By Brian Hernandez
You can have the world’s best pizza recipe, a great idea for a concept, and even a groundbreaking dough making procedure, but without equipment, you’ve essentially got nothing. With 2020 behind us and the mystery of a new year still fresh on the horizon, operators are still grasping for a handrail in the dark. The entire hospitality industry changed seemingly overnight and continues to evolve to this day. The “new normal” has now become “no normal.”
Fortunately, we’ve got industry experts like Dan Uccello, a U.S. Pizza Team member and owner of Flo’s Wood Fired Pizza in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Nathan Beucler of Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies in Perrysburg, Ohio, to guide us. Uccello has maintained his business throughout the pandemic through smart decisions and research, and Beucler has served as a valuable resource for Uccello before and during the pandemic. They sat down with us to discuss what kind of equipment pizzeria operators need and the best ways to get it, whether they’re opening their first location or growing a local chain.
PMQ: What does 2021 look like for the restaurant equipment market?
Beucler: One thing we are hearing right now is there are some price increases coming, anywhere from 3% to 20% in the new year. This will probably show up in the first quarter. COVID-19 has definitely impacted labor and materials cost, which will be reflected in the increases. If anyone is looking to place orders in the near future, the sooner the better. Burkett will keep the cost of existing equipment as is while it’s in stock, but the increase will show up eventually. This is probably standard for most suppliers.
Uccello: Also, as an operator, I’ve also been quoted longer delivery times for equipment as well. What usually took one to two weeks to arrive is now taking three to four weeks or longer. So, like Nathan said, act fast if you need anything, but expect delays.
PMQ: Dan, what are your thoughts on new vs. used equipment when opening your first store or additional locations?
Uccello: When I first started 10 years ago, I was cash-poor, and we bought everything used. It actually worked out, and we saved a ton of money. A lot of that equipment is still being used. However, I tried to repeat that on our second location, and that did not go well. We always buy equipment like refrigeration new. That’s one of the most important parts of your operation. If an oven goes down, you can’t make pizzas. If your fridge goes out, you stand to lose all your food as well as the cost of repair. It’s not worth the gamble. There are quality refurbished refrigeration units out there, but that’s just how we do it at Flo’s.
“There are some [restaurant equipment] price increases coming, anywhere from 3% to 20% in the new year….If anyone is looking to place orders in the near future, the sooner the better.”
— Nathan Beucler, Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies
PMQ: Nathan, what used equipment can an operator get reliably?
Beucler: I would stay away from literally “used” equipment and get something reconditioned [when it comes to] anything on the mechanical side—items like mixers or ovens. These are the items distributors typically have the most experience reconditioning. You can generally save up to 50% off the cost of a new oven.
PMQ: Unfortunately, some operations are closing down and leaving equipment behind. Do you think landlords will see the rise in equipment prices and incorporate that into real estate costs?
Uccello: It’s always sad if someone closes down, especially for these reasons, but I think there will be a lot of new space opening up in 2021. Pizzerias are going to be the next hot thing, as this industry is very resilient. You can survive as a pizzeria on carryout and delivery only. I think the unfortunate closings will lead to a lot of turnkey operations, with the building and equipment included. That will be a great head start for anyone trying to start up in 2021. While the cost of the space might be more with the equipment, I think it could lead to savings on equipment and infrastructure.
PMQ: With landlords inheriting used equipment from former tenants, what will be the impact on the equipment market?
Beucler: As far as buy-back value for the end user, that cost will probably go down a little, because there will be a larger supply. But, then again, that will be used equipment with no warranty. It’s a buyer-beware situation. You don’t know the history of that equipment and its maintenance and are probably buying it through an auction “as is.” There is money to be saved by buying used equipment, but it generally ends up costing you more money—and sooner—than if you bought reconditioned. I definitely recommend getting your used equipment through a licensed dealer…so that you know somebody has tested it, replaced parts and components, and offers a warranty on the work.
PMQ: What are some other benefits to using an equipment dealer for your new or used items?
Uccello: One thing I really liked about it, after opening several locations, was the help that you can get in designing your shop. They have the dimensions of all of their equipment, the power requirements or other utility needs, and they know where it should be placed for best kitchen flow. They also have a lot of knowledge about the health and building codes in different regions. They can be a great resource, having already done a lot of the research and legwork to make sure you design an up-to-code pizzeria with a smooth kitchen flow for quality and expediency. But the main benefit is having all the support for your equipment should you need any help or repairs.
PMQ: Nathan, what’s your best tip for getting new or reconditioned equipment for a pizzeria?
Beucler: Buy from a reputable company that stands behind their product. Make sure they offer warranties or guarantees on their reconditioned as well as new equipment. They usually do not make the equipment—they just sell it. But a good dealer will be backed by the manufacturer, and the dealer will stand behind your purchase. Make sure you ask them, “How are you going to help me in the first year in business so I can focus on that and not have to worry about what happens if something breaks in my oven or other equipment?” Find a dealer that can take at least that one concern off your shoulders to let you focus on making your pizzeria successful in that first year and making the best product possible.
Brian Hernandez is PMQ’s test chef and coordinator of the U.S. Pizza Team. To watch the full interview with Dan and Nathan, visit PMQ.com/equipment2021.