If anyone knows how to buy restaurant equipment, it’s Dick Bowder. As part of our Bids Team, Dick helps our customers outfit their operations with the right equipment at the best price. To teach the basics of buying restaurant equipment, Dick created his own course. Lesson 1: Before you go looking at equipment, look at your 4 Fs first.
Here are Dick’s 4 Fs for finding the best equipment for your needs.
FUNCTION – What end result are you trying to achieve?
Forget about what you think this piece of equipment should be. Focus on what are you want to achieve with this item. Here’s a simple example: if you want a beautifully filleted fish, you don’t reach for a slicer or a pizza cutter even though both can cut. You pull out the trusty filet knife because that’s the best way to achieve your end result.
To determine Function, you need to know:
- What is the specific end result this item should produce (the more specific you can be, the better the match)?
- What is the volume this item must hold, process, or produce?
- What about Wares and Accessories – for instance, what size pans should it accommodate or what accessories will it need?
Dick says, “Once we know the function, we can begin to look for the most suitable equipment that has the capacity and capability to produce the result you want.”
FIT – How big should it be and how much space do you have?
We’ve all heard about the restaurant owner who orders the state-of-the-art mega-range. And then finds out it won’t fit through the doors of his restaurant. Here’s how to avoid that.
Some questions to consider:
- Where is it going? Make sure that the location fits in with the work flow of that area.
- How big does it have to be to do the job now? Should it be expandable or have a reserve capacity for future use?
- How big CAN it be? How much usable space do you have? Can the installers get it through the doors and around the corner? What about local codes?
- Will it hold/cook/display/wash the items you currently use? Or will also you have to buy new pots, pans, racks or other items that are designed to work with it?
FUEL – What makes it run and do you have access to that kind of power?
When we say fuel, we’re not talking gasoline vs. diesel here. We’re talking about what types of fuel this item has been configured for, which fuel works best for your needs, and can that fuel be delivered to where this piece is located.
Most equipment is powered by three “fuels”: natural gas, LP gas, and electricity. Variations of one piece of equipment may be configured for different power types.
Gas. You should know whether you have natural gas or LP gas at your location. The question you need to answer is whether gas is available at the point where you want to install the equipment. If not, then what will it take to pipe gas to that point and stay in compliance with the local codes?
Electricity. There are several different “types” of electricity and your equipment must match exactly the type available at that point. For safety reasons, there is no compromise. Dick strongly recommends you use a qualified electrician in compliance with the local codes to determine what types of power you have available and what you will need.
You are replacing an existing unit with another in the same location and you want it to work with the same power:
- Determine what was powering the old equipment. Look at the “data plate” on the old machine for the watts, volts, amps, and phase.
- Inspect the machine’s breaker switch in the breaker panel to make sure it matches the data plate.
- Check the plug on the machine and the wall socket where the machine was plugged to make sure they also match and neither has been altered.
- Choose the best make and model machine for you that matches the existing power and performs the FUNCTION you require.
You are installing new equipment and/or installing in a new location and the type of power must either change or you must bring power to that location:
- Choose the best make and model machine for you that performs the FUNCTION you require.
- Consult its spec sheet for power requirements.
- Check the panel box to see if that specific type of power is available.
- Check the location to see if that power is available or if it can be run to that location in compliance with the local code.
- Repeat until you find something that works. Or you decide to convert to hamster power.
FINANCE – What is the best piece of equipment within my budget?
Determine the ideal machine or class of machines using the first 3 steps. Then find the best price on it. At this point, many of our customers turn to Dick and the other experts on our Bids Team. Dick’s group works directly with the customer to find the best piece of equipment at the best price. The Bids Team can even arrange logistics and delivery for complex construction jobs.
Determine your budget independently of your machine selection. Yes, that means your budget could show you could afford a more expensive machine, or not.
Adjust your machine choice up or down to get the best your budget will allow. As Dick says, “Equipment is an investment in your business. You want to get the best quality you can possibly afford. Cheap equipment is much more expensive in the long run.”