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Quality

As a restaurant owner, you know the right restaurant equipment in your kitchen can make all the difference in the menu items you serve. You also know that the culinary industry has had a long debate regarding whether gas or electric equipment is better. The line is drawn and staunch supporters are in each camp of a debate that will likely never be resolved.

Debate aside, the truth is that gas and electric both have advantages and both can fit in very nicely with your kitchen. Let’s explore!

Many commercial kitchens choose gas ranges. Price is certainly a factor; gas has traditionally been far cheaper than electricity. Of course, this is assuming that you already have a gas line installed in your restaurant. If not, gas installation, when all is said and done, could prove costly.

Gas can produce far greater BTU than electric at a fraction of the cost, which means more heat for the dollar when it comes to gas. Electric ranges are much more efficient as well; they have far lower heat loss, meaning most of the electrical energy is converted directly to heat, so that will keep your chefs comfortable and your cooling bills lower.

Cost aside, chefs like gas ranges because they are more flexible, an important factor during the busy dinner rush. Gas ranges get hotter quicker, so there’s no waiting time to begin cooking. Chefs consider it more artful too; gas is more difficult to maintain even temperatures with gas, but any chef will tell you that’s half the challenge and half the fun. A gas flame is more distributed, so the bottoms, as well as the sides of cooking pans, are better heated. And, since a gas flame goes out immediately when the burner is turned off, a gas stove cools down much more quickly than its electric counterpart. Gas is more dependable too. Chefs don’t have to worry about power outages.

However, gas ranges do have safety concerns. Open flames may not be the best idea in a small kitchen space, so electric may be the safest option. An electric range is much less of a fire hazard because there is no open flame present. Gas leaks can occur quickly with very little warning for all sorts of reasons ranging from careless employees to freezing outdoor temperatures. Until the leak is repaired, your restaurant is offline.

Kitchen maintenance should always be taken into consideration when purchasing equipment. In general, electric restaurant equipment is far cheaper to purchase, install and maintain. Electric ranges are also much easier to clean. Cooking with gas means far greater carbon residue on the range, so electric ranges are much easier to deal with. Many chefs prefer electric ranges because they can more evenly and consistently cook a variety of foods.

While most of us only think of gas ranges, chefs also must choose between a gas or electric oven. Electric models are initially cheaper than gas to purchase, but a gas oven is up to four times cheaper to operate. Electric ovens take a while to heat up but hold the heat better between oven uses. Because commercial kitchens have ovens that have nearly continuous use, consider your operating costs carefully.

The ovens do provide very different cooking styles given the two very different heat sources. Gas ovens tend to provide a moister heat, so meat dishes don’t dry out. Electric ovens do provide a drier cooking style for crispier, crunchier foods.

There is certainly no standard answer for choosing gas or electric. Gas is not a foregone conclusion; electric ranges offer many compelling advantages over gas. The choice depends on your specific restaurant – your space, your budget, your menu and so many other factors. Think about your restaurant’s specific needs and make the choice.

Ah, the choices! When purchasing professional kitchen equipment, the process of deciding what to buy can be overwhelming. Used or new? Where to buy? Which brand? Lease or own? These decisions don’t have to be daunting – there is a way through the maze.

 

As a first step, start with the essentials. What menu items do you offer? Make a starting list of the equipment you need to prepare each menu item. If you sell pizza, you’ll need pizza pans, a grill and ovens. Do you need deep fryers, a grill, steamers and griddles? Leave no stone unturned; make sure you’ve accounted for it all.

 

Start with the basics; you can always add items on as you go. Here are some necessary essentials:

  • Range
  • Oven
  • Grill
  • Deep-fryer
  • Reach-in or walk-in cooler
  • Freezer

Next, how will you serve items? If yours is a buffet restaurant, you will need cook and hold ovens and warmer tray equipment. Do you serve cocktails? You’ll need lots of barware items.

Another factor to consider is your restaurant capacity. How many people can you accommodate at any given time? Be sure that you are creating a list that considers this scale. Also be sure to take your kitchen layout into consideration. Both the space and the layout will dictate your equipment purchases. Food needs to flow smoothly from the prep area to the line, so closely consider your kitchen’s function when creating your restaurant equipment list. Think about how many employees will be in your kitchen during your busiest time, and organize it to avoid bumps, spills and other accidents.

Don’t forget about safety equipment that is necessary for you to get your permits – items like a vent hood for example, or fire extinguishers. Make sure you have considered the type of appliances for your gas and electric cooking needs. Storage needs should also be considered; think about where you will store your food and dishes.

 

Last but certainly not least, consider your overall budget. With the average restaurant opening cost at a cool quarter of a million dollars ($250,000) money goes fast. You can certainly buy new equipment; in fact, if you can afford it, new is certainly better. However, items do depreciate immediately after purchase, so you may want to consider buying some items used from an auction or restaurant supply store.

 

In general, refrigerators, freezers and ice machines should be purchased new. You will know you can meet the health code requirements and you can avoid any cross-contamination to your kitchen. It is simply not worth the risk of having a bad health inspection. Refrigerators and similar used equipment often have hidden issues that could be very costly down the road if you need repairs. Furthermore, if you have a freezer or refrigerator that is out of commission, you could lose a huge inventory to spoiled food.

Used equipment has pros and cons. On one hand, you can find gently-used high-quality equipment still under warranty for a fraction of the cost of new items, sometimes for pennies on the dollar. On the other hand, some auction purchases are not under warranty, so you take on added risk. Auctions generally tend to be a great place to buy items like flatware, glassware, dishes, utensils and bread baskets. You can also usually buy these items fairly reasonably at auction:

  • Sauté pans, stock pots and saucepans
  • Baking sheets
  • Chef’s knives
  • Mixing bowls
  • Steam table
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Rubber floor mats

Purchasing for a commercial kitchen is a huge investment. Don’t be tempted to buy before you complete your comprehensive list. Also look for duplicate items and make sure you are not buying too few or too many of any one particular item. Most of all, prioritize your needs because you may not be able to buy it all at once. Once you’ve done all of this due diligence, it’s finally time to buy. Happy shopping!

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!

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