Equipping Your Business
One way to blow a lot of money out of your start-up budget is to buy too much equipment. The best plan of action is to buy little by little, and only add expensive pieces of equipment after you have a demand for them. For example, wait to buy a commercial-sized mixer until you have so much business that you know you'd need to use it every day.
“After you buy your basics, buy equipment as you need it,” advises Stephan Baroni, managing director of Hudson Yards Catering. Rent equipment when you need it, and don't waste money on equipment that you won't use often enough to justify the cost.
Catering equipment can be broken down into five main sectors:cooking equipment, food handling equipment, food preparation equipment, refrigeration equipment, and miscellaneous catering equipment. These products are used to store, prepare, cook, display, and serve food and to wash food, utensils, and crockery.
Make sure to budget for each type of equipment that you know you'll need in your business plan. Price key items by checking restaurant supply sites online. Remember that the cheapest option is not always the best. Take into account brand quality and other factors.
Buying new equipment sometimes depends on the local laws in your area and whether there have been any changes or upgrades in food handling and food preparation laws. Other laws that can affect equipment purchases are ventilation and fire safety legislation. Check with your local building codes and zoning office or consult with a local professional to find out what changes, if any, have been made recently regulating the design, use, and sanitation handling for food businesses in your area.
Rising energy costs account for an increasing share of caterers' overhead, so many new catering products incorporate energysaving features. In the past, catering equipment was built mainly for cooking performance, but today it is designed for improved energy efficiency as well. Consider energy-efficient equipment when buying new machinery.
Why buy brand-new equipment when used equipment in good condition will work just as well? It makes sense to save money by purchasing some gently used materials. Stainless steel work tables, baking trays, sauté pans, and other items are fine when bought used. You can buy stainless steel tables at going-out-of-business sales and at restaurant supply auctions in your area. Some kitchen supply houses sell used supplies in addition to new equipment.
It's worthwhile to check your local paper's classified ads and any local restaurant or business trade papers for sales of used equipment. Also check
If you need to buy a commercial stove to outfit a kitchen, it's worth buying a new one. Stoves have a limited useful life, and if a stove has been in a restaurant or other high-volume commercial kitchen for any length of time, it already has a lot of wear and tear. Your stove will be one of the most important pieces of equipment you use. Older stoves may not be able to keep a constant temperature, and thermostats on stoves do tend to become inaccurate as they age.
You won't want to burn six dozen cookies or overcook an expensive veal roast, so make sure your oven is reliable. Always keep a thermometer in the oven to measure the current temperature. You can find a good oven thermometer in any kitchen supply store.
You'll also need a dependable refrigerator and freezer. If you buy them used, make sure you have the condensers, refrigerant, and electrical connections checked out carefully. Don't buy the units unless the seller plugs the unit in and demonstrates that it can keep a constant cool temperature for at least thirty-six consecutive hours.
Make sure to get parts and service warranties for any new equipment you buy. Also, ask local food professionals for repair service recommendations and keep the numbers handy in the kitchen. The last thing you want to be searching for is a repairperson if your freezer fails a week before Thanksgiving.
It's worth it to invest in brand-new cutting boards. You must have a separate cutting board for meats and fish and another for fruits and vegetables. If you're working with stinky cheeses and spices, have a third cutting board for these items.