The Essential Restaurant Kitchen Equipment Checklist

By: Rich Lansdale

9 Minute Read

Jun 25, 2019

Food Service Equipment

If you’re planning to open a restaurant, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is how to set up and stock your kitchen.

A restaurant kitchen is where your menu comes to life, and it needs to run like a well-oiled machine. There are so many moving parts to a perfect dinner service, and if one crucial piece stops working, the whole evening can go off-course. Because of that, it's important to make sure your kitchen is well-stocked with all the tools you need, and that your equipment is up to par and maintained regularly. 

As you're brainstorming ideas for your dream business, go through the following restaurant equipment checklist and make sure you're not missing a thing.


15 Types of Essential Restaurant Equipment 

1. Storage Containers

There’s little that back of house workers love more than a new shipment of storage containers. Plastic liter containers, Cambros, and hotel pans of all shapes and sizes are the bedrock of every prep and line cook’s operation. You’ll also need lots of good tape – make sure it stays sticky even if it gets a little wet – and Sharpies for labelling containers over and over again. 

2. Servingware  

If there’s nothing to serve the food on, there’s no restaurant. You’ll need tons of cutlery, plateware, bowls, ramekins, cups, and glasses. Consider the number of tables you can fit in your restaurant and how many guests you hope to serve every night when factoring in how much to buy. Also consider breakage – in the chaotic environment of restaurant kitchens, it’s not uncommon to lose a plate or glass every few shifts, even more likely in high-volume operations. 

3. Cooking Equipment

Consider what tools you’d need to execute your entire menu in one shift. Pots of all sizes, saute pans, tasting spoons, mixing spoons, sheet pans, whisks, fish spatulas, ladles, bowls of all sizes, squeeze bottles, bench scrapers – the list goes on and varies widely depending on the type of food you want to make. You’ll also need more of each item than you expect. While your dishwasher may be the most efficient one around, there will still be times when all the saute pans are dirty, even if just for just a few minutes. 

4. Storage Racks and Shelving 

Properly-installed shelving can be a great solution for storing various appliances in your kitchen, as well as perishable and nonperishable foods. Having an organized storage system will also help streamline your kitchen operation – keep the most-used equipment within arm’s reach, and the stuff that’s used less frequently on the top and bottom shelves. 

Mobile storage racks are also endlessly useful – they’re usually sized to fit 20 standard sheet pans and can be used for storing and transporting food. 

5. Safety Equipment 

Make sure your kitchen has proper safety equipment. A well-stocked first aid or medical emergency kit is crucial in a workplace that runs on fire and knives, but you’ll also need things like fire extinguishers and domed safety mirrors that let people know when someone is rounding a corner. Check your local fire department guidelines before purchasing fire, safety, or sanitation equipment, and avoid potential complications by always keeping your kitchen up to fire code standards.

Ensuring your staff wear non-slip shoes and providing rubber floor mats to prevent injury from standing for long hours also play a big part in keeping your kitchen safe. 

6. Freezers and Refrigerators

All commercial kitchens require a refrigeration system of some type. Without a fridge, you can't keep ingredients and prepared foods fresh. Freezers are also crucial for inventory management because it's much more cost-effective to buy 300 steaks and freeze them than to buy 10 steaks every day. 

Industrial-grade refrigeration units are designed to meet the unique needs of the food industry. For example, they have the ability to cool large pots of sauce to a safe temperature in record time, so they're a key purchase for any food handling operation. You’ll have to decide between reach-in units and walk-in units.

Although walk-in fridges and freezers have more storage space – and they can be custom built to fit any kitchen – smaller restaurants may not need a walk-in unit. There are even outdoor refrigeration and freezing options available if interior space is an issue.

Make sure to seek professional help for installation and that you know how to properly maintain your unit, as they can be costly to repair.

Related Post: Chef Brian Duffy on Menu Engineering and Development

7. Food Preparation Counters and Cutting Boards

Prep tables, counters, and cutting surfaces are essential to any commercial kitchen and come in various sizes. Choose preparation surfaces made of stainless steel, which is sturdy against corrosion, doesn’t absorb bacteria from food and meat juices, and can withstand the harsh cleaning products used in commercial kitchens. On the line, you’ll want food prep counters that have small refrigerators underneath them for easy access to food prepped for each station. Some also have refrigerated compartments on the counter itself. 

As for cutting surfaces, choose either plastic or wooden cutting boards. Plastic boards are easier to sanitize but can develop deep grooves that can hide bacteria. Wooden boards are generally tougher to clean than plastic ones but don’t develop grooves as easily. 

It’s crucial to have a color-coded system for cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination. Many kitchens use red for meat, yellow for chicken, green for veggies, and blue for fish and seafood. 

8. A Steam Table

If you want to keep sauces and prepped food warm throughout service, the best option is a steam table. They use warm water to keep food in metal containers warm and at a safe temperature for hours at a time.

9. Slicers

Slicers are often used to cut meat and cheese with speed and precision. 

If your menu is heavy on sandwiches, for example, you’ll want to purchase an electric slicer. If your slicing needs are low-volume or infrequent, a manual food slicer is a better, less expensive option. Electric slicers are automatic, which can save you time and labor. Most electric slicers also allow you to turn off the automatic function and operate the machine manually.

10. Mixers

If your concept involves house-baked bread or desserts, a commercial mixer is a crucial purchase. Just like slicers, it’s important to choose a mixer based on the volume of food you’ll need and how frequently the mixer will be in use.

If you need to mix dense doughs like that of bagels or pizza, buy a spiral mixer. Spiral mixers are named after the spiral-shaped agitator (the mixing appendage), and they mix at high speeds and are capable of handling fifty to six hundred pounds of dough.

For all other types of mixing, choose a versatile planetary mixer. Named after the way the mixing bowl rotates around the agitator, planetary mixers have lower mixing speeds than their spiral counterparts but allow you to make many different foods, from doughs to whipped cream to mashed potatoes. These mixers come in both countertop and floor types, which can handle up to twenty and two hundred quarts, respectively.

Free Resource: 15 Restaurant Staff Training Ideas

11. Food Processors

There are four types of food processors, each with different strengths and uses.

Batch bowl processors collect food as it's processed. These processors generally hold between one and six quarts of chopped food, but can also come in larger sizes. Most bowls are made of plastic, but stainless steel options are available for those who want more strength and durability. These are the food processors most commonly found in home kitchens. 

Continuous feed food processors allow you to constantly add food to the processing unit while it’s running. As it operates, the processor dispenses food into a separate container, meaning you won’t need to empty the bowl to keep the machine running. Continuous feed processors can minimize preparation time when processing large quantities of food, making them a great option for commercial kitchens.

Buffalo choppers are heavy-duty, all-metal food processors capable of chopping everything from small vegetables to tough meats. Although heavier than other food processing types, these units are sturdy and multifunctional.

Combination processors combine the properties of batch bowl and continuous feed units. You can add an attachment that collects chopped food in a side container or use the bowl instead.

12. Ranges and Ventilation

If your restaurant plans on making anything but salad, you’ll need a kitchen range. The range is the powerhouse of the kitchen, so it’s important to choose one that meets both your cooking needs. Like residential ranges, commercial units can be either gas or electric. If you’d prefer to have a visual, responsive cooking experience, go for a gas range.

Gas ranges make it easier to judge heat levels and change from high to low settings much faster than their electric counterparts. Alternatively, electric ranges have smooth, elegant, easy-to-clean designs and come in three sub-categories.

Standard electric ranges use coils to heat food, whereas you cook directly on the flat surface of smooth-top electric ranges. Electric induction ranges employ magnetic coils beneath a ceramic glass top to generate heat, but they require special magnetic cookware to work.

Keep in mind that any operation that uses heat to prepare food is required to have appropriate ventilation equipment installed. Range hoods, which sit on top of stoves and broilers, use fans to suck grease, moisture, and heat through filters and out of the kitchen. They can be custom-built to fit any location.

13. Ovens 

Most ranges come outfitted with an oven. If your operation centers around baked goods, it may be in your best interest to purchase a range with a convection oven setting. Unlike regular ovens, convection ovens have a fan and exhaust system that blow hot air around the food. They are an excellent appliance for roasting, toasting, making pies and cookies, or dehydrating.

However, for foods that are made from a batter like custards, cakes, and some breads, use a regular oven. 

Depending on your menu, you may also need to get special restaurant equipment like deep fryers, flat-top grills, or an industrial salamander for broiling.

Related Post: The Giant List of 101 Culinary Terms all Chefs Should Know

14. Sinks

Sinks are vital to any kitchen because they provide running water as well as space for handwashing, cleaning produce, defrosting frozen meat under running water, or washing the occasional cooking utensil as needed. 

Health and safety authorities typically require commercial kitchens to install a triple-sink wash station and a commercial dishwashing machine, as well as a dedicated handwashing sink. 

15. Kitchen Display System

Gone are the days of yelling out orders to the kitchen or tacking up hand-written tickets on the line. A kitchen display system gives the back of house access to important insights in real time, including orders and modifications, inventory available, and the progress of orders and time to completion. The best KDS technology will also offer analytics and reporting so you can optimize your menu and staff for maximum efficiency, even during your busiest shifts, while integrating directly with restaurant point of sale systems

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