Bakery Display Cases Buying Guide

Is there anything as tempting as a display of baked goods, seducing customers with their golden crust, tender crumb and pretty decorations? It is no wonder a proper display case could be one of the best investments you can make for your deli, restaurant, café or bakery. Not only does it create a beautiful showcase for your baker’s artwork, it can increase sales at the same time it extends the life of cakes, cookies and pies. 

There are dozens of different types of display cases, ranging from simple cake stands to refrigerated floor cabinets. No matter what type of foodservice establishment you run, it’s important to choose the showcase that will meet your needs, budget, and space. Which one is right for your business? This bakery display case buying guide will help you decide. 

Various desserts


Why invest in a bakery display case? 

When it comes to baking, appearances really do matter. We taste first with our eyes, and that first taste is often what tempts us to spend our money. 

The first reason to buy a bakery display case is presentation, but a display case is about more than that. 

It keeps products at the right temperature and in the right condition to maintain their freshness and extend the window for selling them. It also keeps food out of the reach of contamination and greedy fingers. At the same time, baking displays increase staff-customer interactions, which in turn can lead to more sales. 

Filling up bakery cases and looking at baking

Types of bakery display cases 

Do you want customers to serve themselves or to be served by staff? Do you want to keep food warm, cool or at room temperature? How much space do you have? What are you trying to showcase? Depending on your needs, here’s what to look for. 

Cake stands and covers

When you have a small space and just a few items to showcase, display stands and covered cake stands are a pretty way to display them while also evoking a romantic, old-timey nostalgia. 

Cake stand and cake stand cover

Bakery cases

There are full-service and self-service models, refrigerated and non-refrigerated bakery cases, cases with straight glass and curved glass, and each has different benefits. (See below.) 

Countertop cases

These small cases are designed, as the name would suggest, to sit on the counter, often near the cash. They usually have two or three levels and are ideal for pre-packaged grab-and-go items as well as some baked goods. Countertop cases can also be called bakery cases or display cases.

Selection of countertop bakery cases

Deli cases

These keep meat, cheese and other deli items at 40°F (4°C), which is cold enough to prevent spoilage. Deli cases can also display and hold baked goods. 

Why temperature control is important for bakery display cases 

The biggest difference between cases is whether they are refrigerated (“wet”) or not (“dry”). 

If you’ve ever stored bread in the fridge, you’ll have noticed how quickly it goes stale. That’s because starch molecules recrystallize very quickly at cool temperatures. Bread, cookies, pastries, bagels and donuts should instead be stored in non-refrigerated cases. 

On the other hand, for reasons of food safety as well as freshness, some baked goods—cheesecake, fruit pies, mousses, custards and cream cakes—must be kept cold. Refrigerated bakery cases range in temperature from 33°F to 41°F (0.5°C to 5°C) and use two basic types of cooling: forced air or gravity coil. 

Gravity coil systems have a refrigeration coil at the top of the cabinet that allows cool air to drop down over the food, but the air doesn’t circulate so these systems are better for deli products. Forced air systems rely on fans to circulate cold air throughout the cabinet, which is a better environment for baked goods. 

If you plan to offer both perishable and non-perishable items, consider a dual-zone merchandiser, which comprises both dry and refrigerated compartments in one unit. 

And, just as there are units with refrigeration, there are also units with heaters to keep foods such as pizza or samosas warm. These are ideal for self-serve cafeterias, convenience stores and buffets. 

Heated bakery display cases

Why bakery display case size matters 

Size matters, but not perhaps the way you think it does. Baked goods have a limited shelf life, so even if you have room for a large floor model, a smaller display case may be better for your needs, saving space, energy and money. 

Sizes of display cases can range from small countertop units to 96-inch-high floor models, and in widths from 36 to 77 inches. Width is important—after all, you want the unit to fit into the space you’ve earmarked for it—but height is also crucial because you want customers to be able to see the items you want to sell. 

The theory is that the greater the height of a unit, the more a customer can see and the more money you can make. But placing items at eye level, say, on a cake plate on a countertop can have the same effect. 

Bakery case design and materials 

There are a number of different display case designs, but the two you will mostly come across are straight cases or curved cases. 

Straight display cases present a more traditional look. The glass (or acrylic) is actually slanted slightly, about 12 degrees, to avoid reflection from overhead lighting obstructing the view of the foods in the case. 

Curved display cases are slightly more expensive and are considered more contemporary. They offer a better view of your product from the top because the glass curves back instead of stopping—this can make them a better choice for showcasing baked goods. 

Glass is beautiful, durable, versatile, looks expensive and has the price tag to match.. It’s also fragile and can crack, break or shatter, which is why acrylic (also known as plexiglass) can be a better choice. It is stronger and less likely to break than glass; it is also lighter, which makes it easier for self-serve customers to open doors. Acrylic is more malleable, too, so you can find unique design options for your establishment. 

Bakery display case doors 

If you operate a self-service establishment, opt for a case that can be opened from the front. If your business is full service, then choose a case that can only be opened from behind the counter. There are dual service “pass-though” models as well, which allow staff to load the case from the back while customers serve themselves from the front. 

Note that in some regions, health requirements demand full-service cases for health and sanitation reasons. Also note that mirrored end panels or rear doors can make a display case appear fuller and bigger.

Filled bakery display case 

Bakery case shelving 

The type of shelving your display unit has can make a huge difference to the number of products you can display and store. 

Each shelf should be tall enough that you can easily see and reach each item, but not so tall that you’re wasting space—you don’t really need a lot of height unless you are displaying multi-tiered cakes. 

The shelves themselves may be made of wire, plastic, metal, wood or glass—consider how the materials fits with your brand identity and whether it increases or decreases visibility of items in the case. 

Bakery case lighting 

Some bakery cases have illuminated interiors designed to help make products look their best. Depending on the model, some cases use specialized fluorescent bulbs that enhance certain colours or types of products, like red meat or pastries. Sometimes additional interior lighting is an option. Some models have the lighting in the top, while others may have shelf-mounted lighting. In any case, lighting your products is key to their presentation, so make sure the case you’re buying meets your needs. 

Don’t forget: Even if your display case isn’t refrigerated, if it has lighting it will need an outlet nearby, and may need more power than a standard 120-volt outlet can provide. 

Tempt the tastebuds of your customers with a bakery display case that shows off the talents of your bakers. Adding a muffin, cookie, cupcake or square to every order can make a big difference to your bottom line.

Written by Joanne Sasvari 

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