We are always exposed to the thought that “new is always better” and although that thought can hold its own, there is still space for the “old but still useful”. In the fickle food and beverage industry, where an estimated 30% of restaurants roll up within its first year and about 60% follow suit in the first three years1, it can be a stretch on the budget whether it is an annual evaluation on machines or for a brand new opening. Equipment make up the bulk of investment in commercial kitchens due to its different functions and while more manufacturers are beginning to integrate into single machines, it also means a higher price to pay.
Used equipment are not hard to find, looking at the statistics of establishments closing (an unfortunate reality) but hitting the jackpot requires a keen eye and clearing any doubts that you might have. There are dealers who specialise in selling of second-hand items or some companies who usually deal with new products may also have the occasional stock or can direct you to the right source. Sometimes, owners place classified ads or hold auctions at their premises to sell the equipment and this method usually does not require a middle-man and you can ask questions directly to the owner and negotiate for a better price.
BE BRAND CONSCIOUS
Your budget may not allow for a new machine from a top brand but there should be allowance to purchase a used one instead of going for second-hand from a cheaper brand. It is worth the extra cost to get equipment from reputable manufacturers as equipment makers all over the world use different materials and technology that translate into the level of performance, reliability and longevity. Especially if a machine’s warranty is over, you would not want to bear the possibility of a manufacturer not wanting to help in any issues. Big brands also have a better reputation, making it easier for you to contact them to resolve any issues, even if your machine is no longer under warranty; they are likely to offer assistance.
CHECK YOUR FACILITY’S UTILITY SPECIFICATIONS
This is important if you are moving into a new premise and intending to fit second-hand equipment in. The used machine may require a higher voltage to operate or different hookups to what is in the building. Consider if it is worth your cost to make modifications within the facility to fit the equipment and would this changes cause any probable issues in the future? Look into the space allocation as well, older equipment could be bulkier and take up more space particularly if you are getting one machine for one function. How much space would you have left for comfortable working and safety? Before shopping for equipment, taking measurements of the workplace may help so you are more focused and pick out only what fits the need.
INVEST IN EVALUATION
When equipment catches your eye, bring in an independent expert to carry out a technical evaluation. Include the cost of the evaluation as well when making a final decision on whether it is worth your purchase. Gas cooking equipment are recommended above electric ones when it comes to second-hand because the former have fewer moving parts, making it easier to reveal any problems like leaks or defects during inspection. On the other hand, electric equipment, while more efficient in terms of energy consumption and maintenance, the many parts in an electric machine makes it harder to inspect and is also more challenging to repair if something goes wrong.
IMPERFECTIONS PUT TO GOOD USE
Packing and transporting such huge equipment poses the possibility of bumps and scratches arriving with the machine. Sometimes the buyer may refuse to accept the equipment and although the damage is cosmetic, manufacturers can no longer sell it at its original price. Those tiny accidents do not hurt the machine’s operation and it will be sold at a discounted price and when you are looking at maximising a budget; this is a win-win situation.
GOING TO THE SALES
When year-end comes around, stores are usually looking to push older items out to make way for new models. Or some models are discontinued; perhaps they could even be hard-to-sell, making the prices better for restaurant owners. There is a downside though, if you are going to purchase a discontinued model, you should have on hand a reliable technician or ask the manufacturer if parts are still available for the next year or so; depending on how long you project to use it before making a purchase. With the economy slowing down, greater focus is placed on sustaining the business instead of growing profit margins. Indeed, new equipment is more advanced and its technology can help in savings but it might be
too ambitious for start-ups in this current business environment. Seeing return of investment takes time and this is where the alternatives come in handy. And if you are thorough before making a decision, second-hand options can play to your advantage.
The write-up is not a reflection of Mise En Place’s opinion and is not an endorsement for second-hand equipment but serves as general information only.