Should I Buy New or Used Equipment?

Line cooks working in a busy restaurant kitchen.

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When the time comes to buy equipment for your new restaurant, you may be wondering if it's better to buy brand new restaurant equipment or if you should cut costs by buying used. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, and if you do decide to buy new, there are also many other ways you can save money while getting your restaurant ready for business.

Advantages of New Restaurant Equipment

Purchasing new equipment has an obvious advantage…it’s new. And it most likely comes with a warranty. However, depending on the type of equipment, a bit liking buying a car, the minute it leaves the showroom, its value dramatically decreases. Because new restaurants have kind of a high failure rate (I know, not what you were looking to hear right now) you can often find quality used restaurant equipment for pennies on the dollar. Bigger, pricy pieces of restaurant equipment, such as stoves, ovens, refrigeration units are also a good deal when purchased used. Another point to remember about buying used equipment is that prices are not always set in stone. You can often haggle the prices with dealers. So don’t be afraid to ask for a lesser price when looking at used equipment.

You can find lots of used restaurant equipment through commercial auction houses. If you go to a restaurant auction, do your homework and find out how long the place was open. Examine the appliances, looking for telltale signs of wear and tear like rust, missing parts, etc. If you are really lucky, you can still get the warranty with a piece that is not too old. Gas ranges, one of the most expensive pieces of commercial kitchen equipment you’ll have to buy, usually have very long life spans and should definitely be considered buying used.

Benefits of Leasing Restaurant Equipment

Leasing commercial equipment is another option when outfitting a new restaurant. Certain pieces of restaurant equipment are better suited to leasing, because of their short life span. They wouldn’t be worth the investment to buy new. These items include ice machines, dishwashers, coffeemakers, and coolers. Often times the latter two – coffeemakers and coolers- will be provided free by your beverage distributor.

The last thing I recommend you think about is the size of your overall restaurant, your menu, and your kitchen. You may think you need a lot more equipment than you actually do. For example, when I outfitted my last restaurant kitchen, I added in a pricy refrigerated set of drawers to the kitchen line, in addition to the reach-in coolers. This was totally unnecessary. In the end, we found it more efficient to store the food all in one cooler, rather than a hodgepodge throughout the kitchen. And the drawers were always sticking and ended up breaking (after the warranty, of course).

Other Ways to Save Money at Your Restaurant

Outside of your restaurant kitchen, there are many places you can save money buying used equipment. While it would be nice if your restaurant was all sparkly and new, just remember, new doesn’t always equal better. Glassware, linens, baskets, and flatware are all steals when purchased used. Tables and chairs are also good deals but can look dated. It all boils down to what you want to spend and what areas you want to spend it on.