When David Dawson sat at his kitchen table, “crying in his beer” after he was informed his recently purchased hood and exhaust system would not pass inspection – therefore it couldn’t be installed- he didn’t have any idea what to do next. Dawson and his wife Susan had already invested 25K and the thought of losing the money was crushing. The decision to increase the ante and invest another 25K was equally as painful. How could the Dawson’s have made such a mistake in a business where a stove and refrigerator seem to be such simple production tools? It’s easy – government regulations and local ordinances change every few miles, it seems. What may pass muster in one city will get the boot from the health inspector in another. When your adrenaline pumps through your veins at highway speed when that auctioneer opens the bidding at 0ne-hundred dollars, think twice- you may have one of the most beautiful hood systems in your town – gracing your garage.
Here are ten tips to consider when purchasing restaurant equipment.
1). If what you are purchasing is going in a commercial kitchen, it must have a blue NSF sticker on it. The National Sanitation Foundation is the Grand Poobah of equipment approval. The stickers are placed in a visible location on every piece of merchandise from stoves, hoods, refrigerators to commercial mixers and blenders. Check for authenticity, people have been known to attempt duplication. Lack of an NSF sticker could cause an NSF notice from the bank once the local health department levies the fines.
2). Don’t overbuy. The excitement of a new space often leads us to think we need everything in site. Kitchens need to be compact and should accommodate a menu with as few pieces of equipment as possible. Keep in mind that restaurant equipment never increases in value once an egg is cooked, stored, or beaten anywhere near it.
3). Beware of all used equipment unless you know the seller.
4). Have everything checked out before you purchase it if you are not buying from a well know dealer.
5). If purchasing from a restaurant owner suggest that you have a chance to see the equipment in operation before finalizing the transaction.
6). Check with your local health department, fire inspector, and building inspector before purchasing anything. Often they will each have a spec sheet on what can and cannot go into a commercial kitchen.
7).Check with city zoning. Frequently restaurants receive approval or are denied a license depending on parking availability. In some instances, as is the case in Carmel, California, you cannot open a restaurant unless you have water rights. That often costs more than a warehouse full of used stoves.
8). Make sure you are comfortable with your purchase. Don’t let a salesperson sell you what you don’t want. I know of an individual who ended up buying electric appliances on the advice of the equipment salesperson. That guy can really do a great job cooking an omelet in his garage. His restaurant runs on gas.
9). Beware of refrigeration. In hot months coolers, walk-ins and other compressor-operated units tend to overheat causing constant electric outages.
10). Make sure that the space you are considering has adequate electricity. Old buildings seldom can support modern day appliances. Blenders, microwaves and Panini Grills suck electric like squid drink seawater. Minimal supply will take a maximum investment to upgrade.