The successful food service operator is engaged in a constant struggle: the need to strengthen her (or his) bottom line. Unfortunately expensive factors such as food and restaurant supply costs, facility maintenance, employee wages, health and insurance costs confront the operator and seem to rise almost on a daily basis. So, it comes as no surprise that when the necessity of a large restaurant equipment purchase looms, many people consider buying a used piece of equipment rather than new based on prices alone.
Although used restaurant equipment can appear to be an attractive alternate to new if pricing is your main issue, here are a few things to consider before making a purchase.
Depending on the manufacturer and the commercial range’s features a new 6 burner range will cost around $1,300. A used commercial range could be found for $750 to $900. This represents a considerable savings, up to $550.
Commercial ranges, along with charbroilers, griddles and , are generally the best used equipment purchase if they are gas and not electric. The reason for this is commercial gas ranges have few moving parts and are generally easier to repair than electric.
You should take the time and opportunity to check out the commercial range carefully. Also, make sure you determine which type of gas the appliance uses, propane (LP) or natural. This is usually noted on a tag on the rear of the unit or behind the bottom kick plate located beneath the oven door on most ranges. If there is a gas regulator still attached to the gas connection pipe in the rear of the unit, it is possible to tell from the label on the top of the regulator. If the regulator is marked 3”-6”WC, it is natural gas. 5”-12”WC signifies propane gas. If the appliance you are looking at doesn’t use the type of gas your operation is equipped for it’s best to move on. Conversion is costly and requires a qualified technician to do the work.
Tip: Plan on having a gas technician test any purchased gas equipment for leaks or operational defects. The cost of testing and start up is money well spent and can eliminate the threat of dangerous conditions. If the price is right (be sure to add the cost of the tech evaluation), commercial gas ranges, charbroilers, griddles and open burner units can be a great place to save money and still get a serviceable piece of equipment.
The world of is a different matter. Gas fryers are one of the major causes of kitchen grease fires in foodservice operations because they bring together open flames (of the gas burners) and flammable grease (the oil you use in frying.) When these two items are directly combined the result is fire.
The only thing separating these two highly flammable components in fryers is a layer of thin steel in the fryer tank. The problem with a used fryer is that often it has been sitting somewhere, for quite a while, with an empty tank. If the tank is mild steel it has most likely begun to rust. The rust creates tiny pinholes in the metal initially which can eat through the tank completely. These cannot be easily seen and the only way to find them is to fill the tank with water or oil and check beneath the tank to see if it drips. Unfortunately, sometimes even this does not make leaks apparent.
When the fryer is turned on the application of heat from the burners causes the metal to expand and that’s when the dripping starts. The only reliable way to test a fryer is to fill it with oil, hook it up to a gas supply and turn it on. You’ll also want to check to see if the thermostat works correctly using a long, deep fat thermometer.
For most people, it is simply not worth the effort to do all this. With economical, new commercial fryers available for less than $700 used fryers are not the place to save your money. Most new commercial fryers come with a warranty on the frypot so you are covered in the event of failure. Not to mention the peace of mind factor!
The expense of buying new commercial refrigeration equipment such as a new or a refrigerated pizza prep table causes many operators to seek out used equipment. With this, as with the gas equipment, a certified technician can be the operator’s best friend when evaluating items for purchase.
Most self contained commercial refrigerators (the entire refrigeration system is built into the unit) are easy to test. The two main things are as follows:
- Plug it into a 120V dedicated wall outlet and let it run for about half an hour after placing a refrigeration thermometer inside. See if it gets down into the safe zone marked on the thermometer, about 38-40°F for a commercial refrigerator and 0°F (sometimes lower on certain ice cream holding cases) for a commercial freezer.
- Check the doors gaskets to make sure that they seal completely around the doors. To do this take a dollar bill and close the door on it. Grasp the edge and pull it slowly out. You should feel some resistance as the door gasket grips the body of the box making an airtight seal. Move the bill all around the edges of the door, inside, outside, top and bottom. If the bill comes out easily, the gaskets probably need replacement. With installation, this can cost $100 or more, depending on the number of doors on the unit.
Commercial refrigeration repairs can be quite expensive if any of the major components are defective, so paying a service technician to test any potential purchase is a good insurance policy.
Tip: Commercial refrigeration always seems to fail when a restaurant is closed and no one is there to notice it. Expensive food loss can make that bargain refrigerator cost as much as a new one. Obsolete models may be impossible to locate needed parts for and the refrigeration system may use refrigerant no longer available. Also, some older models will not comply with current NSF standards or local and state health department codes. Check out used refrigeration carefully and completely before plunking down your hard earned cash.
New commercial refrigeration units are not without their occasional problems, but they are usually apparent immediately on start up. Usually any problem is minor and quickly remedied by the manufacturer’s authorized service agency at no cost to the new owner. Modern refrigeration systems use the industries mandated refrigerants that every refrigeration mechanic has access to and is familiar with. Door hinges, gaskets, shelves and refrigeration components will be available for the long term.