cooler should be? Second, should the cooler should be open or closed? Third, should the customer be able to open the cooler without assistance? The type of insulation and stylistic elements, such as color and shape, are also considerations.
Size of a Cooler
Before buying a cooler or refrigerator, it is important to decide what is going to be stored inside it and where the cooler is going to go, since these two factors together dictate the size of the cooler. Most obviously, a cooler should not be too big for its location. Since coolers have to be near an electrical outlet and away from heat sources, some buyers may find that the only appropriate place for a cooler is a small area. A cooler should also be big enough to hold enough inventory so that the product does not run out quickly but not so big that food could go bad before it is purchased. Do not overstock a small refrigerator, since air has to circulate around the product.
Open Vs. Closed Coolers
Coolers that close with doors are more efficient than those without doors or lids. Open coolers are convenient and tend to sell product better, but they may not be able stay cold enough to keep food safe. Open coolers may be a good option for beverage coolers, but using them for perishable foods is a trade-off between energy efficiency and marketing.
Self-Serve Vs. Assistance Required
Many display coolers are designed for customer convenience or even impulse buying since they are self-serve. However, display coolers that can only be opened by store employees do have some advantages. For example, the food inside the cooler may need to be sliced or otherwise handled specially, before being given to the customer. Self-serve coolers can also be vulnerable to children who are too young to know not to grab food in stores. Self-serve coolers are often better for drinks and other packaged items, since there is no danger of customers touching food they have not yet bought.
What to Look for in a Display Cooler
Especially for food display coolers, the most important thing in a cooler is proper temperature. A cooler that cannot maintain the required temperature consistently is not worth having. Depending on what the cooler is going to display, humidity may be important as well. Coolers are usually humid because warm, moist air rushes in every time the door is opened. Foods that require dry as well as cold storage require a refrigerator that can control humidity. New businesses especially may want coolers that can be easily moved if the business changes location; choose either small coolers or those that can be disassembled. Insulation material is also important. A material’s power to resist heat transfer is called its R value, and the higher the R value, the less electricity the cooler needs to maintain the same degree of cooling. Besides looking for insulation with a high R value, look for a durable insulation. Polystyrene, for example, often cracks and allows warm air into the cooler.
۷ Creative Uses of Display Coolers and Refrigerators
Using a display cooler well can mean any of several different things. Store owners can focus on where to place coolers in a store and how to use them to create effective displays. Other businesses can use display coolers behind the scenes for short-term storage. Even coolers that no longer work can be used creatively.
The Art of Display Cooler Placement
Where a display cooler goes is as important as what kind of cooler it is, from a marketing perspective. There are three basic strategies: attract impulse buys; appeal to the sense of novelty; and be dependable.
۱. Attract Impulse Buys
Beverage coolers by the checkout counter encourage impulse buys by customers waiting in line. A cooler of refreshing, cold beverages by the door on a hot day can also draw customers in, though of course there is a greater risk of shoplifting when goods are near the door.
۲. Appeal to the Sense of Novelty
Seasonal displays and special promotions of any kind attract attention because they are new. Display coolers are no exception. Instead of just changing the content of a cooler, use small coolers that can be moved to new parts of the store for maxim novelty.
۳. Be Dependable
Dependability is the opposite of novelty, but it, too, has its appeal. Popular foods that customers treat as staples, such as milk, do not need a big marketing push to attract customers. Instead, as long as customers know where these products are, they happily cross the store to get them. Permanent display coolers are a good choice for staple foods because for these foods, dependability equals convenience.
Display Coolers Behind the Scenes
Display coolers are designed for direct appeal to customers, of course, but that is not the only way they can be used. Some display coolers can also work well behind the scenes.
۴. Use Closed Display Coolers as Storage
Closed display cases have a lot of easily accessible storage space, and used ones are often available at low cost. Even a cooler that can no longer be used in a commercial context for perishable foods can be a useful tool in other contexts. Display coolers can be used at home as secondary refrigerators for short-term food storage before large events so that food does not spoil in the hours before being served. Small businesses that process raw vegetables or non-food items can also use coolers of this type to hold materials before processing.
۵. Use Open Display Coolers for Food Preparation
There are coolers designed specifically to hold perishable foods ready for preparation in restaurants and similar contexts. However, a new business might get a good deal on a used open display cooler and use it until more specialized equipment can be purchased. Remember that both ethics and the law require that whatever kind of refrigerator is used in food preparation hold the food at the proper temperature.
Unusual Uses of Display Coolers
Finally, it is possible to improvise uses for display coolers that have nothing to do with food, and perhaps nothing to do with keeping anything cold. Even a non-operational cooler has its uses.
۶. Closed Cases as Art and Storage
A closed display cooler that no longer cools properly is basically a box with a glass front and can be used for storage just like any other box. A cooler that does not cool also holds some intriguing art possibilities. Decorate the inner walls by creating collages or mosaics by gluing cutouts, beads, buttons, beans, or pebbles directly to the walls. Make sure to use glue that can stick on metal or plastic. Or, better yet, allow children to decorate the cooler; tape up paper along the walls for them to paint. The result could be a unique and fantastic doll house with papered shelving. Or, with adult help to glue on pieces of mirror, the inside of the cooler can become a fantastic, glittering cave. Remember to tell small children never to actually climb into the cooler, as child or cooler could become damaged. A related art project involves taping or gluing colored tissue paper to the glass door. Place a battery-powered LED lantern inside, and the door glows like stained glass.
۷. Open Display Coolers as Planters
Some open coolers that no longer cool can make interesting outdoor shelving for potted plants. Place small flower pots of vining or creeping plants on upper shelves and allow their tendrils to cascade down. Be careful not to allow the vines to touch the ground unless they are native to the area, as a number of ornamental vines have become serious weeds. Small shrubs or herbs, whether flowering or otherwise, can be set on the lowermost shelf, since these are often wider. Choose species that attract hummingbirds or butterflies to complete the effect. If the plants are not hardy, bring them in over the winter. Old sinks and even toilets are sometimes used as quirky, attention-grabbing outdoor planters, and display coolers can be used to produce a similar effect. The only difference is that coolers should not be filled with soil directly, since plant roots are very strong and could break into the mechanical interior of the cooler and degrade it very quickly.
Buying Display Coolers and Refrigerators
Display coolers can be bought directly from the manufacturer, but they are also available on eBay. Finding and buying products through eBay is not difficult, but a few pointers can help everything go smoothly.
Finding Display Coolers on eBay
A simple search for either display coolers or display refrigerators can point buyers in the right direction; on eBay, the two terms are essentially equivalent. For more specific searches, focusing on what the cooler should be able to store, such as chocolate or soda, may be the most efficient approach. In order to focus in on one particular type of cooler, use the Advanced Search option.
Buying Display Coolers on eBay with Confidence
The best way to make sure that an eBay purchase goes well is simply to read the listing carefully in order to avoid buying the wrong thing by mistake. It is also a good idea to look up the seller’s feedback rating and the details of his or her return policy. These are listed on the seller’s profile page, along with a contact link. Remember to ask the seller to insure the cooler when it ships.
Taking full advantage of display coolers and refrigerators includes making sure the machines are working properly and are used in the right way for their design. But to really get the most out of a cooler, it is also important to use them intelligently and creatively as part of the whole store’s quality control and marketing plan. When display coolers become damaged or worn and can no longer keep perishable food safe, they can be used for shorter-term, less critical cooling jobs. Even coolers that no longer work at all can be put to use in art projects, as planters, or simply as storage shelving. Creative use of equipment is not the sort of thing that can simply be looked up like recipes in a cookbook, because simply following instructions is not creative. But at the same time, it can be difficult to know where to start for people who are new to the concept. A list of tips and ideas is therefore a good way to get started thinking, since each new suggestion on the list can be a jumping off point for a whole new realm of possibilities.