The Equipment You Must Have for Your New Restaurant

Get the skinny on the equipment you're going to need to run your restaurant properly.

Thomas Barwick

The following excerpt is from The Staff of Entrepreneur Media's book Start Your Own Restaurant and More. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Getting your restaurant properly furnished and equipped requires a substantial investment, both financially and in terms of taking the time to make the best choices. It's important not to skimp when it comes to developing a customized plan for your operation. Use the information in this article as a guide.

Related: 5 Money-Making Mainstays of the Restaurant Industry

Production equipment

Regardless of the type of restaurant you're opening, you're going to need production equipment. While specific equipment needs will vary from one restaurant to another, most establishments serving hot meals will have to equip a service and preparation kitchen.

If you're buying or leasing a facility that already has a kitchen, it may already have much of the equipment you need. You can modify what's there to meet your needs and add any other pieces.

Outfitting your preparation kitchen requires a substantial amount of equipment. Budget anywhere from $30,000 to $65,000 for your heavy-production equipment. Before you buy anything, however, study all the developments that have taken place in the industry and look for versatile, cost-effective and even energy-saving equipment.

Most full-service restaurants will have a mixer, a slicer, preparation sinks, hand-washing sink(s) (check with your local health department for minimum requirements), a portion scale, a food cutter, baker's bins and tables, a meat grinder, a blender, a griddle-top range with an oven, a convection oven, a fryer, a cheese melter, a broiler, a pressureless steamer, a steam kettle and a refrigerator and freezer in their preparation kitchens.

Figure on spending another $1,200 to $2,700 for small-production items like ladles, tongs, spoons, pans, potholders, spatulas, can openers and other items.

The service area of the kitchen is typically where the final touches are put on the plates and where side orders like salads, soups, sandwiches and so forth are prepared. A kitchen helper or the server will generally be responsible for food preparation in the service kitchen.

A complete service kitchen should consist of a prep and steam table, a toaster, heat lamps, a microwave oven, a utensil rack, a roll warmer and a sandwich table. You'll also want to place your beverage center in or near your service kitchen. You'll need a coffeemaker, an ice machine, a beverage stand, a soda system, an ice cream cabinet and a water station. You'll end up spending from about $11,000 to $20,000 to equip this area.

Dishwashing equipment

A three-stage dishwashing machine is probably the best way to tackle your dishwashing needs. The machine will cost anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000. Installing the equipment, complete with landing area, dish table, garbage disposal and three-compartment sink, will run you an additional $5,000 to $25,000.

Related: The Essentials to Consider When Designing and Equipping Your Restaurant

Receiving and storage equipment

The largest and most costly piece of equipment in your receiving and storage area will be your walk-in refrigerator/freezer, which will cost between $3,000 and $8,000. This will be your main storage area and one of your most important pieces of equipment, because it will preserve your food and keep it fresh. Don't cut corners here.

Your receiving area will also need a scale, a breakdown table and shelving for the walk-in refrigerator/freezer. You should be able to pick up these items for $2,000 to $4,000.

Bar equipment

Outfitting a lounge area in a restaurant can be almost as taxing as buying equipment for the restaurant. The first thing you'll need, of course, is the bar. You can buy a standard bar with a refrigerator underneath from an equipment dealer, or you can have one custom made. Either way, plan to spend about $5,000 to $12,000 for the bar.

Equipping the bar will require a cash register, a three-compartment sink with a drain board, an ice bin, an ice machine, a beverage-dispensing system, a beer-dispensing system, glasses, mixers, blenders, ice crushers, bottle openers and miscellaneous tools. Altogether, the bar equipment will cost between $12,000 and $22,000.

One of the most important pieces of equipment for your bar is your beverage-dispensing system. You'll want one that performs a variety of functions. Two types of automatic beverage dispensers are available: one for mixes and one for liquor. A seven-valve dispensing system that can calibrate the amount of mix served will be sufficient when you start out. You can lease this piece of equipment for $150 to $350 per month, and leasing makes it easier to upgrade the equipment if demand warrants.

You can also pour liquor by hand. To help with portion control, you can attach pre-pour plastic spouts to each open bottle. These prevent overpouring by dispensing a measured amount of liquor into a drink. Bar equipment manufacturers usually sell these spouts for $28 and up apiece.

Tableware and miscellaneous supplies

Purchase your tableware, dishes and glasses based on the seating capacity of your operation. Use the following list to determine how much silverware to buy for your restaurant. Multiply the quantity needed by your restaurant's seating capacity.

  • 2 spoons and knives
  • 1 iced tea spoon
  • 1 soup spoon
  • 3 forks
  • 1 12-ounce soda and iced-tea glass

In addition, you'll need salt, pepper and sugar containers for each table, plus about a dozen sets for backup. You'll also need about a dozen sets of tongs and a dozen large pans.

You'll need paper products such as napkins, doggie bags, to-go containers with covers, place mats, towels and tissues. Suppliers can advise you on how large an order you should place based on your seating capacity and anticipated volume. Try ordering paper products in bulk, filling as much supply space as you have for them, because you'll get lower rates buying in volume. Once you work with a supplier regularly, you should be able to set up specific times to replenish your stock of such goods.

Related: What You Need to Know Before Starting a Food Service Business

Other important items are ashtrays (if smoking is permitted), potholders, spatulas, a wire whisk, a can opener, paper towel dispensers, garbage cans, a first-aid kit, a mop, a mop bucket, a broom, a dustpan, vacuum and bus boxes.


Most restaurants require their staff to wear uniforms, giving the employees and the restaurant a more professional appearance. As noted earlier, many restaurants simply tell their employees what colors to wear and the type of outfit, without supplying "formal" uniforms. Your cooking staff, however, may need aprons, chef 's hats, hairnets and other items. If you're choosing actual uniforms for serving personnel, they're available in a wide range of styles and colors. If possible, pick uniforms that reflect the theme of your establishment.

The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc.

Entrepreneur Staff

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