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Foodservice 101: The Basics

The primary focus of the foodservice beginner, as outlined in the January issue, is to develop and/or upgrade dispensed beverage programs first, beginning with hot beverages (coffee, tea, cappuccino, etc.), and then cold and frozen dispensed beverages. A coffee offering of no more than three choices, including decaf, is typically recommended. Then a breakfast program can be introduced, including bakery and hot breakfast sandwiches. When those programs are solid, a roller grill and/or nacho program and grab-and-go sandwiches, salads and sides can be added as you move into the lunch daypart.

So, what foodservice equipment will you need and how much will it cost?


To start out, you should secure:

Coffee brewing equipment and cappuccino dispensing units that can accommodate the estimated cups per day in sales you anticipate.

A coffee preparation area for customers where they can find well-stocked condiment organizers with all the essentials such as creamers, sweeteners, stir sticks, cup sleeves, lids, etc.

A six-head fountain machine (can be bigger based on the region of the country in which you operate; fountain volume in southern, warmer climates is higher than in cold-climate regions).

A two-head frozen dispensed beverage machine.

A freezer and refrigerator for back-of-the house food storage; a bakery display/merchandiser; an oven to heat breakfast sandwiches; and a warmer to display them.

For operators extending into grab-and-go lunch, other equipment could include roller grills, cheese warmers and open-air refrigerated merchandisers to display sandwiches, salads, sides and snacks.

For the above, consider what type of equipment to use for condiments and the various dispensing options available (i.e. self-serve bar, small packets, pump dispensers, squeeze bottles, etc.).

Retailers can get access to coffee brewing equipment, fountain machines, roller grills, ovens, etc., from suppliers who incorporate those costs into the products sold, so be sure to check what is available from your suppliers before purchasing equipment independently. Costs for the above can range from $10,000 to $30,000 per store, depending on supplier programs, the number of pieces of equipment and brands selected.


Cheaper is not always better when shopping for foodservice equipment. Quality, consistency and reliability are more critical. Although it's tempting to go with low-cost providers, experts warn that operators will end up spending more money on repairs, parts and labor down the road on equipment that is inexpensive and more cheaply made.

Purchase recognized brands from reputable suppliers that stand by their products and provide ample support and training. Some experts also recommend consulting with restaurant equipment supply companies — and/ or category specific consultants — to help with store layout and design, as well as appropriate equipment selection.

If new equipment is too cost prohibitive, consider purchasing used equipment. Leasing is another option, but experts are split on the wisdom of this tactic, indicating the choice is driven more by a company's overall business and taxes philosophy. Review the options with your tax accountant and/or chief financial officer.

Professional foodservice equipment auctions are another option to purchase used — and sometimes new — equipment. This is recommended only for experienced operators that have good, strong service options in place since auction equipment has no warranty, history of use or maintenance records.

Once equipment is purchased, be sure to follow the manufacturer's maintenance, care and cleaning guidelines, which will ensure the equipment lasts as long as it should.

"Be careful when investing in lesser-known brand equipment. The parts and service are the biggest issues you are going to have. Trying to save on the purchase may end up costing much more than you save in the end."

— Jack Cushman, Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes

"Once you have selected a piece of equipment, review and follow the manufacturer's maintenance, care and cleaning guidelines. If you take care of the equipment, it will take care of making you money."

— Jerry Weiner, Rutter's Farm Stores


  • Develop the menu first, which will determine equipment needs.
  • Choose reputable equipment brands that stand behind their products with warranties, training and other support.
  • Check with food and beverage suppliers first to see if they offer equipment as part of their programs.
  • If capital resources are tight, consider purchasing used equipment or leasing.
  • Make sure equipment suppliers have a service and maintenance program before buying the equipment.
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