By Steve Carlson with Trish Jass, Senior Equipment Specialist
As food service designers and consultants, we are asked frequently about the possibility of using used equipment as a way to save money and meet project budgets. Related questions that come up during these discussions include: What happens to the equipment in restaurants that go out of business? and What types of foodservice equipment are “better bets” when it comes to buying used foodservice equipment? Since we don’t always have ready answers to these questions, some research was in order to formulate more accurate and less biased answers.
Consider the following:
- The best used equipment is equipment that you already own, because you know the service history and the condition of that equipment better than anyone else.
- Internet sites that sell used equipment (such as eBay) generally have no guarantee if the equipment is in good working order, no verification of service history, and no warranty.
- Used refrigerators may have refrigerant that is no longer available or that may soon be obsolete.
- Used equipment will not give the value of current Energy Star benefits such as better energy efficiency and lower utility and maintenance costs.
- Used equipment may not have important safety features found on newer models such as a volt release (required restart) for slicers during power interruption and mixer bowl guards for operator safety.
- If you need to operate the equipment 24 x 7, you will surely need reliable equipment to help maintain a high customer satisfaction rating.
- If your facility performs its own maintenance on equipment, it would make sense to standardize manufacturers and model numbers, so the maintenance staff is trained on how to repair this equipment and can stock needed parts.
- It may be difficult to find used equipment with the preferred electrical configuration.
What types of equipment are “better bets” when it comes to buying used equipment?
We consulted a number of foodservice equipment suppliers to help answer this question. It’s not uncommon for equipment suppliers to use used equipment in some projects, the usual instances for this would be in a small independent restaurant and not in facilities that operate 24 hours per day. All the equipment dealers agreed that the fewer moving parts, the better. Mobile equipment such as dish racks, shelving, or stainless steel worktables are best, since they have few movable parts or mechanical/electrical requirements. Equipment suppliers do, on occasion, use used cooking equipment, provided it is a national brand, and they get it from someone they trust. However, all agreed that they avoid using used refrigeration equipment and ice machines, because generally when these end up on the used market, it is because they aren’t functioning or are near the end of their life.
What happens to the equipment in restaurants that go out of business?
In many cases, the landlord has made the investment in the restaurant equipment and will keep the kitchen equipment in place, hoping to lease the space to another restaurant operator. In other cases, used equipment ends up on an Internet bid site.
Keep options open through design and bidding
If you are considering using used kitchen equipment for a new project, we suggest completing the design work with the assumption that any equipment that is not existing would be new. When the equipment is bid, we would ask the bidders for voluntary alternates including any used equipment they may have that they could propose as a substitute for some of the specified new equipment.
What do you think? We welcome your thoughts and comments.