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How to Get a Killer Bargain on Restaurant Equipment

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Looking for a deal? Hit the auction block for your next major purchase.
By Danny Klein March 2017 Kitchen

The struggles of the casual dining industry have been well chronicled. But here’s a question that often goes unanswered: What happens to all that pricey restaurant equipment?

In many cases, there’s a solid chance the next owner might just want to open a restaurant. If not, though, there’s always the auction block.

“Unfortunately we have been asked to assist in the closure for several of these restaurants. However, this is a unique opportunity for restaurant operators to obtain deep discounts on restaurant equipment,” says Neal Sherman, the president of RestaurantEquipment.Bid, in a release.

Check Out the Bidding Here

Currently, you can log on and bid on items from 10 shuttered Ruby Tuesday locations. The starting bid for all items is $1 with no reserves.

These are rough times for the casual dining icon, which all but put a price tag on its brand earlier in the month. Ruby Tuesday closed 109 company-owned stores since the first quarter of 2016, including 95 in the first quarter of 2017 alone. In mid-march, Big Whiskey’s out of Springfield, Missouri, announced it was moving into two former units in Nixa and Republic. This will be a pretty common theme in the coming weeks and months.

Ruby Tuesday, which still has 613 restaurants in 42 states, 14 foreign countries, and Guam, left behind valuable real estate in this venture, as well as equipment.

A trip to the auction for the Greenville, South Carolina, location (ending in 20 days), has a dishwasher with booster heater, pre-wash sink, and dry-table going for $1 right now. The same is true of six bar chairs, an under-counter refrigerator, stainless steel work table, Perlick Bottle Chiller, Booths (tables included), Overhead Food Warmers, and more. A top-line dishwasher alone could run $10,000 and above in many places.

At 2:30 p.m., when there were about four hours left on an auction in Beachwood, Ohio, a conveyor dish washer setup with exhaust vent, load table, finish table, and booster table was just $1. Even an upright freezer with two split doors, which has seven bids, is sitting at $100. Want a 42-inch flat screen TV with wall mount included? Five bids in, it will cost you $12. A baby-changing table? $2.

This isn’t all a Ruby Tuesday sale, either. There are auctions from other brands as well.

It’s hard to pin down an exact figure on profit margin in the restaurant industry. Most statistics place it somewhere between 3 and 6 percent, meaning that finding a great deal is nothing to scoff at. And equipment is a notorious dark cloud in the startup equation.

Perhaps the solution, in the end, is just a click away.