With so many kit suppliers making so many extravagant claims for their products, buying catering equipment can be a bewildering affair. This buyer's guide will help you find your way through the purchasing maze.
Opting for the cheapest piece of equipment you can find may help the finances, but may not always be the best option in the long term.
A cheap product, with an unfamiliar brand name, is likely to have been imported. The low price tag may not really be the bargain it seems. You need to consider whole life cost which means taking purchase price, operational cost, maintenance cost, life expectancy and setting that against performance and profit potential.
If your equipment breaks down bear in mind that spares, particularly from an imported bit of kit, can be costly - and take weeks to obtain. Don't forget to take into account the loss of earnings you'll incur while your product is out of action.
Other things to look out for include ease of use and safety of operation. Well-designed equipment from a reputable manufacturer will meet stringent European safety regulations which, for example, limit the temperatures that surfaces and control knobs can reach. Check that controls are well placed and that doors and runners operate smoothly and positively.
Consider buying two smaller instead of one large unit as this will provide greater flexibility and reduces the impact of any breakdowns. This is particularly sound advice when buying combi steamers where two stacked six grid ovens provide more versatility than a single ten grid model. And even in the busiest of kitchens, consider adding a small, light duty fryer which you can reserve for specialist use (eg highly flavoured or vegetarian products). This will extend the period of time between oil changes for your heavy-duty fryer.
You should also be looking at the back up service available, such as the manufacturer's field service network and provision of on-site training.
If you are still unsure, go to a dealer showroom or an exhibition such as Hotelympia where you can assess for yourself the design and build quality of different brands.
TOP 10 TIPS FOR BUYING EQUIPMENT
1.Buy from a reputable manufacturer to be sure of compliance with all relevant regulations, and to ensure ongoing service and spare parts availability.
2.Make sure you buy the correct level of duty. Don't expect a light duty countertop item to withstand heavy use. Equally, don't pay thousands of pounds for heavy duty kit if it is for light commercial use.
3.Ensure that your chosen model will provide the output you're looking for. Good manufacturers should be able to provide reliable output figures for their equipment. But do check that the capacities and output quoted are like for like. With items like griddles, for example, is the output of burgers per hour for frozen or fresh product? If output is quoted for steaks, what size and degree of cooking? And for fryers, check whether the capacities and output quoted are for fresh, frozen, or chilled product?
4.Consider your present and future requirements and always buy the size to suit this need, allowing for future expansion.
5.Choose a product with power to spare, rather than running the unit flat out to achieve the heat and output you need.
6.Would gas or electric powered equipment be the best option? Often, this will be dictated by circumstances but, given an equal choice, you need to weigh the installation and operating costs against the initial purchase price. Electric products are generally cheaper to buy but energy costs are often lower with gas. However, gas products now require interlocked extraction systems which can make the electric option more attractive. We have certainly seen this with the success of our all-electric six burner ranges in both our Silverlink 600 and Opus 700 ranges.
7.Always talk to an independent dealer about your requirements; they will be able to offer impartial advice on the best product for your particular needs.
8.Is the equipment easy to clean?
9. - Check whether the quoted price includes all your essential accessories and options. - For example, some manufacturers charge extra to supply products on castors.
10. - Check warranty details. Does the guarantee include parts and labour? Will the manufacturer send an engineer to you, or do you have to return the product for repair?
Copy supplied by Lincat