September 2019

Master-Bilt® Refrigeration News & Product Information

The Grab & Go Guide


Master-Bilt has discontinued open air “grab and go” merchandisers. However, much of the information in this article is still applicable if you’re looking for an open air model, so we are leaving it here as an informational guide only. Click or tap here for more on our other refrigeration equipment products. 



It’s no secret that product visibility and accessibility have a lot to do with increasing sales. That’s why, when dealing with refrigerated products, picking the right display solution can make all the difference to the bottom line. For many retailers, the answer is open air merchandisers, often referred to as grab-and-go cases or air curtains. Unlike glass door merchandisers, there’s no barrier between customer and product and open airs are easier to stock. Before making a decision, though, several factors must be considered including model types, store layout and options.

Basic Models

There are two basic types of open air merchandisers: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal models are typically around four feet tall with the most common widths being 36”, 48”, 60” and 72”.  Vertical models vary but typical heights include 60”, 72” and 79”. Their widths frequently match those of horizontal models.

For maximum security, you may want to consider vertical models with built-in roll-down covers. These covers work like overhead garage doors and are lockable. Covers mounted inside the canopy of the merchandiser, not on top, make it easier to fit through standard height doors and make for a more attractive design.

Open air merchandisers are available in horizontal and vertical model types. Vertical models with lockable metal roll-down covers are ideal for added security.

Standard Features

Some standard features to look for in open airs include:

  • Condensate evaporator pans to keep moisture from building up inside the merchandiser
  • Heavy-duty reinforced shelving to hold heavy loads
  • Retractable vinyl night curtains which hold in cold air and reduce electrical usage when the merchandiser isn’t in operation
  • Refrigeration systems designed to slide out the front for easy service access
  • Non-corrosive stainless steel floor pans on the inside to protect evaporator coils from spillage

Standard retractable vinyl curtains hold in cold air and reduce energy usage.

Proper Placement

When planning the best location for an open air merchandiser, you have to consider environmental conditions, available space and traffic flow.

A suitable operating environment is important for all refrigeration equipment but is critical for the proper operation of open air merchandisers. These merchandisers rely on a circulating air screen (or air curtain) design to keep cold air in and warm air out. Observing the “5/10/15 rule” minimizes disruption of the air curtain and ensures efficient operation of the system:

  • Locate cases at least 5 feet away from exterior windows. This is a good rule for all refrigeration units, but especially for open air merchandisers as open windows will likely disturb the air curtain.
  • Located cases at least 10 feet away from any type of ventilation system. HVAC discharge, return air, kitchen vents, etc. all create enough ancillary air flow to cause a significant disturbance to the air curtain
  • Locate cases at least 15 feet away from exterior doors. These doors typically see a lot of use and can create a lot of warm air movement when opened and closed

In addition, areas with direct sunlight should also be avoided.

Because of their lower height, horizontal models are ideal toward the front of a store or around check-out areas to help boost impulse purchases. Vertical models should be used in areas where there’s more space, typically around the store perimeter. If your sales volume is high, you should consider a vertical model as they have more shelves and can accommodate more product. You may also want to consider extra refrigerated storage in back of the house, like a reach-in or walk-in, to keep high turnover product on hand and make sure the open air merchandisers are adequately stocked.

Product Temperature

Open air merchandisers are designed to hold products at temperature only. They are not made to lower product temperature after it’s placed inside. Hot or warm foods should be allowed to gradually cool before placing them inside the merchandiser. Warm products will raise air temperature inside and will lower the refrigeration system’s efficiency.


There are many options you can add to increase the efficiency and convenience of open air merchandisers. Here are a few ideas:

  • LED lighting kits for shelves on vertical models fully illuminate the interior and make products stand out
  • Lockable, lift-off metal night covers for vertical merchandisers provide added security during down hours and are a more affordable alternative to models with built-in roll-down covers
  • Remote refrigeration systems help reduce in-store noise and heat given off by system compressors. With remote merchandisers the compressor is located on the roof or outside of the building. Taking the heat out of the sales space can also help reduce air conditioning costs.
  • For horizontal models a sandwich deck is an ideal way to organize and show off your product offering. Dividers are also available to separate product types.
  • Casters make it easy to relocate self-contained models to adapt to customer traffic flow or changes in store layout
  • A custom color interior and exterior can make the merchandiser integrate into your overall décor. A stainless steel interior and exterior gives a classy look while providing a durable finish.

LED lighting kits for shelves on vertical models fully illuminate the interior and make products stand out.


A sandwich deck for horizontal models is an ideal way to showcase products.