Display cases serve a variety of purposes. They entice customers to make a purchase, but they also make it easy to see what’s available or grab the items they want. No matter what type of food service establishment you run, it’s important to choose a showcase that will meet your needs, budget, and space.

There are several factors that need to be considered including types of display cases used in food service.

glass display case

Non-Refrigerated Bakery Display Cases

They allow you to show off your creations while giving customers an easy way to make their selections. 

Non-refrigerated models are ideal for displaying your freshly-baked items that shouldn’t be stored in moist climates, such as:

  • Bread
  • Bagels
  • Some baked desserts

These bakery cases are best suited for items that are baked fresh daily and should be stored at room temperature. 

Refrigerated Display Case

These are a popular choice for restaurants, bakeries, and other food service establishments because they allow you to show off foods you wouldn’t otherwise be able to show in a dry box. 

For example, a refrigerated bakery display case can show off your most delicious looking cakes and pies. Restaurants can use rotating units to create an eye-catching, mouth-watering presentation for diners to choose their desserts from.

You have two options when choosing a refrigerated food display case:

  • Gravity coil: These units have a refrigeration coil at the top, so they can cool foods from above. They are ideal for seafood, deli products, meats, and salads. 
  • Forced air: These use fans to circulate cold air throughout the unit. They’re the preferred choice for packaged products, bakery items, and some deli items. Because air moves throughout the cabinet, some items can dry out if they are left uncovered too long.

A bakery refrigerated display case can be used in just about any food service establishment and is a great way to show off your sweet treats.

bakery display cases

Deli Case

It is designed to store and showcase meats, specifically cold cuts. They’re commonly found in delis, sandwich shops, and fast service restaurants.

Refrigerated deli display cases maintain a temperature of about 40° F. They have multiple shelves to store a variety of meats and make it easy for customers to see what’s available. You can also find models with single shelves, which are great options for storing and selling deli sides. 

Heated Display Cases

Just as there are units with refrigeration, there are also units with heaters to keep foods warm. 

A glass food warmer display case can be used for a variety of applications, from countertop pizza storage to concession cases. They can be found with and without humidity to meet your food storage and presentation needs.

They are  ideal for self-serve buffets and can also be a major time-saver in restaurant kitchens. Because they keep foods at optimal serving temperatures, these items can be used to prepare foods ahead of peak serving hours. This allows your kitchen to stay efficient and serve guests in a timely manner.

deli display case

Materials

When selecting restaurant showcases, you’ll find that there are several types of materials to choose from. Glass, acrylic, and plexiglass are the most popular choices.

Glass Display Case

Many units are made with glass to provide a clear view of the food to customers. They are beautiful, durable, and versatile. The primary concern with this type is fragility. 

Tempered glass is a great compromise. A tempered refrigerated glass case allows you to enjoy the beauty of glass with greater durability.

Acrylic Display Case

When it comes to safety, acrylic models are generally the best option. Glass is fragile and can easily shatter, whereas acrylic is more durable and less likely to break. 

If you have self-serve models for bread and other bakery items, acrylic can help prevent dangerous glass-shattering accidents caused by customers.

In addition to being stronger than glass, acrylic is also lighter and clearer. Glass has a subtle green tint that can alter the customer’s view of the food. That’s fine for meats and packaged items, but for bakery displays, acrylic is the more attractive option.

The light weight of a plexiglass case also makes it easy to open up the case to remove items for customers.

Plus, acrylic cases are more flexible, so you can find unique and attractive design options for your establishment. 

Size

When selecting a food showcase, size is another important and obvious concern. You need to make sure that it can hold everything you need without taking up too much space on the floor or in the kitchen.

Make sure that you measure your space carefully and have an accurate estimate of how much internal space you’ll need for your foods.

You may assume that you need a large one, but that may not necessarily. Most of the time, display cases are used to present items with short shelf lives. Due to this, a small one may be a better option. It will save on space and energy costs.

However, if you run a deli that offers a wide variety of meats, cheeses, and prepared foods, you may need a larger unit. Although cold cuts still have a limited shelf life, they will remain in your food showcase longer than, say, a freshly baked pie. Many manufacturers offer low-profile variations, so this may be an option if you need to present a lot of foods but are short on space.

bakery display case

Shelving and Lighting

The primary purpose of a presentation is to show off your food, so you want to choose shelving and lighting options that catch the eye. The right combination will depend on what you want to show. 

Sandwich displays may only have a single shelf, whereas a salad display case will have multiple shelves to show off every possible topping option.

A tiered food display cooler will maximize your vertical space and visibility. 

Along with the number and configuration of shelves, you also have to consider what type of shelves are in the cabinet. Metal wire shelving is usually the preferred choice for meat and deli items, whereas glass or acrylic is ideal for commercial bakeries.

Most refrigerated showcases have lighting options. Some have specialized bulbs to enhance the colors of certain types of food products, such as pastries and red meat. Lighting may be built into the top, or there may be lighting built into the shelving as well.

Style

Showcases come in a few different styles, primarily straight and curved models. 

A curved display case may be a good option for countertop use or a bakery because it maximizes the viewing area. If you have different items on a shelf, like pastries, it allows customers to see each individual item and select the one they want.

A straight display case is ideal for a fresh meat display case or a deli. Customers can still see all of the available items, but you save on space. 

It’s important to consider your style options carefully and choose one that fits both your brand and your space.

Some final things to consider include maintenance, cleaning, and colors. Choose the one that matches your establishment’s interior and is easy for staff to clean.