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Essential Supermarket Equipment List: Equipment Needed to Start a Supermarket

Tyler MartinezAuthor

Essential Supermarket Equipment List (Appliances, Tools, Essentials)

Why open a supermarket? Perhaps it’s the chance to be involved in the most influential force shaping food today. However, the likely reason is that supermarkets can be an incredible investment, benefiting from reliable cash flow, loyal customers, and a terrific financial outlook. Analysts paint a rosy picture for U.S. supermarkets, with revenue expected to increase over the next five years. Potential interest rate cuts in 2025 could further accelerate growth.

The real question is: how do you open a supermarket?

A supermarket equipment list is essential to achieving your goals. It’s a pretty massive understatement to say a supermarket needs a lot of equipment to operate. Properly outfitting one requires a huge investment up front, both in terms of money and making the best choices. But the payoff will be worth it: Gleaming aisles, enticing displays, and easy checkout will keep customers coming back again and again. Here, we’ve pulled together a supermarket equipment checklist with helpful insights on the following essentials:

What Equipment Do You Need for a Supermarket? 

Technology and POS Systems

Checkout Hardware

  • Cash registers
  • Barcode scanner
  • Cash drawer
  • Coin counter
  • Scale
  • Conveyor belt

Shopping Carts and Baskets

Plastic and Paper Bags 

Shelving and Storage

  • Gondola shelving   
  • End cap displays
  • Produce display bins
  • Bulk food dispensers
  • Retail display baskets and stands
  • Merchandiser racks (near checkout)
  • Backstock shelving and storage 

Cold-Storage Equipment

  • Open-air freezers and coolers
  • Glass-door freezers and coolers
  • Stand-alone units
  • Walk-in freezers and coolers for backstock

Bakery

  • Bakery display case
  • Bakery display racks
  • Freezer equipment

Deli, Butcher, Fish Counter

  • Deli counter
  • Commercial meat slicer
  • Commercial cheese slicer
  • Food prep counters and cutting boards
  • Toaster and warming cabinets
  • Meat grinders, knives, and specialty tools
  • Scales
  • Sinks

HVAC/Ventilation

Security Systems

  • Surveillance systems
  • Alarms
  • Anti-shoplifting measures

Safety Equipment 

Think of this supermarket equipment list as a North Star for your business. It will guide you throughout the launch process and offer a reality check on expenses. The equipment list can also strengthen your supermarket business plan, providing important financial information for potential investors. 

The Ultimate Equipment List for a Supermarket

Surprisingly, grocery customers are not solely motivated by price or even the freshest ingredients when choosing where to shop. According to 2023 Market Force data, grocery shoppers look for a convenient experience above all else. “This experience is generally characterized by the availability of a large assortment of products, having a clean store, and enabling a fast checkout,” stated the study. With that in mind, we take a deep dive into all the necessary elements for problem-free shopping.

1. Technology and Point of Sale

POS

A point-of-sale (POS) system is the key to the smooth operation of any retail business, and the needs of a grocery store are especially complex. The POS system should encompass in-person debit, credit, and EBT transactions, returns processing, customer reward management, flash deals, discounted prices, and more. A robust POS system will also help you analyze returns, manage employee payroll, and track customers’ buying habits.

Cashierless kiosks

Self-check-out kiosks are exploding in popularity as they allow grocery shoppers to quickly scan, bag, and pay for their items without a cashier, saving store owners money. A study by Retail Banking Research expects a 90% per year global increase through 2027. A positive customer experience hinges on easy-to-use, super-efficient technology such as a blend of AI (artificial intelligence), computer vision, weight sensors in the bagging area, and smart carts. 

Scan-and-go

Another technology gaining traction is mobile scan-and-go, where customers download an app on their smartphones to scan items while shopping. Used mainly at massive retailers like Walmart and Sam's Club, the convenience-focused tech has proven to help minimize shrink and theft, a significant issue for markets.

Contactless payment

Many supermarkets have contactless payment options, such as an NFC-enabled card reader or a mobile payment system, so customers can quickly and securely pay without physically swiping or inserting their cards.

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2. Checkout Hardware

Cash register

The check-out aisle is more sophisticated than you might think. In addition to POS systems, there’s the hardware, which can be as simple or complex as you like. The centerpiece is the register, which now often has a touch-screen interface for faster checkout. POS integration with the register is essential for a variety of important reasons, from inventory tracking to price updates, tax rates, and more. Other basic needs include a barcode scanner, a cash drawer, a receipt printer, a coin counter, and a label printer.

Scale

Each cashier will require a scale to weigh produce, grains, legumes, or any item priced according to its weight. The cashier scales should be integrated into your POS system to price the items automatically. State or local inspectors periodically test the scales at every grocery store in the country to ensure compliance with national standards.      

Conveyor belts

Look for black mat top covers that clean easily and won’t reflect fluorescent lighting. Below the belt lies the complex mechanical workings of various drum rollers, motors, gearboxes, and pulleys, providing a smooth experience that keeps the customer rolling through. The conveyor belts see non-stop action, so make sure to choose a supplier that offers customer service and quick repairs.

3. Shopping Carts and Baskets

Wheel-locking carts

While not nearly as high-tech as the POS system, most large grocers employ this ingenious “old-school” technology on their shopping carts to deter cart theft. Supermarkets typically line a perimeter around the store with a series of underground magnets that trigger the wheels to lock. 

Mobile shopping carts

No law requires that carts be ADA-accessible, but larger grocery stores often offer electric or mobilized carts for customers who can’t use a traditional cart or basket. These electric shopping carts are specifically designed for shopping, providing customers with a scooter with a large basket for goods.

4. Plastic or Paper Bags

Twelve states and counting have banned single-use plastic bags, and 500 municipalities in 28 states have plastic bag legislation in effect. Before investing in bags, check the laws and regulations in your area, and consider selling reusable totes with your logo as an alternative.

5. Shelving and Storage

Shelving

Gondola shelving is the backbone of every supermarket — the long, flat shelving lines every aisle, accommodating any food product imaginable, from pickles to pasta. The name derives from the gondolas of Italy and is thought to mimic the distinct shape of the boat. While that might be a stretch, supermarket operators love them for their versatility. 

End cap gondolas are designed for placement at the end of shopping aisles or the entrance to your store. They are ideal for eye-catching displays, highlighting specific products or discounted items. While they’re designed to attach to regular gondolas, they’re often used as stand-alone displays.

Display bins and baskets

Produce display bins come in various shapes and sizes, from wooden barrels and wicker baskets to larger carts designed specifically to showcase the bounty of your fruit and vegetable selection. Consider bins with wheels for flexible floor plans.

Retail display racks

Merchandise racks near checkout appeal to impulse shoppers and are ideal for smaller items like gum, mints, and candy. Racks for greeting cards, magazines, or other oddly shaped non-perishables are also popular options.

Backstock shelving and storage

Outfitting your stockroom is equally important as the customer-facing areas, but there’s no need for fancy displays or shelving named after Venetian boats! Be sure to maximize your vertical space with tall units with adjustable shelving. Consider investing in mobile storage from the beginning to accommodate various needs and floorplans. 

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5. Cold-Storage Equipment

Multiplex systems

All supermarkets require multiple types of refrigeration and freezers to keep perishable goods fresh and safe to eat. Your first priority will be large multi-plex “supermarket systems,” which are typically powered by racks of compressors in a machinery room. You’ll want both reach-in and glass door units to accommodate fruits, produce, frozen foods, dairy goods, eggs, and more. Depending on the size of your market, you may consider walk-in freezers and coolers for your deli, butcher and fish counters, as well as your storage rooms.

The EPA recently enacted regulations to phase out harmful refrigerants such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) to reduce greenhouse gases. Transitioning to natural chemicals is a huge expense, so it’s wise to start with a natural refrigerant system in a new store. 

Stand-alone units

You'll want smaller stand-alone equipment for grab-and-go drinks and food to complement your core freezer aisle and meat and dairy sections. These typically can be plugged into a power outlet.

6. Bakery

The supermarket bakery will be the most enticing corner of your store, with rows of colorful cakes, cupcakes, and pastries beckoning to customers. These delicacies are typically not made in-house but rather shipped, baked, and frozen from suppliers for convenience and to maintain a consistent taste. At a minimum, you’ll need refrigerated display cases, counter space, bakery display racks, and freezer storage. But this could change: according to Statista, 45% of Millennial grocery shoppers value in-store experiences, and in-house bakeries could make a comeback. 

7. Deli, Butcher, and Fish Counter 

Slicers

Commercial slicers are essential to any supermarket deli counter, and you’ll want different slicers for meat and cheese. Go for a model with the highest horsepower that can handle constant use. You’ll want a mid-tier to premium slicer with larger cutting blades (12”-14”) for all-around use. Other considerations include manual vs. automatic (where an electric motor moves the slicer back and forth), specialty slicers for extra thin meats like prosciutto, and slicers with vegetable hoppers.

Food prep counters and cutting boards

Just like a deli restaurant, you’ll need prep tables, counters, and cutting surfaces to wrap fleshly-sliced meats and cheeses. Many supermarkets offer a variety of sandwiches and prepared salads that will need assembling. Choose stainless steel surfaces that won’t absorb bacteria and can withstand constant cleaning. 

Depending on the size of your operation, you might need toasters for sandwiches and warming cabinets to keep hot prepared food at a safe temperature. 

Knives and specialty equipment

If your supermarket includes a butcher department, all of the above will come into play, but you’ll also need specialty tools and knives for breaking down large cuts of meat, such as handheld saws and band saws for cutting through bones. These days, most supermarkets offer freshly ground meat. Add commercial meat grinders to your list, which allow butchers to quickly grind, portion, and package large quantities of turkey, beef, chicken, and pork.

Likewise, supermarket fishmongers need a variety of specialty knives and tools for scaling, slicing, and deboning a variety of seafood.

Scales

Scales are vital to the success of any meat or fish counter to accurately weigh out portions down to the ounce. Most commercial scales print labels, and some print receipts as well.

Sinks

Health and safety regulations for restaurants typically apply to in-house supermarket delis, butchers, and fishmongers—with exceptions for groceries where all items are pre-packaged. You’ll need a triple-sink wash station with drainboards on both sides, a stainless steel meat preparation sink for rinsing and thawing, a mop sink, and a dedicated sink for handwashing for each distinct counter. 

8. HVAC

No matter how big or small your grocery store is, plan for proper ventilation and HVAC systems to keep your inventory — and customers — refreshed. Ensuring adequate airflow will keep the space more pleasant for everyone.

9. Security Systems

The grocery store layout, with multiple entry and exit points and aisle upon aisle of confined spaces, poses unique security challenges. A comprehensive security system is a must for a safe shopping experience for customers and employees. Look for systems that can integrate with your POS technology, provide real-time access via a mobile device or web interface, and have clear images with HD or Ultra HD resolution.

Surveillance system

The most popular type is a surveillance camera system and CCTV (closed-circuit television) system that provides around-the-clock monitoring of all corners of your store and parking lot to prevent thefts and deter criminal behavior.

Alarms

Alarm systems come into play after hours, alerting store owners and the police about intruders and break-ins. These often include motion and glass-break sensors that trigger the classic loud alarms and flashing lights when activated. 

Anti-shoplifting measures

Anti-shoplifting devices, such as electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems and security tags, can help prevent theft by detecting sneaky item removals from the store. These devices trigger alarms at exit points if the cashier does not deactivate or remove the tags. 

10. Safety equipment    

Spillage in Aisle 3! We’ve all witnessed a jar of marinara shatter across the floor, or a cereal display topple over due to a rambunctious toddler. Supermarkets need cleaning supplies, mops, gloves, and even hard hats at the ready for employees to clean up any messes or broken glass pronto. Additionally, a well-stocked first-aid or medical emergency kit is essential in any workplace, but especially one with a constant stream of customers at all hours. Another significant hazard at supermarkets is the sharp edges of shopping carts, so if your carts are not equipped with edge guards, you’ll have to purchase those separately.

Check your local fire department guidelines before purchasing fire, safety, or sanitation equipment.

Cost of Equipment

The cost of equipment varies widely depending on the size of your supermarket, whether you buy new or used items, and the brand you choose. For a small mom-and-pop grocery store, equipment could be as low as $60,000. But costs for a significant operation with a full deli, bakery, butcher, and fish counter could reach millions. We’ve gathered data for a basic supermarket. Keep in mind that the following amounts are approximate and highly personal to your unique business:

  • Cash registers with touchscreen technology range from $300 for simple models to upwards of $2000 at the highest end.  Meanwhile, a basic self-checkout kiosk starts at around $1,500 and can surpass $10,000 a unit with features like built-in scales and super-advanced RDIF technology.

  • A combo conveyor belt/check-out counter starts at about $1,000 and goes up from there.  

  • When you buy in bulk, shopping baskets average around $5 per handbasket. Refurbished carts can be as low as $100, whereas brand-new metal or plastic carts can cost $200 or more.

  • Store shelving typically costs between $200 and $1,300 per unit, depending on the height, width, and material.

  • Prices for refrigerated and frozen storage run the gamut, mainly depending on the size, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,800 to $10,000 per system.

  • A two-pipe HVAC for a commercial building generally costs $15 to $23 per square foot, while a four-pipe setup will cost $23 to $28 per square foot. The average grocery store is about 40,000 square feet. 

  • Installation of a small four-camera surveillance system, for instance, will cost about $1,700 upfront, but depending on the bells and whistles you choose, the price can climb to $10,000 or more when you add more cameras and supplement with burglar alarms and security tags. Remember to factor in ongoing monthly fees as well.

Things to Consider When Buying Supermarket Equipment

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s important to take your time and not rush into buying supermarket equipment too quickly. Consider what you need for your space and your supermarket type, what you can afford, and who you want to buy it from. 

When buying supermarket equipment, always choose sturdy, high-quality items that can withstand constant use through the years. If this sends you into sticker shock, investigate finance options and loans to make the start-up costs more manageable. In addition to traditional bank loans, an array of alternative funding sources are available to those with good credit. Here are a few things to ponder as you create your shopping game plan: 

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1. Quality

Simply put, you should buy the highest-quality supermarket equipment that you can afford. While business owners are always worried about start-up costs, purchasing cheaper equipment can have financial consequences down the road. Choosing lower-priced items can translate to breakdowns, customer frustration, and every supermarket owner’s worst nightmare: spoiled food. Be sure to look at the equipment in person before making an investment to assess whether the appearance and function are up to your standards. Questions to ask yourself: Is it brand new or used? How old is it? What material is it made of? Who is the supplier?

When outfitting a butcher, fish counter, or any area requiring specialized tools, consult your employees, restaurant chefs, or other market owners to get brand recommendations and advice on what items are truly necessary.

2. Pricing

Decisions in the retail business often boil down to pricing. One way to approach your shopping list is to identify the equipment that will see the most use and then splurge on those items. Sure, well-established brands command higher prices, but they also bring a level of assurance when it comes to performance and durability.  

Carefully evaluate what’s important to you and your supermarket brand. Buyers who prioritize innovation, for instance, may be willing to pay more for advanced features and technology integration. The age and condition of the equipment will also impact the price. Older or used equipment might save some cash, but be sure to inspect any item thoroughly before buying. 

3. Space considerations

Your supermarket floor plan will ultimately determine the size and amount of the equipment you need. For example, elaborate and oversized produce bins may not only be costly but can also interfere with the flow of your customers. Think about how your customers will move around the aisles in various scenarios: with carts, with employees stocking shelves, with special displays in the aisles. You’ll want to check the dimensions of every piece of equipment before purchasing to ensure plenty of room for customers and employees to move around easily at peak shopping times.

4. Choosing the right supplier

Choosing the right supermarket equipment supplier is the key to ensuring that you receive high-quality equipment you can count on. If you’re a supermarket vet, you might have a good idea of what’s out there. But if you’re new to the industry, don’t buy from the first supplier that pops up on Google.

Link up with grocers trade associations in your state, look through trade directories, and connect with other supermarket operators for brand input and recommendations. Find out how long the supplier has been in business and what kind of credit history they have. The best suppliers won’t try to “hard sell” you. They’ll take the time to walk you through the equipment options and provide maintenance and repair services down the line.

5. Checking for leasing option

Leasing supermarket equipment can be a savvy move to save money during your business's launch, allowing you to allocate funds to more pressing areas. Another benefit is that you can return the equipment at the end of the lease term, making upgrading to the latest models easier. There might even be a buy-out option if you want to keep the equipment. Additionally, lease payments may be tax-deductible as a business operating expense. 

The big downside is the long-term cost accrual. Paying month-to-month with potentially high interest rates will make the items more expensive than buying the equipment outright. 

6. Hire a supermarket planner

Just like with restaurants, you can hire a supermarket planner to help with your equipment needs. These professionals will guide you through the equipment procurement process and can provide valuable insight on layout, design, and brand development, too.

New vs. Used Equipment: The Pros and Cons

Buying used supermarket equipment has pros and cons, and the right move depends on your individual needs and budget. The biggest and most obvious benefit is you’re not paying full price for brand-new equipment in the costly start-up phase of your business. You can save a huge amount of money that can be allocated to more pressing needs.

The downside is that the equipment may not be in tip-top shape, have outdated technology, and have a mysterious history. Buyers should carefully evaluate the maintenance records, if available, and the equipment's overall condition to ensure they’re getting a fair deal. Take a hard look at your supermarket equipment list and evaluate what makes sense to buy used, like gondola shelving or shopping carts. The right decision for your supermarket may be a mix of new and old equipment.

Finding the right supermarket equipment for your unique business 

Every business owner knows the importance of having equipment that is in good working order at all times. If something goes wrong, it can mean spoiled food and serious losses. There’s much to think about, but as the saying goes, “Do your future self a favor and work hard now.” With planning, smart budgeting, and an equipment checklist in your back pocket, you’re well on your way to opening the supermarket you’ve dreamed of.

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