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Essential Convenience Store Equipment List: Equipment Needed to Start a Convenience Store

Tyler MartinezAuthor

Essential Convenience Store Equipment List (Appliances, Tools, Essentials)

Convenience store equipment should focus on the “convenience” in the industry’s name. When people walk into a convenience store, they want to find everything they’re looking for quickly and get on their way. When you plan a successful store, think about what the customer wants and get your hands on the equipment that can fulfill these wishes.

What equipment do you need to open up a convenience store, and how can you choose the right items to purchase? This is a critical part of your convenience store business plan and by taking the time to think your equipment through, you can come closer to success in this competitive business. 

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • The essential equipment needed for a convenience store

  • How to estimate your equipment costs

  • How to select the best equipment for your store

What Equipment Do You Need for a Convenience Store?

No two convenience stores are the same, and this is what helps them compete in the market. At the same time, there are some essential pieces of equipment that most stores have because most of their customers expect to find similar products inside. This list covers the most common items found in convenience stores:

Technology / Point of Sale

Other Equipment Needed to Run a Convenience Store

  • Walk-in cooler

  • Walk-in freezer

  • Storage shelves

  • Refrigerated commercial merchandisers

  • Open-air commercial merchandisers

  • Freezer merchandisers

  • Novelty freezers

  • Food preparation stations

  • Food display cases

  • Hot food display cases

  • Merchandise shelves and racks

  • Cold beverage dispensers

  • Frozen beverage dispensers

  • Hot beverage dispensers

  • Hot water dispensers

  • Ice dispensers

  • Cup dispensers

  • Condiment dispensers and organizers 

  • Electric grills

  • Steamers

  • Microwaves

  • Equipment tables

  • Floor mats

  • Garbage bins

  • Cleaning equipment

Ultimate Equipment List for a Convenience Store

1. Point of sale system (POS) and cash register

A retail POS system is exactly what you need for a convenience store. These systems use touchscreens and scanners to quickly identify and price out purchases. They should be attached to cash drawers but of course, also able to handle touchless payments of all kinds. A customer-facing screen is also a must-have so they can see their purchases as you ring them up. 

2. CCTV cameras

Convenience stores are often been the targets of thefts and robberies, so a complete security system is an essential technology to invest in. Luckily, cameras and installation costs are getting cheaper because of Wi-Fi technology. Look for reliable cameras and get enough to cover every part of your shop, including outside and storage areas.

3. Storage

Walk-in cooler

A walk-in cooler is an essential place to store cold drinks, food, and other stock. You can choose between a pre-fabricated cooler or having one built in place. Pre-fab units are usually cheaper but may not fit the size or layout of your shop well. They also have fixed capacities that might not match your needs.

Walk-in freezer

A small convenience store may be able to operate with smaller chest freezers to keep frozen items. However, a larger store will almost certainly need a walk-in freezer. Just like a walk-in cooler, these freezers can be pre-fab or built to specifications. Their prices and sizes vary, but if you need something to fit in just the right space, a built-in freezer with great insulation and a reliable cooling unit is what you need.

Storage shelves

Racks and shelves will help you support and categorize your inventory in your back storage areas. Look for shelving that is durable and safe to avoid collapses that could destroy your stock. They also need to fit well in your space and give you the capacity you need for all your products.

4. Product display

Refrigerated commercial merchandisers

Commercial merchandizers are the large units in which convenience stores keep their cold items. Refrigerated merchandisers have see-through glass doors that help keep the products inside cold while letting customers see in and choose their purchases. They can be full-length or sit on countertops. Look for great energy ratings and easy-to-clean merchandizers.

Open-air commercial merchandisers

Some items need to be kept cool but not as cold as drinks. These products can be displayed in open-air merchandizers, which are refrigerated but don’t have doors. Although far less efficient, these units make it extremely easy for customers to grab what they want and go.

Freezer merchandisers

Like refrigerator merchandisers, freezer merchandisers usually have glass doors to let customers see what’s inside. They hold frozen items like ice and microwave meals and can be counter-top or full-length sizes. 

Novelty freezers

Novelty freezers are usually waist-high and display frozen treats like ice cream. They normally have sliding or lift-up doors. Look for condenser placement to help you choose your freezers and coolers. Top-mounted condensers are less efficient but require less frequent cleaning, while bottom-mounted ones use less energy and pick up lots of floor dust.

Food preparation stations

If your convenience store will prepare quick foods and drinks like sandwiches, soup, coffee, and blended drinks, you’ll need dedicated food prep stations. These should be durable and just the right size for your shop, but most importantly, they should be easy to keep absolutely spotless. 

Food display cases

Food like pastries and breads may not need refrigeration, but they still need to be on display. Clear glass or plastic food display cases can show off tasty treats that should entice your customers.

Hot food display cases

Hot food cases work the same way, except they keep hot foods heated to a constant temperature. This ensures that they’re delicious and also safe to eat. Soups, hot dogs, popcorn, and other hot foods need to be seen in clear, clean, obviously hot cases to be enticing.

Merchandise shelves and racks

The majority of your floor space will be taken up by rows of shelves and racks to hold all of your various offerings. It’s important to plan out your space so you can fit in the maximum number of shelves to display your wares while still allowing comfortable room to walk down the aisles and pass other shoppers. Of course, these shelves should also be highly durable and offer a lot of flexibility in height adjustment for ideal product displays.

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5. Dispensers

Cold beverage dispensers

Water and carbonated drink dispensers are standard in convenience stores because they allow customers to serve themselves iced drinks that are instantly ready to consume. These dispensers need to have a large enough capacity for your customer traffic and should be easy to keep clean.

Frozen beverage dispensers

Slushy drinks have become a convenience store staple, so these machines are a necessity to have. Choose machines that run efficiently and are easy to clean regularly.

Hot beverage dispensers

Machines that make coffee, hot chocolate, and other hot beverages are a must, especially in colder climates. Choose well-insulated machines that you can clean quickly and easily.

Hot water dispensers

A hot water machine lets your customers make tea, instant coffee, instant noodles, and more. A simple, well-insulated stainless dispenser is probably all a small or medium store needs.

Ice dispensers

An ice dispenser is indispensable if you have a cold drink dispenser. Most will make their own ice and let customers fill up their cups easily, but look out for brands that have a reputation for clogs.

Cup dispensers

For all these hot and cold drinks, you’ll need cup dispensers for cups of different sizes. Choose these based on your planned portion sizes and make sure the cups they hold are readily available from suppliers.

Condiment dispensers and organizers

Coffee stations need sugar, creamers, and stir sticks. Hot dogs require little sauce packets and paper napkins. These items need to be organized and dispensed, normally using wood, plastic, or stainless-steel dividers.

6. Appliances

Electric grills

Small electric grills let you serve hot food like hot dogs, burgers, and pizza. These should be easy to move around with long plugs and easy to clean.

Steamers

Steamers can help you serve hot buns and other steamed snacks. They normally double as display cases and are transparent to show the cooking that’s taking place.

Microwaves

Microwaves are a perfect complement to frozen food items, allowing them to become almost instant snacks. Their power is shown by their wattage, so choose a strong microwave that has a great energy rating and lots of power to make frozen food hot in an instant.

Equipment tables

All of these appliances, as well as your many dispensers, will require tables to bring them up to useful working heights. Choose sturdy tables that can be broken down easily and moved around when you need to redo your layout.

7. Cleaning and safety

Floor mats

Floor mats help with traction and reduce mess on your floor. Look for mats that are absorbent, durable, and easy to clean because they’ll need to be cleaned often.

Garbage bins

Convenience often means grabbing an item, paying, opening it, and eating it right away. Make sure you have sizeable bins around to encourage your customers not to litter and to recycle if possible.

Cleaning equipment

You’ll need equipment to keep your floor, countertops, glass surfaces, and machinery spotless so that customers find your shop clean and hygienic.

Cost of Equipment

It can easily cost $50,000 to $100,000 to start even a small convenience store. The crucial equipment for a convenience store can run from around $20,000 for a basic set-up and into the hundreds of thousands for a large store with top-of-the-line equipment.

The essential items on your list break down like this:

Shelving and tables            $5000 to $20000

Refrigerated merchandisers         $2000 to $10000 each

Security system            $2500 to $8000

POS system                $1000 to $3000

Storage equipment            $2000 to $5000

Coffee station and microwave    $  500 to $2000

It’s also crucially important not to forget about maintenance costs for equipment. The costs of cleaning, changing parts, and making repairs can add up to between $5,000 to $15,000 per year.

Things to Consider When Buying Convenience Store Equipment

Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, Vice President of 7-11, says that this massive company is focused on making changes “driven by the customer to more closely align the atmosphere they want to shop in with the product assortment we’re offering.” This is definitely how you should think about your shop layout, stock, and the equipment that holds it together. Not only does your equipment have to give the customer what they want, but you’ll also need to consider these other features.

1. Quality

Convenience store equipment comes in all levels of quality, and it’s up to you to choose between hundreds of brands and manufacturers. Recommendations from people you know in the industry can be worth their weight in gold, but if you don’t have any, look for products with excellent ratings and extensive reviews. You may be able to find high-quality equipment at a mid-range price to help you cut your start-up costs. Keep in mind, though, that, in general, lower-quality items will save you lots of money in the short term but may bite you in the bank book in the long term. Frequent failures and costly maintenance can quickly add up and overtake the cost of a more expensive but high-quality item.

2. Price

The high price of starting a convenience store is in part due to the cost of equipment. You’ll need to budget for both purchasing your essential equipment and maintaining it annually. Some suppliers luckily allow you to rent or lease equipment to help bring down these initial costs, though this will raise your costs long-term. In general, you have to balance your essential equipment needs with the prices you can afford.

3. Space

A convenience store floorplan should be just full enough that there’s space to comfortably navigate around all the full shelves of enticing items. The dimensions of your store and the layout will dictate some of the equipment that you can fit into it. You can always start small with the essentials and slowly add more equipment as your business grows.

4. Design

A huge part of retail is making attractive product displays that entice customers to make more purchases. That’s why convenience stores use glass-front or open-air merchandisers that show their products clearly, even though insulated steel fridges would be far more efficient. Look for merchandisers and shelving that will bring the most out of the products you’re going to be selling.

5. Support and service

Look for suppliers that give you the after-market service that you need. This might include installation, cleaning, maintenance, and other support. They should stand behind their products with great warranties, even replacing items if they malfunction or don’t conform to specifications.

New vs. Used Equipment: Pros and Cons

Whether you should buy your equipment new or used is an important question. On the one hand, a whole new interior full of shiny, sparkling new equipment might help to attract customers. On the other hand, all-new equipment can be costly enough that you won’t be able to find enough funding to start your convenience store. Many operators decide to compromise, choosing to mix new equipment with some used items that are still in very good repair to help keep prices lower.

Here are some of the pros and cons of buying used equipment for you to consider.

Pros of Used Equipment

  • Cost: Used equipment can be found for a lot cheaper than new equipment.

  • Condition: Some used equipment might be well maintained and in as-good-as-new condition for a great price.

  • Manufacture: Some desirable older items may no longer be manufactured and can only be found second-hand. Other older items may have been built with better quality standards than anything currently available.

Cons of used equipment

  • No guarantee: Most used equipment won’t be warranted or guaranteed.

  • Limited choice: You may not be able to find the items you want on the second-hand market.

  • More maintenance: Used equipment may need more maintenance to stay reliable.

  • Lower efficiency: Older appliances may have poorer efficiency ratings than newer ones and, therefore, increase energy costs.

The Best Convenience Store Equipment

The best equipment for your store is equipment you can afford and depend on and that gives your customers quality and convenience. It should be easy to use and maintain, attractive, and efficient. Whether you’re building a massive convenience store that has everything your customers could dream of or a small corner shop that has all the necessities, great equipment can bring your store a great success.

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