New vs Used Restaurant Equipment

Talk to an Expert

The truth is, there are really no hard and fast rules about what equipment should be bought new and what should be bought used. There are to many factors which go into the decision, to say definitively whether an entire category of products should be bought used or new. The best thing to do is to find a used restaurant supply store with a great reputation. Ask other restaurant owners, managers, or chefs where to go. Chances are they have already done a lot of the homework for you already.

That being said, as a general guideline, it's better to buy refrigeration equipment new. Refrigeration components have a limited life span, and it's hard to tell how long the owner of the equipment before you had it or how well they took care of it. That leaves just about everything else better off being bought used, with the occasional exception of gas equipment. Not because gas equipment won't last long, how often do gas pipes go bad? Rather because things that produce fire have to comply with tougher regulations, and older equipment may not meet current standards.

As a side note, I think it's worth mentioning here that regulations for commercial cooking equipment are different than those for domestic appliances. So although it's the latest trend to buy 'commercial equipment' for your kitchen remodel, you can't just pick up any commercial range and place it in your home. There's a long list of why you wouldn't want them anyway, but that's a discussion we'll leave for another day.

Restaurant Equipment to Buy Used

You can save a lot of money on used restaurant equipment, the biggest down side is that it won't come with a warranty. Though do you really need a warranty on pots and pans, sheet racks and shelving, or chairs and tables? One should hope not. Even mechanical equipment can often be of better quality used rather than new. There can be truth to the old adage "they don't make them like they used to." Older equipment, like meat slicers, grinders and mixers were often made in the past with stronger components, like gears rather than rubber belts or less complicated internal electronics. How many more electronic features do you need your commercial mixer than the ability to turn it on and run it at different speeds?

Commercial Cooking Equipment

As I stated above, cooking equipment can be a little more tricky. A used commercial range may work just as well as a new one, but you may not legally be allowed to install it. Sometimes you can add or change a component, or sometimes it already meets modern standards. It's not only best to talk to an expert, but make sure that 'expert' knows the regulations of the area you'll be doing business in.

Restaurant Equipment to Buy New

Commercial Refrigerators

Unless you know how long the previous owner had the equipment for and you can trust that they took good care of it, you are better off buying new. Prices have dropped dramatically on new commercial refrigerators and you don't have to wonder what kind of abuse it's been put through. Commercial coolers won't last long if you don't keep the working components clean or have the proper cooler for the location it will be used in.

If you want more information about how to choose and care for a commercial refrigerator, you can check out this article about how to choose a commercial refrigerator we wrote.

Finding a Used Restaurant Supply Store

There's no substitute, in any industry, for experience. We wouldn't suggest overlooking a younger company that is hungry to compete over a complacent supplier that's unwilling to negotiate, but the truth is equipping a commercial kitchen has a unique set of challenges and it takes time to learn all of the nuances. When you buy used equipment from a reputable restaurant supply store, you're paying for their expertise as much as the appliances themselves.

Though you may be asking, why don't I just bypass a used equipment dealer and find my used equipment at an auction or find a recently closed restaurant? Well, you could, but then you're also taking on the risk. When restaurant equipment is being auctioned, it's often the entire lot you're bidding on. It's not unusual that close to half of that equipment will end up going to the scrappers. It's probably not worth paying for an entire kitchen's worth of stuff, half of which you won't need and the half you do has a good chance of being garbage. When the used restaurant equipment supplier buys it, they'll sort through the good and the bad, test, refurbish and clean the appliances that are worth saving.

The entire process from finding the used kitchen appliances to making sure the equipment is suitable for the physical and regulatory environments of the new restaurant is complicated. The longer a company has been in business, the more knowledge they'll have. Find one that's been in business a while and has great reviews from new and recurring customers, and you'll certainly be happy about how much money you'll save and can put towards the other startup expenses of opening a new restaurant.