Right the First Time: A Checklist to Help You Avoid Common Restaurant Equipment Buying Mistakes
Purchasing a piece of restaurant equipment can be stressful. After all, it’s likely to take a pretty penny and the success of your food service operation depends on your making a good decision. How can you be sure the commercial equipment you’re considering is the right one to meet your business’ needs for years to come?
While working with a dealer that provides personalized assistance backed by a team of professionals with years of experience in building successful kitchens is your best bet, there are some things you can consider on your own that will guide you on that path. To help you, we present this checklist of commonly-overlooked things you should review as you’re making your decision.
What’s my budget for this piece of equipment?
Obviously you’re going to consider how much you have to spend when you make a purchase. But with something like restaurant equipment, there are so many options and variables that can drive up the price that it helps to start with a base figure in mind. You may have to price check a few different versions of that commercial equipment to give you an idea of a reasonable figure to come into the process with.
What food(s) will I use this for and in what quantity?
Virtually all buying decisions for the commercial kitchen are driven by the menu. For example, you need a different type of commercial fryer for hand-breaded fish than you do for frozen cheese sticks. Make sure you’ve done your homework before you start shopping, otherwise the options may just seem like gibberish and you might be tempted to settle for the cheapest piece of equipment, though it may not work for what you need. You should also consider how much you plan to serve so you have an idea of the sizing you’ll need.
What utilities do I have available that might be used by this piece?
For major restaurant equipment purchases, utilities should always be considered. Whether it’s making sure you have gas available for a unit that uses it or checking to see that you have the right wiring and outlets for an electric unit, it’s important to consider what utility options you have before you start shopping. If you’re willing to pay for rewiring or to have gas brought in, it may not be as important, but if you buy a three-phase unit and you’re wired for single-phase, you’ll regret it.
Do I have an adequate way to get my kitchen equipment into the building?
This may seem like a simple question on the surface, but it’s tripped up plenty of commercial equipment buyers. The solution is to ensure the access points you have can accommodate the dimensions of the unit you’re considering. Additionally, you need to measure any hallways or other tight spaces you might have to navigate for the same clearances.
Will this piece be visible to my customers?
Whether you have a restaurant with an open-kitchen design or a convenience store that uses refrigerated merchandisers, there are certain pieces of equipment that your customers will see. If what you’re shopping for falls into that category, you’ll want to keep that in mind as you shop. You might consider a flashier and easier-to-clean chrome griddle or an attractive deck oven for the kitchen, while convenience and grocery stores will likely want a glass door or open air merchandiser that displays products to increase impulse sales.
Will I need a hood or ventilation system for this piece of restaurant equipment?
You may have a better idea about this once you’ve actually selected the piece, but you’re likely to have a decent guess from the start. For instance, if you’re buying a flattop, it’s a safe guess you will need a hood. Conversely, a commercial refrigerator will probably never need ventilation. Either way, you want to make sure you’re prepared with adequate ventilation and aren’t unnecessarily taking up space under a hood for something that doesn’t require it. Typically a wall canopy hood, the type found in most food service operations, has a maximum clearance of 48 inches from the equipment and 78-80 inches from the finished floor.
What health or safety regulations apply to this type of commercial equipment?
The answer may be none, but in most jurisdictions, there will be rules on many pieces, whether those are meant to prevent fires or bacterial growth. It’s good to know those things before you start shopping so you avoid choosing or, worse, buying kitchen equipiment that doesn’t match up. Making that mistake may cost you hundreds of dollars in wasted shipping charges and delay you quite a bit in opening your food service business.
How much space do I have for this piece of equipment?
This question is actually more complicated than it seems at first. That’s because measurements are sometimes taken from the wall to the edge of the nearest equipment. Meanwhile, three feet or so below where they’re taking those dimensions, there’s a baseboard that makes the space slightly smaller than the measurements further up the wall. That may mean they end up with a piece that won’t actually fit in the space allotted for it. Also, take into account that space may be required between the wall and the piece, particularly for commercial refrigeration, to allow for proper utility connections and airflow.