Building a restaurant kitchen is a lot like assembling an enormous puzzle. It requires time and careful thought and all the pieces must fit together perfectly to achieve the desired results. If any of the pieces are missing, or put in the wrong place, it’ll be easy to spot and the finished product will suffer. One of the most important pieces of the puzzle that is your restaurant's kitchen is the equipment. From the big items like refrigerators and ovens to the smaller gadgets like food processors and mixers, each tool plays a crucial role in turning ingredients into delicious dishes for your patrons.
With so much riding on these purchases, it’s only natural that you’d seek out as much information as possible to help make the right decisions. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of some of the most important considerations to make when purchasing restaurant equipment.
1. Involving the chef.
So much of what your restaurant kitchen will require in terms of equipment will have to do with the menu, and you’ll likely have a hard time finding someone who knows that menu better than the chef who developed it or will be executing it once the kitchen is up and running.
At the very least, your chef should be providing a list of necessary equipment, but it would be even more beneficial to get their input on specific models or brands. Their insights will be valuable in comparing various features and functions. They may even be able to prevent you from spending more on a feature that won’t actually be necessary when it comes time to start cooking!
2. Prioritizing your equipment.
Starting the equipment purchasing process without a clear strategy of where you plan to allocate your funds can quickly leave you with a price tag that’s much higher than you planned for.
Organizing your equipment list by which are most essential will help you decide which pieces you should pay a premium for and which you shouldn’t. This is an instance in which the insights of your chef will be especially valuable.
3. Energy efficiency.
Budgeting for new restaurant equipment should involve more than just considering the upfront cost of each piece. It’s also important to factor in the lifetime costs associated with running them, including the energy it will require.
This point is particularly important when selecting the pieces that require the most amount of energy, such as your refrigeration units, which will be running around the clock! Selecting a model that is more efficient with its energy usage will surely benefit you in the long term, even if it means spending a bit more initially.
4. Regulatory compliance.
Running any business means remaining compliant with a variety of codes and regulations enforced to protect the wellbeing of its customers, its staff and the public. Restaurants are no different and even have the added responsibility of maintaining the safety of the food they serve.
Such laws will come from a number of governing bodies and will vary based on your specific location, but a good place to start is to become familiar with some of the basic mandates set by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
5. Your kitchen’s measurements.
The oversized refrigeration unit you’re looking at might be an excellent option and it might even be in your budget, but will it actually fit in your restaurant’s kitchen?
Make sure to go into the purchasing process with a clear sense of the kind of space you have allotted for each piece and stick to it! You might be tempted to adjust the overall layout of your kitchen to make room for the unit you have your heart set on, but that will likely set off a chain reaction of adjustments that will ultimately make the job of building the kitchen much more difficult.
6. Your kitchen’s processes.
The flow of activities in a kitchen will depend on the style of service it provides. The equipment you select for your kitchen must complement those activities.
Ask yourself how food and personnel will be moving through the kitchen and which pieces of equipment would maximize that movement. A conventional oven might be suitable for bringing menu items to the proper temperature, for example, but it might not be the most appropriate for a quick service restaurant that's creating dishes in an assembly line layout. In this scenario, a conveyor oven might be your best bet to keep food moving in an orderly manner while it cooks.
Follow a similar thought process for each major piece of equipment in your kitchen to assess how it will contribute to the kitchen’s overall efficiency.
This point is perhaps most applicable to restaurants featuring an open kitchen style, in which the operations of the kitchen are visible to the guests in the Front of House, but is still valuable to consider for any foodservice operation.
Guests don’t just take their meal into consideration when forming an impression of an establishment. They factor in the entire experience, which includes what they hear, smell and see. If your guests are able to see into the kitchen, or even catch a glimpse of it, you want them to be impressed. If two variations of a piece of equipment are otherwise comparable, opt for the more stylish one! Your guests will appreciate it.
8. The dependability of your retailer.
Your restaurant’s equipment is a significant investment that’s vital to its success. You shouldn’t feel like you’re on your own in making sure it’s selected properly. Working with the right retailer can make the difference between this step being an exciting experience bringing you one step closer to a beautiful kitchen, and a stressful ordeal.
Don’t be afraid to be picky when it comes to your retailer. Consider how long they’ve been in business and the responsiveness of their staff. The best ones will treat you like a priority, while the ones you should avoid will treat you like just another sale.