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

Grace JidounAuthor

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

You may not think it from first look, but grocery stores require a lot of equipment. If you’re opening a grocery store, there’s a lot to think about — from budgeting to staffing — but you can’t run a successful store without meeting your equipment needs. From refrigeration units to store cold items to shelving and display cases for produce and drygoods, there’s a host of heavy-duty and smaller equipment you must account for.

In this article, we break down the essential equipment needed to operate a grocery store. We’ve broken it down into categories, to make it a little easier for you to navigate.

  • Technology

  • Shopping equipment

  • Display equipment

  • Refrigeration equipment

  • Shelving and storage

  • Prepared foods supplies

What equipment do you need for a grocery store?

Depending on your grocery store concept, there’s a wide range of equipment you might need to operate successfully. We cast a wide net with this list so you can see what makes sense for your business and what may be superfluous.

Technology

Grocery store technology is crucial to managing a modern grocery store. Tech streamlines checkout flows, gives you better data and analytics for your store, and more. Here’s what you need:

  • Point-of-sale system: Any retail business should have a point-of-sale (POS) system. A modern POS system like Toast POS streamlines checkout and payment processes and tracks data to give you critical insights into how your business operates. From accounting and inventory to staff scheduling and rewards programs, Toast POS makes running your grocery store a lot easier.

  • Barcode scanners/conveyor stations: Most grocery stores have conveyor belts to assist customers when checking out. A complete station includes barcode scanners connected to your POS to simplify operations.

  • Self-service kiosks: A common trend at grocery stores today is offering self-service kiosks for customers to check out on their own and be on their way.

Shopping equipment

Shoppers need equipment, too! Make sure you have these items available to assist customers.

  • Shopping carts and baskets: Your customers can’t carry everything themselves! Carts and baskets will help them shop efficiently.

  • Cleaning materials: Staff should have easy access to cleaning materials to sanitize carts and displays, keeping your store hygienic and clean.

Display equipment

This display equipment is vital to diversifying from boring old aisle shelving and keeping food fresh.

  • Forced air display cases: These display cases keep food cold by circulating cold air, without closing food behind a refrigerator door. They’re often used for packaged and deli products.

  • Gravity coil display cases: These display cases have a refrigeration coil mounted at the top, producing cool air and cooling rising warm air. They’re typically used for meat, seafood, and produce.

  • Retail display baskets and stands: Whether you want to showcase sale items outside of aisles or set up a free sample counter, baskets and stands are a good way to break up the monotony of aisle shelving in your grocery store.

  • Merchandiser racks: You’ve probably grabbed a stick of gum or a magazine in a grocery store checkout line. You grabbed it off a merchandiser rack.

Refrigeration equipment

Cold foods need to stay that way. From the main shopping floor, to prepared foods sections, and in the backroom storage area, you’ll need a variety of refrigeration supplies.

  • Walk-in units: These high-capacity refrigeration units are incredibly useful for storage and are often found in the employees-only section of grocery stores. Depending on the size of your grocery store, you may not need a super large one, but it’s still a good thing to have when you have surplus items or a delivery comes early.

  • Glass door refrigerators and freezers: Most grocery stores have a frozen section with glass door freezers, and several aisles with dairy products, eggs, and other items behind glass door fridges.

  • Open-air coolers and freezers: Trader Joe’s is one national chain that prefers using open-air coolers and freezers to display frozen and refrigerated items. You don’t necessarily need both glass door and open-air units — it’s an aesthetic choice for your store.

  • Commercial refrigerators and freezers: We’ll list this again later, but if your grocery store has a deli, fishmonger, or other prepared foods station, you should have cold commercial storage available to staff behind the counter.

Shelving and storage

Staying organized is crucial to avoiding mismanaging inventory and avoiding food waste. Shelving is an absolute essential in grocery stores.

  • Retail shelving: The main event of most grocery stores, aisle shelving is the easiest way for customers to navigate your store and find what they need. Depending on your store’s floor plan and departments, you may opt for double-sided, bakery, and single-sided grocery shelving units.

  • Backstock shelving: Grocery stores always have excess inventory that’s not on the shelves available to customers. As such, you’ll need appropriate shelving for backstock items that helps you keep inventory organized and ready to move onto the grocery floor when items need replenishing.

Prepared foods supplies

Not all grocery stores have prepared foods sections, but if you offer a deli, butcher, fishmonger, or some other ready-to-go food service for customers, you’ll need this equipment.

  • Commercial meat slicers and cheese cutters: Your grocery store deli will likely cut up meats and cheeses from large cuts to either serve packaged or put on sandwiches. Either way, staff members need to be able to cut up meat and cheese efficiently.

  • Display cases: Any prepared foods section should have the day’s cuts, catches, or prepared foods clearly displayed for customers to see (but not touch). They should be properly calibrated to keep food warm or cold as needed.

  • Utensils: Depending on the service, you’ll need knives, cutting boards, prep stations, and more for your staff, as well as to-go utensils for customers.

  • Eating supplies: Things like napkin dispensers, plates, bowls, to-go containers, salt and pepper shakers, and more may all be necessary to give your customers the best prepared foods experience.

  • Ovens: Heating food up before letting customers take it away? Toaster ovens, convection ovens, combination ovens, pizza ovens, or conveyor ovens may apply.

  • Commercial scale: Any butcher or fishmonger needs a price-calculating scale or two to efficiently weigh per-pound items.

  • Salad bar wells: If your grocery store offers a salad bar, you’ll need a bar with refrigerated wells and a sneezeguard, as well as containers to store fresh items both before they’ve gone out to the floor and when they’re on display.

  • Commercial sinks: Hygiene is absolutely vital for a prepared foods section, so staff need dish, hand, and prep sinks to work efficiently and cleanly.

  • Commercial dishwashers: If you have the space, commercial dishwashers are an efficient way to clean prep and display materials to save an employee’s time.

  • Cleaning supplies: Staff should have easy access to wipes, towels, mops, brooms, vacuums, and more cleaning supplies to keep the prepared food sections and bars clean.

Cost of Grocery Store Equipment

The expected cost to open a grocery store varies widely depending on the size and complexity of the store. Of course, opening costs include far more than just equipment. The cost to open a small, independent grocery store may range between $25,000 to $50,000. However, larger stores may cost as much as $250,000 to open.

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Things to Consider When Buying Restaurant Equipment

Grocery stores need a lot of equipment; even this list is not exhaustive. What your specific store needs will depend on the size, services offered, and various wants and needs of your staff and customers. Regardless, you’ll need an extensive equipment list and you shouldn’t simply rush to check everything off. Take some time to really figure out what you need versus what might be nice to have.

When you’re ready to start shopping, take these factors into consideration.

Quality

First and foremost, you must assess the quality of grocery store equipment. Whether you’re buying new or used equipment, you need quality appliances and equipment to ensure you don’t have to replace anything right away.

As far as technology and appliances like check-out kiosks, coolers, and freezers go, make sure they’re made by a trusted manufacturer. If you’re buying used equipment, consider the equipment’s age, how it was previously used, and its current condition. Always look at equipment in-person before deciding to buy.

You can save money on more basic items like shelving, displays, and storage when you buy used, just make sure that materials aren’t so heavily used that they’re liable to break down any time soon.

Space

You may have many grand ideas for your grocery store, but any establishment is limited by space. Spend some time working on your floor plan to develop a solid layout that strikes an optimal balance between customer service and product offerings. Aisles shouldn’t be too crammed together, deli counters should have space for patrons to queue, and checkout areas should have some room to breathe. Always measure the dimensions of any equipment you buy and create blueprints ahead of time so you know how everything fits together.

Price

As noted in the previous section, the cost to open a grocery store ranges significantly. If you’re on a tight budget, equipment is one of the best areas to save. (Storefront leases, licensing fees, and inventory costs may not very negotiable at the start.)

Figure out what pieces of equipment are most important to buy new, or almost new. You can find almost any kind of grocery store equipment used, but if you’re determined to sell the freshest produce in the neighborhood, you probably want high-quality gravity coil display cases.

Leasing equipment may make sense rather than buying it. This can save you money upfront by making monthly payments rather than buying the equipment outright. However, leasing often comes with financing and interest, so you may spend more in the long run.

Ease of Use and Cleaning

Hygiene is of paramount importance for any food establishment — not just to appease local health officials, but to continue to attract customers. Nobody wants to shop at a dirty grocery store. This consideration applies less to shelving and displays since they’ll all be relatively simple to clean, but equipment like ovens, refrigerators, freezers, meat cutters, utensils, and more shouldn’t be a complete hassle to care for or operate.

Ergonomic equipment that fits neatly in your space and can open and close without impediment is crucial. Make sure to watch demonstration videos and speak to sales reps before purchasing equipment so you know it makes sense in your space and will be easy to use and clean.

Using only dishwasher-safe tools (and getting a dishwasher) is a good decision. Self-cleaning ovens are a great choice. Generally speaking, stainless steel surfaces are easier to clean than other materials. When shopping, look for the NSF symbol to verify that equipment meets safety conditions.

Suppliers

Every grocery store needs great suppliers. But your suppliers aren’t just your source of products to sell, you’ll also need good technology and equipment suppliers. The best ones will be willing to walk you through how their equipment works, offer financing or purchasing options that work for your budget, and will install and maintain the equipment as part of purchase. 

Leasing vs. Buying

We touched on this consideration a moment ago, but let’s expand on why leasing equipment may be a better option for your grocery store if you’re on a budget.

First off, leasing is less expensive, allowing you to pay monthly for equipment rather than all at once, freeing up capital for other expenses. Second, lease payments are often tax-deductible, saving you even more money in tax season. Finally, most equipment leases include a buyout option, so when you come to the end of the lease term you can either return the equipment to get something new or updated, or purchase the equipment outright at a less expensive price than you would have originally.

New vs. Used Grocery Store Equipment: Pros and Cons

Like buying a car, there are pros and cons to shopping new vs. used grocery store equipment. The most obvious pro, of course, is that used equipment costs less than new equipment. Depending on how heavily a piece of equipment is used, you may be able to get a good deal on an item that’s almost new. However, therein lies the flip side. You could also pay too much for a piece of equipment that is on its last legs and will need replacing soon anyway. And used equipment is more than likely no longer under warranty for repairs or replacement.

The biggest consideration when shopping new vs. used is to dedicate some time to actually learning about the equipment you’re shopping for. Understand the typical lifespan for this equipment, how often people choose to buy new vs. used, and always get a first-hand look at equipment before you purchase.

Take a look at your equipment list and determine which items (like the aforementioned gravity coil display case) are most important to buy new, and which (like a commercial oven) you could afford to get used.

Opening a grocery store can be an exciting and rewarding venture. But there are many costs to getting started, including a significant investment in equipment. This guide will help you figure out what you need to buy, and what to consider when shopping, so you don’t get to opening day and regret the equipment in which you’ve invested.

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Why Toast Retail is Perfect for Grocery Stores

In today's competitive retail landscape, selecting the right technology is essential for both new ventures and established businesses aiming for success. Solutions like Toast retail not only streamline operations, making them more efficient, but also provide invaluable insights to optimize the financial health of the business. 

By harnessing the power of point of sale technology, retailers can gain a competitive edge, improve customer satisfaction, and drive sustainable growth. Choosing the right technology sets the foundation for long-term success, empowering businesses to adapt to evolving market demands and thrive in an increasingly digital world.

The tech that redefined restaurants is now here to transform retail. Supercharge your store with the POS built for high volumes and complexity, offering everything you need to run your business on one platform. Toast's retail offering is a game-changer for businesses like convenience stores, liquor stores, and grocery stores, revolutionizing how they operate and interact with customers. Here's why Toast is the perfect fit for these retail environments.

1. Helps Modernize How You Sell

Toast's intuitive, cloud-based system simplifies daily operations. Its user-friendly interface makes staff training a breeze, ensuring seamless adoption across your team. Whether it's processing payments in-store or integrating with online sales channels, Toast ensures a smooth and consistent experience for your customers regardless of how they shop.

  • Intuitive Cloud-Based System: Our intuitive, cloud-based system is easy to learn and easy to use. Say goodbye to complicated interfaces and hello to streamlined processes. Toast is designed to simplify your day-to-day operations, from staff training to consolidated operations, ensuring maximum efficiency and productivity.

  • Seamless Payment Processing: Toast’s seamless payment processing easily integrates with online payments for smoother sales every time, no matter how your customers are shopping. This integration ensures a hassle-free experience for both customers and staff, leading to increased satisfaction and faster transactions.

  • Flexible Order and Checkout Options: Offer flexible and efficient order and checkout options with reliable hardware including handhelds, kiosks, and guest-facing terminals. Adapt to the diverse needs of your customers and reduce wait times at checkout with Toast's versatile hardware solutions, enhancing the overall shopping experience.

2. Streamline Retail Management

Efficiency is key in retail, and Toast delivers with automated, mobile-first inventory management. Say goodbye to manual inventory tracking and hello to SmartScan, a feature that enables quick product scanning and shelf placement. Managing thousands of SKUs becomes effortless with Toast's intuitive product database and bulk update capabilities.

  • Automated, Mobile-First Inventory: Experience the freedom of automated, mobile-first inventory management with Toast. Create and print barcodes in bulk, and take new products from scan to shelf in seconds with our SmartScan feature. Say goodbye to tedious manual inventory tasks and hello to streamlined operations.

  • Efficient SKU Management: Easily manage thousands of SKUs with our intuitive product database and bulk updates feature. Modify, reprice, and import multiple products at once, saving valuable time and resources. With Toast, keeping track of your inventory has never been easier.

  • Retail-Enhanced Dashboards: Stay on top of your business with retail-specific dashboards and cost-tracking reports. Monitor trends, maximize margins, and ensure your top-selling products are always stocked, empowering you to make data-driven decisions that drive profitability.

3. Tailor Your Customer Experience

Toast empowers you to tailor the customer experience to fit your unique retail concept. Whether you're considering adding food service or expanding your offerings, Toast's flexible platform accommodates creative expansion.

  • Creative Expansion Opportunities: Thinking of adding food service to your retail concept? Including Kitchen Display Systems and Order Ready Boards, our flexible platform allows for creative expansion. Explore new revenue streams and enhance the overall customer experience with Toast's versatile features.

  • Online Ordering and Delivery Integrations: Give your guests the option to order from home with Toast’s Online Ordering and our third-party delivery integrations. Meet your customers where they are and provide convenience that keeps them coming back, increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

  • Loyalty Rewards and Personalized Offers: Be your neighborhood's favorite shop (and incentivize repeat visits) with loyalty rewards and personalized offers. Transform one-time shoppers into loyal patrons by engaging with your community and offering enticing rewards, making your store the go-to destination for your customers.

In conclusion, Toast's retail solution is more than just a point of sale system; it's a comprehensive toolkit designed to elevate your retail store to new heights. From modernizing sales processes to streamlining management and enhancing the customer experience, Toast empowers retail businesses to thrive in today's competitive market.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.