Very few business ventures require as much initial time, effort, and money sink as opening a restaurant. If you ever wanted to run your own business and felt eager to jump straight into the deepest end of the pool, restaurant management is about as challenging as it gets. Margins are exceptionally tight, there are endless fluctuating and fixed costs to worry about, the success of your business relies on day-to-day popularity, your staff will likely start underpaid and overworked, and the logistics and managerial requirements of a restaurant business call for the strongest of nerves. Yet, any successful restaurateur will tell you that it was all worth it when it all comes together.
Good food brings in a good mood. Your restaurant becomes a cornerstone of the neighborhood and local food culture. You become a host and entertainer to countless people seeking a good time and can earn millions. Provided it all comes together. Juggling costs effectively is crucial, especially when setting up your own food business, when equipment becomes your most significant problem. You can’t start a business quickly with a small cooler and one four-burner gas range from your grandmother’s WWII-era apartment. Acquiring equipment for your commercial kitchen begins with a concrete checklist of what you need and optional equipment that might make life easier if you can fit it into the budget.
First things first – new isn’t always better. We’ve mentioned how cost juggling plays an important role, and even with significant capital or backing from friends, family, and financial institutions, used kitchen equipment is not only more cost-effective but enables you to acquire more equipment overall than if you opted for new dishwashers, gas ranges, ovens, and coolers. While getting a restaurant off the ground can be intimidating, it also comes as a great benefit to new owners.
There’s a huge market of used restaurant equipment with barely any mileage. Plenty of restaurants open with dreams of making it big but fail to convert their ideas into reality, don’t take off, spend their revenue frivolously, or become too complex and time-consuming to manage. These restaurants might be selling equipment that was barely ever used at a bargain bin price compared to the brand-new equivalent.
A source of great discounts for many restaurants are businesses that resell kitchen equipment and commercial equipment that was scratched, dented, or otherwise suffered a simple superficial flaw. These issues don’t affect the functionality of the equipment and let you considerably slash initial setup costs. Another important consideration is that many restaurants fail because they don’t make enough money in the first year or two. And that’s relatively normal.
What that means for you is that you should probably put enough cash aside to finance the operating costs of your restaurant for the first twelve months, at least. This dramatically limits your budget because you can’t go all-out in equipping your kitchen and dining area entirely in debt yourself and then bank on becoming an overnight success to cover said obligations. In addition to acquiring capital, other ways you might stay afloat during the first year include:
- Local grants
- Small business loans
- Community crowdfunding
- Equipment financing options
- Approved line of credit with your providers
Let’s look at some of the equipment you might need to get off the ground.
Building Your Commercial Kitchen Equipment Checklist
A franchise restaurant will have a completely different process for setting up the kitchen and dining hall than a small restaurant with an original idea. A bakery will also need various commercial kitchen equipment than a noodle shop. Your total bill and initial checklist will differ significantly depending on what kind of restaurant or food business you plan on opening. In general, though, you will want to consider:
- Prep equipment
- Storage equipment
- Cooking equipment
- Cleaning equipment
- Refrigeration equipment
Regardless of size and context, a commercial kitchen will need equipment to store ingredients, sauces, batter, dough, and other items, equipment to cook food, equipment to serve food, equipment to prep food items for later cooking, plenty of storage, refrigeration and freezing equipment, and various equipment to clean pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. Some basics may include:
- Multiple gas and/or electric ranges
- Grills and/or griddles
- Deep fryer
- Food holding equipment (to keep dishes warm)
- A commercial coffee machine (especially for espresso)
- Plenty of cooking utensils, pots, pans, woks, casseroles, soup pots, saucepans, and colanders
- Cutting boards
- Dishes and utensils for consumption
- Food prep and storage containers (Tupperware, glassware, mason jars, etc.)
- Multiple coolers
- A walk-in cooler or freezer for meat and other pantry goods
- A commercial oven
- Commercial ice machines
- Drying racks
- Bussing carts
- Food processors
- Mixers and blenders
- Grinders (for coffee and spices)
- Kitchen sinks (as per local health codes, including a grease trap and a 3-compartment sink)
- Multiple trash bins
- Cleaning supplies, buckets, and mops
- And last but not least, the mighty microwave
Altogether, setting up a restaurant can range from a hundred thousand dollars to a few million depending on the size and scope of the operation, the commercial lease, and the number of people you intend to seat at once. In addition to equipment and commercial leasing, restaurants also rack up additional furniture and décor. These costs aren’t minor. Restaurant furniture is built to withstand daily wear-and-tear from hundreds and hundreds of restaurant patrons over multiple years. Heavy-duty chairs and quality tables that don’t start tilting or rocking within six months are expensive and essential. Minimizing the cost of equipment, from the cooler to the chairs, is essential.
The Importance of Commercial Kitchen Equipment Financing
Commercial kitchen financing options range from leasing your most expensive items (to avoid upfront deposits or the cost of an outright purchase) to buying used and paying in rates. Leasing equipment gives you the benefit of being able to write off each lease payment as a tax-deductible cost on your tax return and lets you opt for newer equipment with the option to switch to the next model at the end of your lease term or outright buy the equipment via an option lease.
Choose to finance the purchase of your commercial kitchen equipment instead. A commercial kitchen equipment loan may be easier to acquire than most conventional bank loans and allows you to qualify for a bank loan to cover other operating costs that aren’t as easy to seek financing for. Choosing the right financing partner is crucial. A company specializing in equipment loans and leases will help guide you through your purchase options and help make your budget and checklist work.