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Your Guide to Restaurant Equipment Rentals

Grace JidounAuthor

The best restaurant kitchens aren’t bought all at once — they’re built slowly and carefully over the course of months or even years. But you need to start somewhere, so we’ve put together this handy guide to restaurant equipment rentals. 

We did the legwork to identify the most sensible items to rent and provide expert insights on choosing the right rental service. A brand-new walk-in freezer or state-of-the-art soda fountain is nice, but sourcing high-quality rentals will get you the same results without the astronomical cost. There will be plenty of opportunities down the road to trade up to new equipment — or you may want to keep your rental with a buy-out option at the end of the lease!

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The Benefits of Restaurant Equipment Rentals

Cost Effective:

The temptation to splurge on shiny new commercial equipment is strong. We understand. You want to put your best foot forward when launching or upgrading a restaurant, and the kitchen is the heart of the operation. But you wouldn’t buy a fancy-schmancy new car without first taking it out for a test drive. The same goes for kitchen equipment. 

Renting is a fabulous way to access top-tier, big-ticket items — like ranges, freezers, and refrigerators — with less financial risk. Usually, a down payment is not required, and the monthly fees are typically tax deductible as a business expense. It’s particularly advantageous for small startups that may not have a lump sum of cash or enough financing in place to cover new equipment.

Flexibility:

If you bite the bullet and purchase equipment, whether new or at auction, your choice of brands and features will likely be limited due to budget constraints. Renting opens up a whole new world of culinary possibilities, with the latest and greatest gadgets right at your fingertips. You don’t want to drop $10,000 on a luxury griddle and then have buyer's remorse a few months down the road. As your restaurant and menu change and evolve, you may find that you don’t use that pricey griddle much after all. 

Renting allows you to make significant changes — and scale up when business starts to boom — without worrying about cost depreciation or tripping over unused equipment that’s in the way.

Maintenance and Repairs:

Commercial kitchen equipment sees extremely heavy use. Wear and tear is simply unavoidable. When you buy new, you’ll shoulder all the repair and maintenance costs that are not under warranty. Those costs can add up significantly over time, especially when dealing with older or heavily used equipment. When renting, on the other hand, the maintenance and repair costs are typically bundled into the rental price (unless it’s extreme damage), which translates to less hassle and headaches for the restaurant owner.

“Equipment is the backbone of any kitchen… Buying cheap can often lead to higher repair costs down the line, not to mention the potential loss of business due to equipment failures."

Ryan Wagner
founder of Culinary Lab

Types of Restaurant Rental Equipment

Cooking Equipment:

These are your essentials — ovens, stoves, grills, fryers, and ranges; The fundamental pieces that will put so many great meals within your reach. At restaurant supply stores, the cost for commercial ovens varies from just over $1000 for compact countertop versions to tens of thousands for full-sized programmable combi ovens. Leasing, however, allows restaurants access to high-quality equipment at a lower cost, which is worth its weight in gold. 

“Equipment is the backbone of any kitchen… Buying cheap can often lead to higher repair costs down the line, not to mention the potential loss of business due to equipment failures,” says Ryan Wagner, founder of Culinary Lab cooking school in Santa Ana, California.

Refrigeration Equipment:

You may be noticing a pattern here. Leasing is not ideal for the humbler tools and appliances of the restaurant world. It’s best for absolutely critical items — like fridges and freezers — that have the potential to break the bank. 

Rather than tie up vast amounts of money in big purchases, you can rent a walk-in refrigerator with all the bells and whistles or check out that space-age isochoric freezing technology. 

Dishwashing Equipment:

Dishwashers and sinks are crucial to keeping your restaurant kitchen up and running, and all shapes and sizes are available for lease, from under-the-counter units to sprawling conveyor belt machinery. Before you exclaim “Yuck!” at the thought of using an old dishwasher, leasing companies typically deal in new, unused models. 

When business picks up at your restaurant, resulting in more dishes to wash, you can trade up for a bigger and better model, depending on your lease agreement.   

Beverage Equipment:

That glimmering high-tech coffee machine promises clean tastes and integrated milk modules — but for thousands of dollars. Top-of-the-line beverage machines — including soda machines and ice dispensers —  are great rental candidates, as you can tap the latest technology without a significant investment.

HVAC Systems and Ventilation:

This is perhaps the single most crucial equipment when it comes to the health and safety of your employees, so it’s important to get this right. New restaurant owners often underestimate the cost, as long-term repairs and maintenance can quickly add up. Renting HVAC-related items can significantly improve your bottom line at the start-up phase and going forward.

How to Choose the Right Restaurant Equipment Rental Service

According to IBISWorld, the restaurant supply industry is a booming 13 billion dollar market with more than 1,800 businesses across the U.S. willing to sell or lease you both new and pre-owned equipment of your dreams. There’s a lot to consider when narrowing down the field. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing a rental service.

Reputation:

As billionaire business magnate Richard Branson once said, “Your brand name is only as good as your reputation.” 

We’ll say it loud: Make sure the company you’re dealing with has a solid reputation in the industry. To do this, check Yelp and Google reviews for feedback from previous customers, paying close attention to how the company responds to complaints. How their team responds (hopefully with helpfulness and humility) speaks volumes about their quality of service.

Quality of Equipment:

Before you pick up the phone, do a bit of research to identify the most reliable and durable brands and get up to speed on the latest equipment technology. Armed with this knowledge, poke around on different companies' websites to see if they’re offering the best available. They not only need to have the equipment listed on their website but have it on hand when you need it as well. 

Rental Terms:

Go over your contract with a fine-tooth comb, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the agreement is unclear and not easy to understand, that could be a red flag. Make sure you know exactly what is included in the rental price and what additional fees there may be. Check out our Complete Guide to Restaurant Equipment Financing for more tips.

Things to consider:

  • Is general maintenance included in the rental fee?

  • Is maintenance handled in-house by their own techs, or do they outsource it, resulting in extra costs?

  • Is there a lease-to-buy option?

  • What type of rental agreement is available? There are fixed-term agreements (for a specific period of time), rolling agreements (with no particular end date), lease agreements (typically year-long with an option to buy), and seasonal agreements (for a specific time of year).

Maintenance and Repair

Keep in mind that if maintenance and repairs are not included in the rental service agreement, it could wipe out a chunk of the savings from renting. We advise you to only rent from companies that offer this coverage. You’ll want to visually inspect and, ideally, test out the equipment before you sign the papers to ensure everything is in good working order. Ask about response times to maintenance calls, as you’ll want to ensure that repairs are quickly taken care of. 

Customer Service

What does excellent customer service look like? Find out if the rental company offers drop-off and pickup services. Do they provide equipment demonstrations or training? Companies that take the time to provide a little “white glove” service and are willing to educate their customers are the ones you want to do business with. Lastly, are they quick to reply to your emails, calls, and queries? You want to be sure you have access to help when you need it.   

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You don’t need to blow your whole budget (or win the lottery) to get the kitchen that suits your needs. Restaurant equipment rentals are every bit as effective as buying brand new and a fraction of the price. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re already sold on the idea — it’s just a matter of doing your research and asking the right questions.

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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.