Advantages to Buying Restaurant Equipment at Auction.

As a restaurant owner, you may spend nearly $300,000 to start your businesses, so if all you are doing is writing checks and swiping your credit card, consider buying restaurant equipment at auction. This is a great way to really stretch your dollar. Here are some tips for acclimating yourself in the auction world.

Restaurants sell their equipment to auction for many reasons. Auction houses usually have a plentiful supply of just about any type of equipment you need at much lower costs, and since kitchen equipment often tops the list as the most expensive items purchased, auction buying can be a smart choice.  Quite often, buyers can find the same quality items slightly used for a fraction of the price of a new item.

In addition to lower cost, there are several upsides for purchasing auction equipment. New restaurant items like stoves and refrigerators quickly depreciate in value as soon as you take them out of the box, much like automobiles. Owners can find great deals on auction items and might even be able to negotiate a bit on price.

Opening a restaurant is a risky business, and many owners sadly cannot keep their doors open, therefore gently used items show up at auction in a fairly steady stream. Most reputable auction houses will show inspection certifications regarding the equipment’s repair and safety history. If certificates are not available, ask the seller about inspecting and testing the equipment yourself. Furthermore, warranties still may apply to used equipment, and because warranties follow the equipment and not the owner, the manufacturer is still responsible for any issues even when ownership changes hands.

However, buying used restaurant equipment also has its downsides. Warranties might be expired, so you are on your own if something breaks. There is always the possibility of unforeseen damages that occur down the line -- repairs that might cost more than the equipment is actually worth. Finally, you may not find everything you need at auction, or it may take a long time. You might have to make some sacrifices, too, such as buying a different brand or giving up some functionality. Always look for a reputable seller by researching both the auction house and the original restaurant.

You can buy nearly anything at auction, from the largest refrigerator to the smallest accessory. Make a comprehensive list. Most owners make the mistake of only listing big-ticket items like ovens or refrigerators, but small appliance needs and items like cutting boards can quickly add up to a big price tag. Don’t forget the small stuff, like pots and pans and food processors; list not only what you need to prepare each menu item, including your cocktails, but also what you need to serve those menu items – plates, forks, glasses and more.

Definitely involve your chef in the process, as he or she has the most knowledge about what tools are needed. Consider different restaurant scenarios, like happy hour, lunch service, private receptions and a busy dinner service night to make sure you are listing everything needed for every situation. Some restaurant owners have created a list of every menu item and every kitchen tool needed to make that recipe – now that is a comprehensive list!

Once you have a complete list, separate the list into must-haves and nice-to-haves. Most people start out with a long list of “musts”, but when they really ponder it, the must-haves list becomes shorter and more and more items soon move over to the nice-to-have list.

Prior to the auction, a description of each item will be available. Do your homework and study the auction listings well in advance. Look at details like whether the owner’s manual is included with the equipment and make a list of questions you have about each item.

Once you have your sights set on a few pieces of equipment, measure twice and purchase once. Definitely make sure you have accurately measured all the places where your auction equipment will be because you won’t be able to return it!

Buying nice high-quality equipment without busting your budget is a challenge indeed, but smart auction purchases can help you meet your restaurant equipment needs. Happy bidding!