When building a restaurant, should you buy new or used kitchen equipment? That is the question. And of course, with these types of questions there’s never a single right answer. Here are some things to keep in mind when making your decision.
Timing is Everything: If you’re able to find used kitchen equipment in great condition before the plans are drawn up, there’s no concern with different measurements or utility requirements because the plans will account for the equipment. However, if you find used equipment after the plans are complete – or after construction begins – you’re likely looking at adding cost to retrofit the changes.
Consider the entire cost: Be sure you look at the entire cost of the kitchen equipment including installation, utilities, delivery, assembly and any potential changes to the architectural drawings. As an example, let’s look at a sink. Let’s say you have a certain sink spec’d out, but you find a deal on a bigger used sink you’d rather have. The calculations for your grease trap will now change and you might need to order a new grease trap and/or potentially re-do your drawings. Depending on your needs, this could be worth every penny, or you might decide to skip it.
Utility Costs: Utilities such as MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) might be inaccurate if you buy used equipment that differs from what was spec’d out in the plans. For example, if the plan spec’s out a remote condenser for your ice maker, but you find a used self-contained unit, that will change your HVAC needs. If you’re not displacing heat outside the restaurant with the remote condenser, that could be enough to require another ton or two of air. This could be a double whammy- you’ll have higher monthly utility costs, but you’ll also need to change your plans and/or install a different HVAC unit – likely wiping out any potential savings from the used equipment. But if you find a used remote condenser – the same type you were going to use anyway – it has the potential to save you a lot of money.
Maintenance Costs: Be sure to consider the cost of keeping the unit in great working condition. New equipment is going to be more expensive upfront, but the total cost could be less since it will likely be more efficient and work better for your needs. Maintenance costs need to be accounted for no matter what, but often used equipment will require a higher level of ongoing care.
Miscellaneous Costs: When looking at used equipment, you’ll want to consider a few miscellaneous items. For instance, do you need to rent a truck to pick up the equipment? Are there additional fees to have it assembled or installed? Is it still covered under warranty? Consider these questions for each piece of equipment, and the answers will help give you an accurate look at the costs and benefits.
Other Considerations: You’ll need to think about where you’re going to store used kitchen equipment until it’s needed. Depending on how old the equipment is, you’ll also need to consider that if you built the restaurant around the equipment and it no longer works when the restaurant is ready to open, could you replace it with the exact same unit? If not, you’ll be adding significant costs to retrofit a new unit.
A Special Note on Coolers: Used coolers are notorious for missing panels. It’s like putting together a puzzle, and if it’s used we see more often than not that a unit doesn’t always fit together correctly. One missing piece is all it takes to be unusable and if that’s the case purchasing a new cooler will be well worth the investment.
As you can see, these decisions should not be made in isolation. Almost everything will have a domino effect. So be sure when you are making choices on new or used equipment, you’re looking at the whole picture. A general contractor – especially one that specializes in restaurant construction – can help you think through what’s best for you.