Erin Doman on August 12, 2015 9 Comments Many people have a hard time keeping their own refrigerator organized at home. When you have a commercial kitchen with even more people in and out of the fridge and freezer, it can be very difficult to maintain organization. It is vital to the health of your restaurant that you have an efficient system and always maintain organization in the kitchen. There are many ways to organize the space in your commercial fridge and freezer. While some of how you place items will depend on your stock and usage of items, there are many guidelines according to health and safety codes to prevent cross contamination. Here are six general guidelines for kitchen organization that you can use to adapt a policy within your own organization. 1. Store Meats on the Lowest Shelves Always store your meat on the lowest shelves of your appliance. Keeping your meat on the low shelves makes clean up easier if you have a spill, but more importantly this practice prevents potentially dangerous cross contamination. If any other food touches any juices or marinade from the meat, you must promptly throw those things away. If you store meat on the higher shelves, they are much more likely to drip down and contaminate the rest of your food, which can ultimately spread harmful bacteria to your customers. 2. Leave Space Between Items The cold air in your commercial fridge and freezer needs to be able to circulate. Although the impulse is to pack things in as well as you can to use every bit of the space efficiently, your fridge needs about three to six inches of space between the walls and the food products to get the best refrigeration. The circulation of air in your fridge prevents hot spots and uneven cooling and freezing. 3. Keep Food Off the Fridge Floor In order to prevent water or other contaminants from seeping into your food, it is important that you store all food off of the floor, including while in the refrigerator. While this is a health code requirement, not every person in your kitchen may be aware of the specific codes that will get your restaurant in trouble. In the heat of a rush of customers, it’s also easy to forget this rule. Having adequate shelving will prevent this problem. Make sure all your staff understands that this rule prevents food contamination and pest infestation in your commercial fridge. A note on the door is often enough to remind them. 4. Store Delicate Produce Away From Fans The fans in a commercial kitchen refrigeration and freezing units are extremely strong in order to encourage circulation, but this air flow can actually damage some of your foods. Berries and fresh greens are vulnerable to damage from these fans. In the freezer, storing food close to the fans increases its potential to get freezer burn. While you may need to fully utilize the space in your freezer, make sure to watch the labels and use the items closest to the fans quickly. 5. FIFO; or First In, First Out Product shelf-life and use-by dates are important for maintaining the quality of your foods. Make sure that you utilize the first-in, first-out (commonly abbreviated as FIFO) principle when organizing your storage units. When stocking, place newer items in the back of your fridge and freezer. If date codes are small, write the dates in bigger numbers on the box before you store it, and be sure to place the items so the dates are apparent. Make it easy for employees to see which products need to be used. Always use open items before opening anything new. This is an efficient method that will end up saving you a lot of money. 6. Label Everything Label the shelves. This may seem unnecessary, but mistakes can happen, so it’s good to have a reminder. Labeling lets someone else who isn’t as familiar with your system come in and find things easily, which can be helpful when you have new hires trying to figure out the kitchen. Labeling your shelves makes it apparent when something is out of place or completely out of stock. Make sure every employee knows that anything that goes into the fridge has a label. This label should include both the day you made or received the product and the use-by date. It is important that you know when prepared foods, such as chicken broth or puddings, were created. Have a rule about unlabeled food, so no one forgets to label items. Make sure you have pens and stickers for easy labeling so this rule doesn’t waste unnecessary time in your kitchen. Reasons Why Organization Is Important: High quality food is not cheap. Your storage plan maintains the integrity of everything you purchase so that it can be used and doesn’t go to waste. You avoid those dreaded health code violations by following organization guidelines. Improperly stored food is one reason your restaurant might be fined or even shut down. Utilizing your space effectively increases quality of the food. Organization in your commercial kitchen creates a smooth operation. When your staff isn’t wasting time looking around for a specific food in an unorganized refrigerator, they can get back on the line quicker. Disorganization in your fridge and freezer makes these units work harder, which means you’ll need to call for repairs more often when your food isn’t cooling appropriately. There is less need for cleanup when shelves are organized. Food will have a place and things won’t be thrown in wherever it fits. Clean up is easier when shelves are organized. Ordering and restocking is easier when everything has a place. You can quickly see items that you need and won’t be looking for more cases in another place. Organization Pays Off Do you need more space in your commercial fridge or freezer? Before ordering more units for more space, make sure that the shelves in your current units are organized. Taking the time to do this may be a chore for your staff, and it certainly will take time away from their regular duties, but it will save you money in the long run. If you still need extra help, know that there are plenty of apps for kitchen organization that you should consider using. Keep track of food waste and track the reasons you are throwing this food away. If it’s quickly going bad in the fridge or freezer, you should invest in better organization for better utilization of product. Don’t let a poorly organized fridge cost you money that should be going elsewhere in your business. Customize your kitchen to your own individual needs. There are a number of different refrigeration systems that can be installed to keep your food at ideal temperatures before it is cooked and served. Take advantage of different products that work in your commercial kitchen. Teach your staff the importance of fridge and freezer organization in your kitchen. This is an important foundation to have in your commercial kitchen, so you need to make it a priority. Make sure everyone knows how vital these rules are to your establishment. If you have a real problem with employees with bad habits, try to influence staff with a reward for doing their work correctly after a week, a month, eight weeks, and so on so that everyone has more reasons to make it a priority in their own performance. You’ll see improvement quicker and create camaraderie within your business when everyone is working toward the same goals.