What Is a Display Refrigerator?

May 22, 2022
Related Categories: 

Display Fridges Provide a Sales Boost for Retailers

When you think of a refrigerator, most people will think of the kind of icebox you might find in your average private kitchen. I know I do. A few of them have little windows that let you see the food within, but for the most part, they are opaque and leave the contents a mystery until you open them.

Although the first refrigerator was invented in the 1700s, people have made many advances in how we keep our food stored. One of these advancements was using a transparent glass door, or the doorless model found in most grocery stores, instead of the opaque door found in home models.

If you’ve ever been to a Subway, pizza place, or gas station and found the drinks all organized in a cooling unit behind a glass door, you’ve seen a display refrigerator. Some of them are more horizontal, displaying foods in restaurants and delis, and some are miniature to be kept on bar tops.

What is a Display Refrigerator Used For?

Display refrigerators are a type of catering equipment most often used in businesses to safely showcase their food and beverages. The alternatives are open refrigerated display cases. These do not include a door and are often in produce aisles with fruits and vegetables on display with nothing between the customer and the food. Photo of display refrigerators in a large grocery stores

Display refrigerators in a large grocery store

Display refrigerators with clear glass doors are all about visual appeal. They allow your customers to see what they are shopping for conveniently. On top of this, you can see when your stock is running low and what you need to replenish.

Display refrigerators enhance sales. It’s rare to find a refrigerator like this in a private residence because the need for privacy is greater than the need for display. Display refrigerators often don't have spaces in the doors like home models, making them less convenient for private use. It’s in the name: they put the food on display.

A countertop display refrigerator isn’t typically used to store hot food. A countertop hot food display case or something similar is used instead. Hot food storage is often used in a convenience store to keep hot dogs warm.

Kinds of Display Refrigerators

There are a plethora of display refrigerators, chillers, and freezers to choose from. Here are a few different kinds.

Upright Fridge

The most common display refrigerator is the upright fridge. It displays bottled drinks in gas stations and some fast-food restaurants; however, there are other variants.

You can get them as both single door and double door appliances, although the single door is more common and tends to run a little bit cheaper. Double door display refrigerators are typically used to house things like milk, juice, ice cream, and frozen dinners in the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store.

Commercial Bar Fridge

A commercial bar fridge is a smaller version of the upright fridge that stores sodas but is small enough to fit on a bar top or at the end of a check-out aisle.

Some wine refrigerators are made similar but with differently shaped shelves to support numerous wine bottles instead of various cans and glass bottles. You often find wine refrigerators at liquor stores or in the liquor section of your local grocery store. A wine refrigerator tends to be a display chiller, not a display fridge.

Refrigerated Merchandiser

There is also a refrigerated merchandiser, a longer and larger refrigerated display case, often found in bakeries as part of the counter space separating the workers from the customers. As you can guess, these are excellent at storing baked goods.

Photo of cake display refrigerator

A cake display refrigerator

Another place you can commonly find a refrigerated merchandiser is in the delis of most grocery stores, where the meat is cut on-site and set out for people to buy from a pre-packaged selection.

Refrigerated Servery

A refrigerated servery is similar in the sense of often being part of the counter space, but this gets used in ice cream and frozen yogurt shops where customers purchase smaller servings from the larger tubs available beneath the glass. A refrigerated servery is convenient for the sale of small portions of larger items.

Similar to a buffet, but for things that have to be kept very cold so they don’t melt. As a type of display freezer, the refrigerated servery does this job very well.

What Are the Advantages of a Display Refrigerator?

Aside from being visually appealing to your customers, there are several good things you gain from choosing to use display refrigerators in your space. There are many good reasons grocery stores and restaurants have them.

Photo of convenience store display fridge

Convenience Store Display Fridge

Energy Efficiency

It doesn’t seem like just having a transparent door on your refrigerator would make it more energy-efficient, but studies show that it does! Simply adding a glass door to a vertical refrigeration unit reduced the energy required to power it by 87%.

This is compared to the open, doorless units most grocery stores use. With an open refrigerated display unit, the cold air leaks out into the aisle and it requires more power to keep the interior of the display case cooled due to that leakage.

Although the opaque home model would be just as energy efficient as one with a glass display door, that would prevent your customers from being able to see what is housed within and conveniently choose their groceries as they shop. Suffice it to say, those would not be a good choice for a store.


Open refrigerator units have one large problem that is one of the major reasons we wash our food before consuming it. When there is no door between the customers and the food, anyone can come through and touch it. You don’t know who bothered to wash their hands or what kinds of germs they might be carrying.

In a post-COVID world, the spread of germs is a large concern for most people. A glass door between the customers and the product does wonders for germ control. It keeps the food inside of the fridge from getting inflicted by every single sneeze or cough that happens in the aisle.

Visual Appeal

The fact that you can see the food through the glass doors and the units are all flush and streamlined regardless of whether the food inside is uniform. Because the doors are transparent, it’s easy to see when there’s a mess inside of one of the units that you need to clean up, and it makes staying on top of things a breeze.

Not only are the display refrigerators more cost-effective to power, but they give your store a more put-together look that appeals to customers. There is no need to worry that the food items within don’t match if the refrigerators housing them do.

Consumer Comfort

Open refrigerated displays spill cold air out into the aisle where the customers are shopping. The simple addition of a glass door prevents this from happening and makes it so that the people shopping in your store don’t have to feel as though they’ve stepped into a winter wonderland.

It makes sense to have to bundle up to go out into the snow, but no one wants to have to do it just to go shop for snacks and groceries!

Frank Salvatore

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!

About Me
Frank Salvatore
I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!
Learn More About Me
Related Blog Posts
rocketarrow-downarrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram