How long will a display fridge stay cold?

Listed Under: Blog

Power outages can cause chaos in food and drink businesses. It’s vital to ensure any food you serve or sell after a power outage is safe for your customers. If you’re in any doubt over the safety of your food, throw it away. While the loss of revenue in throwing food away will be a blow to your business, the consequences of selling your customers’ bad food, will be far worse. There are variables that will affect the likelihood of your food spoiling, but be extremely careful with food after a power outage, and always err on the side of caution.

Different fridges for different businesses

All businesses have different needs, and this will entail different designs of display fridges being used in their premises. The different types of display fridges will react differently in a power outage. For example, a glass-door display fridge will retain its cool temperature for longer than an open-fronted display fridge. An open-fronted display fridge, commonly used in grab-and-go situations, will be the most vulnerable in a power outage. This will lose its cool very quickly, and if you have an open-fronted display fridge, you’ll need to act quickly. Obviously, it will depend on what’s in your fridge during the power outage. Some products, such as drinks cans, are kept chilled to improve the flavour, rather than for food safety reasons. In these instances, you can simply wait for the power to be restored. However, other drinks, such as milkshakes, will be adversely affected by the power outage. As a responsible business owner, you’ll know which food and drink will be most affected by the power outage and act accordingly.

What will help keep my display fridge cold?

Various factors affect how long your display fridge will remain cold, other than its design. The colder the fridge was before the power outage, the longer it would take for it to warm up to a critical temperature. The hotter the ambient temperature outside the fridge, the quicker the fridge will warm up. The more insulation your fridge has, the longer it will stay cool. Generally, better quality fridges will have better insulation, which will help keep the inside cool and prevent more heat transference. One crucial aspect that will affect the temperature significantly is how often the door is opened during the power outage. Every time you open a fridge door, some of the cold is released. If you have a fridge in a shop and your customers keep opening the door, it will heat up quicker than if you can keep the door shut.

Regular monitoring is key

If you have a power outage or need to unplug your display fridge for some reason, you must monitor the temperature. On average, a fridge will remain cool enough to maintain food quality and freshness for around four hours, but as we’ve seen, many factors affect the temperature of a fridge. So, this isn’t an absolute rule, but a generalisation. It’s your responsibility as a business owner to ensure any food or drink you sell to your customers is safe and of good quality. Make sure you follow any food safety guidelines, and ensure your employees know what to do should a power outage happen. It may be possible to move some of the contents of your fridge to another unit or invest in a generator if you are in an area prone to power outages. If you’re in any doubt about temperature or food safety, it’s always better to throw the food away.

What are the impacts of a power outage?

If your business experiences a power outage, your commercial fridge will be directly impacted, which can have several knock-on effects. Understanding these impacts can help you prepare better and mitigate potential losses:

  • Temperature rise and food safety: The most immediate concern for you will be the rise in temperature inside your fridge. Once the power goes out, the cooling system stops working, and the internal temperature will begin to climb. This can be a significant hazard, especially if the outage lasts for more than a few hours, as food safety can be compromised. Perishable items such as dairy, meat and prepared foods are particularly at risk. Remember, the UK’s Food Standards Agency is very clear on the temperatures at which food should be stored to prevent bacterial growth and foodborne illnesses.
  • Product spoilage: As the temperature inside the fridge rises, the risk of your products spoiling increases. This not only results in financial losses due to wasted stock but can also disrupt your service, particularly if you’re running a food-related business like a restaurant or café.
  • Loss of business: If you’re forced to dispose of spoiled food, your ability to serve your customers will be affected. This can lead to a direct loss of sales and, perhaps more importantly, can damage your reputation if you’re unable to offer your usual menu or products.
  • Health and safety risks: If perishable items aren’t kept at the correct temperature, there’s a risk they could become unsafe to eat, leading to food poisoning. It’s crucial to monitor the temperature and the condition of your stock during and after the outage. If in doubt, the safest approach is to discard items you think might be unsafe.
  • Increased operational costs: After a power outage, you may face additional costs. These could include the expense of replacing spoiled stock, additional labour costs for cleaning and reorganising your fridge, and the cost of any emergency measures you might need to take, such as hiring a generator or additional refrigeration equipment.
  • Potential equipment damage: Although less common, power outages can sometimes cause damage to electrical equipment, including your commercial fridge. When the power returns, there can be power surges that may harm the fridge’s electronic components.

To mitigate these risks, it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place. This might include backup power solutions like generators, maintaining appropriate insurance coverage and having a clear policy for monitoring and managing stock during an outage. Also, ensure your staff are trained and aware of what needs to be done if the power goes down. Preparing for these scenarios can help you minimise the impacts on your business and keep your customers safe and satisfied.

Come to Fridgesmart for your next display fridge

While we can’t stop power outages, we can help you choose a more resilient and high-quality fridge. If you’re located in an area prone to power outages, we’d recommend choosing a display fridge with a door and the highest-rated insulation possible, so when the inevitable happens, you’re best placed to withstand the disruption. Here at Fridgesmart, we work with all manner of businesses and bring our years of experience to every challenge we face. Whether you need advice on the best display fridge for your business, or an urgent replacement, our friendly and informative team are here to help. Simply call us today on 01792 677169.