Commercial Shelving for Restaurants

Learn the differences between chrome-plated wire shelving, epoxy coated shelving and polymer shelving to find out which commercial shelving is best for your restaurant.

Shelving plays a critical role in the restaurant. When space is tight (and in a restaurant, it always is), shelving is what helps you maximize your otherwise wasted vertical space. Chances are that you'll have some kind of commercial shelving in your pantry to store dry goods, shelves in the walk-in for refrigerated and wet ingredients, and even shelves in storage closets to hold cleaning supplies and other materials. When it comes to shelves though, not every shelf is created equally.

In this buying guide, we'll cover the different commercial shelving materials you'll encounter, and which ones work best for your environment. Choosing the right shelf in the beginning could save you a lot of money on replacements (and health inspector fines) in the future. Ready to learn more? Let's get started!

Commercial Shelving Materials

Not all shelves are created equally, and as such certain shelving units will set you back farther than others. Before you purchase your shelving, consider what you intend to store and where. As a restaurant owner, you will need to source storage solutions for both your dry and wet ingredients, plus other materials like cleaning solutions, buckets and more. Like most things in the kitchen, cleanliness is key to maximizing the life of your equipment (and your food products). Commercial shelving is often made with three common materials: chrome-plated wire shelving, epoxy coated shelving, and plastic shelving. Find out which type of shelving would work better for your environment—bonus points for purchasing those that tout anti-microbial features which help ward off bacteria, mold, mildew and more!

Good: Chrome-Plated Wire Shelving

Good: Chrome-Plated Wire Shelving

The most affordable commercial shelving option, wire shelving is a common go-to for most restaurants and commercial businesses. The benefit of wire shelving is that air can easily circulate around your product, helping to keep items dry and prevent the growth of mold, mildew and condensation. This type of shelving is also easy to assemble and customize, and can often hold up to 150 pounds per shelf.

Unfortunately, the benefits end there. Chrome-plated wire shelving is cheap because while it is rust resistant it is not rust proof —making this option a huge "no no" when it comes to shelving options in your walk-in cooler. Health inspectors know that rust particles can end up in food product, so don't be surprised if the presence of chrome-plated wire shelving earns you a black mark during your inspection.

Better: Epoxy Coated Wire Shelving

Better: Epoxy Coated Wire Shelving

For a wire shelving option that works for walk-in coolers, look to epoxy coated shelving. This durable coating is rust proof, giving you great protection against corrosion. Though priced higher than chrome-plated wire shelving options, a single epoxy coated shelving unit will last. Don't be surprised if you're footing the bill on two or even three chrome-plated shelving sets for every single epoxy coated shelf. That said, the epoxy coating can wear off over time, particularly for shelves that store metal (steam pans, cookware, etc.) which can scrape off the coating. Many epoxy coated shelving units only hold about 150 pounds until you start to see warping or bending of the shelves.

Best: Polypropylene/Polymer Plastic

Best: Polypropylene/Polymer Plastic

Polypropylene or polymer shelving units are at the high end of the budget, and with good reason. These highly durable commercial shelving options are completely rust proof, making it a great option for walk-ins and extremely humid environments (especially those on the coast). Metal shelving units have a thick outer coating of plastic that makes it lightweight, corrosion-resistant, are dishwasher safe and can easily be wiped clean. Though they garner a higher price tag, you'll also find that they come with an even longer warranty. One of the most popular plastic units is made by Cambro; their Camshelving® units come with solid or vented shelves, are ideal for wet and dry storage, and can hold anywhere from 600 to 3200 pounds, depending on the series.

Commercial Shelf Types

Most commercial shelving units come in one of two styles: solid shelves or vented shelves. While most wire shelving units will naturally come with vented options, some polymer shelving options give you more flexibility to "plug and play" different shelf types. Read on to learn more about solid and vented shelves..

Stick to solid shelf types in your dry storage areas only; due to the nature of solid shelves, air cannot circulate as easily around your products which could promote the growth of molds and mildews in humid environments. But solid shelves do come with their perks—no holes means no worries about cross contamination from products spilling or dripping onto others.
Vented shelves are those with slats, which help promote air circulation around products. Unlike solid shelves, you need to take caution with what items are placed on higher shelves lest you inadvertently contaminate your product. For example, meat and other protein should be placed on lower shelves in case it drips onto other products.

Specialty Commercial Shelving

These special shelving options are niche solutions to meet your specific needs. Bakeries often store large items like flour and sugar in bulk that require heavy duty shelving solutions that can accommodate the weight.

Dunnage Racks

For your heavier bulk items, look to dunnage racks. These heavy duty shelving solutions can often hold as much as 2,000 pounds and plug into your existing wire shelving pretty easily—just leave out your bottom shelf and slide the dunnage rack in underneath. You'll find that dunnage racks are often made out of plastic or aluminum, which are both good anti-rust materials.

Some polymer shelving units like Camshelving® offer dunnage stands that integrate seamlessly into your shelving unit to increase weight bearing capacity on the bottom shelf.

Wine Shelving

Wine Shelving

Featuring a curved surface to comfortably (and securely) store your wine bottles, wine shelving is a very inexpensive way to protect your investment. Not only does the wire shelving allow air to circulate easily around your bottles to maintain a cool consistent temperature, but it stores wine at the appropriate angle to preserve wine quality.

Security Shelving Racks

Security racks are an ideal option for those that need to lock up expensive alcohol, wine and other sensitive items. Often featuring adjustable feet or perched on a set of casters, these see through "cages" allow you to view the contents of what is locked away securely.

Wall Mount Shelving

Wall mount shelving is helpful in the kitchen, where you want to keep spices, canisters and other ingredients close by. Commercial wall shelving is built to be highly durable and holds cookware out of the way (but within arm's reach). Between solid stainless steel options and open chrome-plated wire, you'll find a variety of wall shelving options to suit your needs.

Keg Racks

Kegs can be ridiculously heavy, particularly when they're full. Keg racks are ideal for holding heavy kegs full of beer in a way that's both accessible and moveable.

Commercial Shelving Accessories

Make the most of your commercial shelving by sourcing additional accessories to enhance your storage options. From labels, to dividers, S-hooks and more, you can maximize your space by picking up a few of these components.


S-hooks enable you to connect two shelving units so that they share a common post. S-hooks come in both chrome-plated and epoxy coated options.


Cleanliness is key when it comes to your storage solutions. Commercial kitchens can be terribly dirty, and buildup of bacteria, mold, and even rust can contaminate your food and make customers sick. The easier it is to clean in and around your shelving, the more likely you'll pass your next inspection with flying colors.

Not only do casters make it easier to move shelving around for cleaning, but they add additional clearance from the floor which earns you high marks from inspectors. Invest in some expanding stem casters that fit into round or square posts and then expand to make a tight fit. And don't forget to get a couple outfitted with brakes so you can secure your shelf when not in motion!

Shelf Label Holders

Every item that enters your kitchen should be labeled with a "use by" date and stored correctly. Organization helps you minimize food waste, reduces cross contamination and, most of all, keeps guests safe.

Wire Shelf Storage Baskets

Ideal for storing dishes, produce and other items, storage baskets keep smaller items contained and stored safely.

Wire shelf dividers

Great for dry storage, shelf dividers separate your product into clear sections that are easier to manage. Organization and efficiency for the win!

Shelf brackets

Keep your inventory safe (and your staff safer) by safely securing those tall shelving units to the wall with shelf brackets.

Wire shelf ledges

Quite possibly one of the simplest, and smartest accessories for your shelf. Ledges prevent product from sliding off the shelves and onto the floor.!

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