Kitchen Shelving Buying Guide

Quality storage can make all the difference in running an efficient business. This necessary component of any foodservice environment is often overlooked and undervalued. Many operators don’t fully appreciate the value of high-quality kitchen shelving until a high-volume rush storms in and a lack of sufficient space and proper organization transforms a seemingly small issue into a full-blown crisis. Commercial shelving makes efficient use of limited space, assisting in organization, cleanliness, speed of service, and ultimately the business’s bottom line.

As with any commercial purchase, there’s a variety in which to choose from. To help make your shelving units as functional as possible, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about commercial shelving before buying.


Shelving Types

The first step to selecting the right shelving unit is understanding what it will be storing. The two most popular shelving types are vented and solid. Though vented shelving is the most popular type of shelving in the foodservice industry, both types have their pros and cons.

Vented shelves

Vented shelving features slotted shelves that enable air circulation, ideal for quickly drying dishes or for temperature regulation. Vented shelves can be used anywhere but are especially great in refrigerated areas, assisting products in reaching their maximum shelf life. They also weigh less, making them more mobile, and are designed for quick and easy loading/unloading of products.

Due to their slotted construction, they are more challenging to clean and maintain than their singular, solid shelf counterparts. In a hectic kitchen environment, spills happen. If something spills on the top rack of a vented shelf, it leaks down onto all the items below. There’s also more room for dust and grime to accumulate in the open spaces.

Solid shelves

Solid shelving features a one-piece construction with no openings, a direct contrast against vented shelving. This allows for an easy to clean and maintain surface area with more room for storage. This shelf type is ideal for messier applications like food prep and warewashing, enabling staff to efficiently control spills, wipe down and move on to the next project. Since there are no slots, solid shelving can fit any size item without fear of anything slipping through.

Since the shelves are solid, there isn’t much room for air circulation, which means they’ll take much longer to dry, and temperature consistency isn’t a guarantee. That’s why these shelves are ideal for dry storage environments.


Shelving Coatings

Vented shelving features slotted shelves that enable air circulation, ideal for quickly drying dishes or for temperature regulation. Vented shelves can be used anywhere but are especially great in refrigerated areas, assisting products in reaching their maximum shelf life. They also weigh less, making them more mobile, and are designed for quick and easy loading/unloading of products.

Due to their slotted construction, they are more challenging to clean and maintain than their singular, solid shelf counterparts. In a hectic kitchen environment, spills happen. If something spills on the top rack of a vented shelf, it leaks down onto all the items below. There’s also more room for dust and grime to accumulate in the open spaces.


Throughout your research, you’re bound to notice that regardless of shelving type, not all units are designed the same. Here’s an overview of the common construction materials you’re likely to come across, and the environments and applications they’re ideal for.


Chrome-plated wire shelving is specifically designed to enhance ventilation and visibility. In humid environments, that are prone to rusting, so they’re ideal for dry storage like warehouses and stockrooms.

Epoxy Coated

Many wire shelving units are available with an epoxy-coated finish that protects the shelf against rusting and corrosion for use in humid environments. These finishes are available in several different colors. Our popular Central Exclusive epoxy-coated wire shelving is available in blue, but black and green are also common finishes. Green epoxy is more prominent in back-of-the-house foodservice applications, whereas black epoxy is often used for retail purposes.


There are a two notably popular types of plastic shelving constructions: polymer and polypropylene. There are several benefits to opting towards a plastic construction instead of a metal one. The first being they are impervious to corrosion, making them a great option for humid environments. They’re also easy to clean and maintain, and weigh significantly less than metal shelving without restricting weight capacity.  The drawback is that polymer shelving is traditionally more expensive than metal; however, many manufacturers offer longer warranties on this type of shelving.

Stainless Steel

A stainless steel shelving construction makes for a heavy-duty shelf. By and large, shelving units constructed of stainless steel are the most durable and versatile on the market. Stainless steel offers a natural resistance to corrosion and is able to withstand rougher applications in any environment, be it dry or humid. Uses for stainless steel shelving extend beyond mere foodservice, applicable in any industry, for just about any storage purpose.


Hybrid shelving is a newer type of construction that combines the best of both metal and plastic constructions. Consisting of a metal structure and a polymer exterior, users receive a high level of durability, corrosion resistance, flexibility and hassle-free cleaning. As far as price ranges go, these shelving units typically fall in the middle; traditional plastic shelving often leans on the high end and wire shelving on the lower end.


Though anti-microbial shelving can be constructed out of any of the above materials, these shelves are classified as their own category because they include an extra, built-in anti-microbial agent that shields against bacteria, mold and mildew, as well as other types of fungi that can lead to contaminated products and food safety concerns.


Mobile vs. Stationary

Commercial shelving units also come in different types of assemblies, mounting functions, and degrees of portability. Some units come in kits that include both posts and shelves, but sometimes you have to purchase components individually. Some key considerations include whether you need a shelf that’s mobile, what’s the budget you have to work with, are there limitations to your space, is the space clean, and who will be using your shelves the most.

As their label suggests, stationary posts are not designed to be moved. They are ideal for consistent storage in areas that aren’t rearranged frequently. Mobile posts, on the other hand, give users the option to move the unit around. An added benefit to mobile units is the ease in which they make cleaning around and underneath.

If you’re opting to go with a stationary model, keep in mind that they cannot be moved. When you’re designing your layout, ensure the area is large enough for staff to work around. If space is an issue, a mobile model will be your best bet because they can be rolled together or apart, granting easier access.

Mobile units are largely preferred because they offer the same sort of functionality as their stationary complements with added flexibility, which can often make all the difference. The one drawback is they typically run at a higher price point. It is also important to train staff on safe maneuvering techniques as these shelves may hold heavy objects that could shift or fall during transport, resulting in injury.

Many models can also be modified with add-on accessories like casters, creating custom configurations to address specific needs as they arise. However, it’s important to note that many stationary posts don’t accept casters and attempting to add may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

High density shelving is designed to eliminate the space hurdles of traditional storage. Mounted on a track system, they can be maneuvered side to side, giving users easy access they can configure while eliminating the traditional shelf-aisle layout. Ideal for smaller spaces with too much product.


Weight Capacities

An additional spec to pay attention to when shopping for a new shelving unit is the shelf weight capacity. Each unit lists this number in pounds and refers to the recommended weight limit the shelf can hold. This applies predominantly to stationary units. The shelf capacity on mobile units is much more likely to vary and often dependent on the casters’ weight capacity.

You may also notice units advertised as light duty shelving, medium duty shelving, and heavy duty shelving. Shelving is often categorized into one of these three areas based on capacity. Heavy duty shelves, like cantilevered shelving, can hold much more weight and used for more rugged applications without buckling or deformation.

Top Shelving Brands

Our Central Exclusive shelving combines the best prices with the best quality, featuring deals on units you won’t find anywhere else.  Central Shelving features an extra support that increases the weight bearing capacity of the shelf.  This is a feature you can’t find in other shelving, and it is at a price that can’t be beat! Throw on top of that the 13 year warranty and you can’t lose!


Value Series shelving is our most economical line of storage solutions, ideal for those looking to add much-needed storage space without breaking the bank.


Metro shelving has been a signature trademark in commercial facilities for more than 80 years. One of the most trusted brands in wire shelving, their Super Erecta system has become known as the “industry standard.” Metro manufactures more than 10,000 types of storage and transport solutions, including wire and plastic shelving, utility carts, and more.


Cambro shelving has their own registered line of shelving solutions known as Camshelving®. Their Premium, Elements and Basics series have redefined modern day storage. All are rust and corrosion free, built to withstand extreme storage applications and temperatures regardless of whether the environment is dry or humid.


Though they’ve dedicated the last half-century to making a name for themselves in commercial sanitation and waste management, Rubbermaid shelving and transport products feature stylish storage solutions that offer high-end performance matched with rugged durability.


Known in the industry for their assortment of stainless steel worktables, Advance Tabco also manufactures high-end stainless steel and wire wall shelving.


Focus offers an array of shelves and posts in a plethora of finishes and styles for custom configurations, ensuring your unit will match your unique environment.


Eagle Group wire shelving is made in the USA and comes in hundreds of different configurations, many available with their exclusive Microgard® antimicrobial agent for added protection against bacteria, mold and mildew.


John Boos shelving is available in different sizes and styles, from stainless steel to wire, wall mounted to stationary, with a large collection of add-ons like casters to readily turn a stationary model into a mobile one.


Specialty Restaurant Shelving

There are different types of shelving in addition to your standard stationary or portable storage solution. These shelves are specifically designed to offer unique solutions to common storage issues.

Security shelving reduces the risk of theft, providing a great solution for employees to store their valuables while on the clock, or for more sensitive items like top shelf liquor. These units feature a lock, but typically provide easy visibility of the contents inside.

Dunnage racks come in a variety of constructions (aluminum, polymer, etc.) and styles (stationary or mobile), and are a great solution for storing heavier, bulk ingredients like flour or sugar.

Wall mount shelving are ideal for attaching above work stations or prep tables for additional storage and to allow for quick organization and access of frequently used ingredients and food prep tools. They are available in a variety of sizes to cover the whole space of your individual work station, while remaining up high and out of the way.

Wine shelving is specifically designed to preserve wine quality by holding bottles at proper angles. These are traditionally vented units which enable air circulation to keep your wine selection at a consistent, cooler temperature.

We could ramble on all day about the various types of storage solutions, but the primary thing to note is it’s always best to have a firm grasp of what exactly you’ll be using your unit for. With seemingly infinite options, the perfect solution is sure to be out there. In addition to the above storage types, there are also storage solutions designed specifically for dishwashing, glass drinkware, dinnerware, commercial cookware, small shelving needs, and more. There’s also light duty, medium duty, and heavy duty shelving available, depending on desired use.


Shelving Accessories

As with the various shelving types and construction materials, there are also an assortment of parts and accessories to help users optimize for their specific organization needs. Some common accessories include:


Casters transform traditionally stationary models into mobile ones, allowing for a more versatile organization experience. Casters come in different diameters, materials and styles (locking or non-locking). Traditionally, for a four-post shelving unit, users will want two locking and two non-locking casters for optimal maneuverability.

Storage Baskets

Storage baskets make it easier to store smaller items that you need to keep track of, attaching directly to your unit. Ideal for cooking utensils, small parts, etc.


Covers can protect your shelving unit for water, dust and contaminants to prolong the life of your unit.

Hanger Tubes

Hanger tubes allow you to hang back of the house apparel like aprons, chef jackets, uniforms, etc. While they offer quick access for employees just clocking in, they also eliminate tedious folding.


Shelf Dividers

Shelf dividers are just one more way to enhance organization efforts, allowing you to break up longer shelving units into smaller sections.

Label Holders

Label holders provide a quick way to label ingredients and other stored food for better visibility and kitchen efficiency.

"S" Hooks

“S” hooks, deriving their name because of their S shape, are used to attach two wire shelving units side by side for a longer line of shelving, enabling continuous construction of your ideal storage space given your specific kitchen layout. S hooks are also ideal to adapt multiple pieces to create corner wall shelving units.

Mounting Brackets

Mounting brackets serve a similar purpose to S hooks by allowing for installation of multiple units, or for mounting a singular unit in place as an extra safety precaution.

Cleaning and Maintenance

As with any commercial equipment, commercial shelving requires continuous care to ensure a long, productive life. If you’re using shelving units in your commercial kitchen, regularly cleaning and sanitizing is necessary to ensure a safe and healthy environment.

Storage Area Regulations

Finally, some states have regulations on storage units, so it’s always best to review those beforehand. Most require food products to be at least 4 inches off the floor and separated from chemical cleaning agents.

For more information on commercial shelving units, peruse our thousands of models here, or call 800.215.9293 to speak with a foodservice industry expert.


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