What Kind of Display Case Do I Need for My Deli or Bakery?

What Kind of Display Case Do I Need for My Deli or Bakery?

December 9, 2018

Commercial food display cases, as their name implies, are a way to put your food products on display for your customers. They fulfill a number of functions, including keeping food items safe and secure and at the proper temperature. They’re also important for another reason: well-chosen display cases can increase sales. That’s true whether you’re running a cafeteria, airport food service shop, bakery, deli, grocery store, restaurant, convenience store, or café.

What makes a display case the right one for your business? After all, they often look quite similar to one another, but it’s not just the look of a display case that matters. If that sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. Our thorough yet concise buyers’ guide can help you determine what type and style of case you need and how to decide on the right one.

Refrigeration Types

There are two basic refrigeration types used in refrigerated display cases: forced air and gravity coil refrigeration. Which type you’ll want to use will depend on the purpose of your display case—i.e., what types of food it will hold.

Coldline CD48 shown here. This is a 48 inch Forced Air Refrigerated Bakery Display Case.

Forced air display cases circulate cold air throughout the display case, using fans to keep the food inside cool. Typically, prepackaged products, certain deli products, and bakery products are displayed in these cases. The movement of air within the case can dry out certain products if they’re left inside for too long, or if they aren’t properly covered. They’re often referred to as refrigerated bakery display cases or some other similar term.

Leader HDL48M shown here. This is a Gravity Coil Display Case.

Gravity coil display cases use a refrigeration coil that’s mounted at the top of the cabinet. Because cold air falls and warm air rises, the cool air from the gravity coil sinks, cooling the items in the food service display case. As the air warms up, it rises to be cooled again by the gravity coil. These cases are usually used as seafood or salad display cases, as well as fresh meat display cases. Gravity coil systems are less likely to dry out the contents of the case and are typically less expensive than forced air cases. They’re often referred to as refrigerated deli display cases.

Non-refrigerated cases, often called “dry display cases” are also useful for some café display cases that don’t require any refrigeration at all, like cupcakes, bread, and so forth. They’re also less expensive than their refrigerated counterparts.

What Type of Refrigerated Display Case Do I Need?

Food Forced Air Gravity Coil
Pie X  
Cake X  
Danish X  
Other Pastries X  
Seafood   X
Raw Meat   X
Pasta Salad   X
Cheese   X
Coleslaw   X
Salad   X
Deli Meat   X


Once you’ve narrowed down the type of display case you need, whether forced air or gravity coil, you’ll need to consider some of the other features of these cases to pick exactly the right one. There’s such a variety of cases out there that you might not even be aware of some of these features. We’ll take you through them one by one.

Display Case Size

The size of display case you want to choose will depend on a few different factors, including the volume of food you have to display, its shelf life, and your floor space. You can also opt for taller or shorter cases that have larger or smaller footprints in order to display your products most efficiently. Some manufacturers make “low profile” cases which have identical bells and whistles but are smaller than their large cases. These are a great choice for small cafes and convenience stores. Also, when you’re checking out the various sizes of display cases available, be sure that it will fit in your front or delivery door, as cases can be very large!

Display Case Lighting

Lighting your products is key to their presentation. Different display case types have different types of bulbs that may enhance certain types of products, or certain hues, and that can go a long way in making your products look appetizing to customers. You can also often have the lighting in a display case customized or add extra lighting, depending on your particular needs. Also, consider how top-mounted interior lighting will affect presentation, as compared to shelf mounted lighting. There’s no one “right” option, but a meat display case might need to be lit differently than a salad display case.

Display Case Shelving

Display case shelving may be wire-framed or glass, or come in other materials. Consider how this will affect the overall appearance of your display. Also, tiered shelving can be a great choice because it ensures that all of your products are visible near the front of the case. Consider the size of your products and the width of the shelves, as well.

Display Case Style

The two major styles of display case use either straight or curved glass. Curved glass offers an up-to-date, modern look, but it’s not always the right choice aesthetically, depending upon the look of your restaurant. Straight glass styles can look more apt depending on placement, as well.

Our Top Refrigerated Display Cases

Although everyone has unique needs, we do have a few select display cases that we recommend more than others. Our favorite forced air display case is the Marchia MB48 display case - it’s both stylish and practical. It has 3 tiers of display and is perfect for bakeries. For gravity coil, the Coldline DC200SS-HC is the way to go. It features sliding rear glass doors, a powerful 3/4 HP compressor, and ensures that your product will not dry out.

Remember, there isn’t one display case that’s absolutely the best. Work through the typical features that display cases offer and determine which options are right for the products you sell and your brand’s presentation. Two bakeries might have entirely different cases, and both might have the best possible case for their own needs. Our guide should get you started in the right direction.

Ready to start shopping for your new refrigerated display case? Check out our selection of refrigerated display cases available for purchase today. We have both forced air and gravity coil refrigeration types. Need more help? Call us at 917-525-2066 to speak to a kitchen equipment specialist.