The following article on buying used restaurant equipment is a guest post our friends at Humanity.
Opening a new restaurant on your own is a daunting and expensive challenge. There’s no denying that. You’ve picked out a location and put a down payment on it and decorated it inside and out. What’s next?
Now you have to fill it with equipment that will actually enable you to cook – not a minor detail, is it? As with most other businesses, leasing equipment is an option, but when it comes to restaurant equipment, buying usually makes more sense in terms of costs in the long run.
Of course, you should be looking to save money wherever you can, which is why buying used equipment is an option that you should consider. Getting brand new equipment would be great, but that’s not an option when looking at the budget of most would-be independent restaurateurs.
Hunting down quality used restaurant equipment then becomes an excellent alternative. Sure, it might have its nicks and scratches, but buying high quality, fully functional used equipment and saving a lot of money in the process is an option that every budding restaurant owner should look into.
Here are some options to be on the lookout for when starting the search.
Used Restaurant Supply Stores
If you are living anywhere near a relatively large city, there is a pretty good chance that there will be a used restaurant supply store somewhere in your area. These stores buy, sell and trade used equipment, supplies and furniture, so getting in good with the people working there could be very beneficial for you.
If it’s a bit far away and you can’t visit the store regularly, developing some type of rapport with the people there could come in very handy. For example, you can let them know what kind of equipment and supplies you are looking for, and ask them to call you up and let you know whenever something that might interest you comes in.
But definitely make the trip to see the equipment first, because you never know about the condition, even though most of these stores will guarantee that the equipment will at least be in perfectly working condition, even if it doesn’t look so hot.
Going Out of Business Sales
One restaurant’s misfortune can be your good fortune, because the restaurant business is not an easy one. According to an Ohio State study, 60% will fail in the first year and up to 80% will go under in the first three. That means that there are many discouraged restaurant owners out there who want to get rid of their equipment in an effort to make some money back.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep track of how local eateries are doing. If you see that a local restaurant, coffee shop or burger bar has gone out of business, get in contact with them and see if they are willing to sell you some of their equipment.
This is not only a good way to get virtually new equipment cheap, it’s a pretty good way to find new restaurant employees as well!
Sometimes restaurant owners who go out of business do not want to got through the hassle of trying to sell off their equipment on their own. In these circumstances, they will sometimes turn to auction houses to sell it for them.
It might be a less profitable route to take for them, but it’s definitely a faster route with less stress involved. This is good news for you as well.
Auction houses will take the time to perform detailed evaluations of the equipment before they sell it. They are obligated to do so, because they are the ones that are pricing the items.
So it might cost you more buying from an auction than directly from the restaurant owner, but at least you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what condition the equipment is in.
Another good thing about having these evaluations is that you can then bid on items online that are being sold across the country without having to go out and see them to confirm their condition.
When you are buying damaged or discontinued equipment, you are technically buying new, but paying used prices. Check out stores that sell restaurant equipment and even have a look at big retailers like Best Buy.
These retailers often have equipment that comes to them already damaged. Sometimes it’s scratched or dented, or sometimes they get discontinued equipment that is not sold in retail any longer. But in most cases, all of this equipment is brand new and fully functioning.
This is pretty much the equivalent of shopping at off-price clothing and apparel stores like T.J Maxx. You are getting name brand new items with slight, almost unnoticeable faults for a discounted price. Best of all, you’ll even get a warranty on the equipment when buying this way.
Storage Locker Auctions
There are plenty of restaurants that rent out storage lockers in order to keep equipment they don’t need somewhere. Sometimes these restaurants close and the owners stop paying rent for the storage lockers, after which they are put up for auction.
Almost everyone has seen the “Storage Wars” reality television shows, so there’s no need to explain how it works. But if you are going to be trying out this route, stick to the restaurant equipment. If you see a locker with equipment you can use, bid on it. Don’t get carried away with bidding on other things that have nothing to do with restaurant equipment.
If you attend enough of these, you’ll be bound to run into a locker that contains offshoot restaurant equipment. Make sure you have enough cash in your pocket to get it when the time comes.
While you might not be able to find a lot of restaurant-specific equipment at a garage sale, you’ll definitely be able to find something. For example, if you need new computers for your office, getting them for cheap at a garage sale might be an option.
Be sure to check your local papers and online ads on a regular basis to see if there are going to be any garage sales in your area every weekend. The people holding the sales will usually mention in their ads that there will be a lot of office equipment available to ensure that buyers looking for this type of stuff will show up.
If you don’t really need a certain piece of equipment to be state-of-the-art, you could always check out resale stores. These are usually non-profit resellers. Restaurants, retailers and hotels commonly donate equipment they no longer need to these types of organizations and then the resale stores will sell them.
It’s a good place to look if you need items like tables and chairs; equipment that doesn’t necessarily have to be new and modern. And if you buy from them, it’s a win-win situation – you’re getting equipment for cheap and the money you have spent is going to people in need.
You should always get to know restaurant owners in your area and become friends with them. You never know when they might be upgrading their equipment and looking to sell their current inventory for cheap.
This can obviously work both ways as well. If you are planning on getting rid of some old equipment to make room for newer equipment, let all of your local friends who run restaurants know about it.
It provides an opportunity for them to get equipment for cheap and for you to offset the costs of buying your new equipment.
The best advice when it comes to buying used restaurant equipment is to make sure that you aren’t leaving any stone unturned. The best deals aren’t always the easiest ones to find.
By looking at all the options available for buying used equipment, you are also educating yourself about the process of selling used equipment, which can obviously come in handy to you down the road as well.
There’s so much to think about financially when starting your own restaurant. Paying the rent, paying your employees, marketing your restaurant – these are all things that you are going to need to plan for in your budget.
That’s why saving wherever you can is so vital – and opting for buying used equipment instead of buying new or leasing is certainly a good way to cut costs in the beginning.