Shopping for commercial refrigeration on a budget

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Reliable and efficient refrigeration is an essential component of every commercial kitchen – from the smallest cafes to the biggest restaurant or hotel chains. 

However, kitting out a professional catering environment with the right equipment can be expensive, especially if you’re on a tight budget. It’s also something you can’t compromise on. After all, your refrigeration is what keeps your ingredients fresh, tasty and safe to eat. 

Unfortunately, we’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, thanks to the aftershocks of the global COVID pandemic, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and an energy market in meltdown. 

It means inflation is soaring, interest rates are rising, energy prices are skyrocketing and consumers are really starting to feel the pinch.

Businesses aren’t immune, either. Many are tightening their purse strings and looking to find cost efficiencies wherever possible. 

If you’re on the lookout for commercial refrigeration at the moment – whether it’s new equipment or a replacement or upgrade – you can still find the right fridge and freezer units without breaking the bank. Here, we share a few tips for shopping for commercial refrigeration on a budget. 

Renting or leasing

Renting or leasing your commercial refrigeration equipment can help you out of a short-term bind when cash is tight but may not be right for your business in the long term. 

If you’re looking for equipment over a short time frame – such as for cover if your existing equipment breaks down or to stock seasonal products – then a short-term rental may be a good solution. You simply rent the equipment for the period you need, then send it back when done.  

Leasing, meanwhile, often means signing up to a longer-term commitment (usually around 36 months) or investing in new equipment on a ‘lease to buy’ basis. 

While both renting and leasing are quick fixes in the short term, you could end up spending more in the long run than you would if you were to buy a new or replacement unit outright. So, be sure to do your maths to see which method is the most cost-effective for your business.  

Budget equipment

Investing in budget commercial refrigeration equipment when money is tight is by far a safer option than renting or leasing. 

While budget units don’t have as long a lifespan as mid-range or high-end equipment, you can still pick up some good bargains with decent specs, which should be more than sufficient for what you need. Budget units also come with a warranty, just like their more expensive counterparts, which means you’ll get a guaranteed number of years’ service out of them. 

It means you can invest in budget equipment now, while times are tight, and then upgrade as required once the economy gets back on a more even keel. 

Factory returns and refurbished units

Commercial fridges and freezers often get returned to the manufacturer or wholesaler for several reasons, which means they can’t be sold ‘as new’. 

In many cases, they are in perfect working order but have minor cosmetic damage, aren’t in their original packaging, or have missing accessories or instructions. 

Returned units are graded depending on their condition, and priced accordingly. If you know what to look for, this is where you can really bag a bargain. 

‘A Grade’ units are brand new, unused and come in their original packaging. They are usually in perfect condition, so will be close to full price. 

‘B+ Grade’ units are as good as new. They come with no cosmetic damage but have usually been opened or tried before being returned. 

‘B Grade’ fridges and freezers usually have minor cosmetic damage, such as dents, scratches or paint defects, but work perfectly. If you know what you’re looking for, you can sometimes grab a high-end unit for a budget price if you’re not fussy about how the unit looks.  

‘C Grade’ units have slightly more cosmetic damage than their ‘B Grade’ counterparts and may have been used more. While most are still in excellent condition, they may have a bit more wear and tear than a ‘B Grade’ unit.

Finally, ‘D Grade’ units may have suffered more exterior damage, such as more visible knocks, dings and scratches. They have been used more and may even be refurbished with new parts or components. While you can still bag a bargain with a ‘D Grade’ or refurbished unit, they are a riskier buy, so you’ll want a warranty if possible. 

End-of-line and ex-display

If you don’t mind investing in older units, there are plenty of bargains to be had with end-of-line or ex-display products. 

End-of-line products are the last few units of a model that are available for sale at a reduced price. They’re usually discounted to encourage sales, as wholesalers and suppliers look to free up space in their warehouses for new products. 

Ex-display products, meanwhile, are units that are either out of their original packaging or have been on display in a customer showroom. They come with a full manufacturer’s parts and labour warranty and are usually in ‘as new’ condition, but are discounted because they’ve been on display rather than in safe storage. 

The bottom line

With cash flow a consideration for many businesses right now, making the right choices when it comes to investing in commercial refrigeration equipment is essential. 

However, a low budget shouldn’t be a bar to getting the equipment you want or need. 

If you’re looking for support and advice to make the right choices when buying commercial fridges or freezers on a budget, then Fridgesmart can help.  

We’re one of the UK’s leading suppliers of commercial refrigeration products to businesses and have been selling fridges and freezers for more than 40 years.  

Whatever your budget and refrigeration needs, we’re happy to help. Why not give us a call today?