A university renovating a dining hall to accommodate students’ dietary needs and a hospital expanding its kitchen to support a from-scratch menu face the same challenge: how to dispose of old cooking equipment to make way for the new. Though selling may be the obvious route, there are also ways that involve giving back and doing a bit of good—both for others and the planet. Here, foodservice operators dish on three preferred methods of ridding kitchens of obsolete cooking equipment.
1. Donate first, then sell
When Palos Community Hospital switched up its service style from a traditional tray line to room service, its need for some of the serveware and larger equipment went out the window. The Palos Heights, Ill., facility turned to a used restaurant-equipment retailer to get rid of some items that were no longer suitable or functional with the new service platform. But many pieces went to a charitable cause.
“We sent portable stainless steel steam tables to organizations that could use them for meal service,” says Cheri Boublis, director of hospitality services at the hospital, which underwent a trifold renovation of its dining room, retail space and kitchen. Many of the hospital’s trays, plates and dishes went to Chicago groups like soup kitchens, the Veterans Association of America and the Association for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. “What has ceased to be useful to us may be useful to others,” Boublis says.
2. Repurpose and recycle
Sometimes, equipment can get a facelift—or be turned into something else entirely—instead of leaving the kitchen. “Our preference was to always repurpose the equipment to other operations that will continue to use it or to recycle the metals,” says Jeff Davis, executive director for auxiliary operations at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, which recently underwent a $2 million renovation. Both the front- and back-of-house areas of The Lodge dining hall evolved to incorporate three microrestaurant concepts, a larger salad bar, separate areas for gluten-free and allergy-free foods, and a new ice cream bar. Stoves were rejiggered with new burners and controls in order to extend the life of each piece; some were taken off-campus to be rebuilt and returned, says Davis.
3. Salvage or scrap
Though most foodservice equipment comprises stainless steel, which offers a reasonable rust-free life of about a decade or more, it’s still a valuable commodity in the industry, Boublis says. And while in many cases Palos was able to reconfigure or repurpose its stainless items, the hospital’s purchasing department has also formed relationships with scrappers in case disposal is necessary.
Lisa Gibson, director of culinary services at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D., once worked on a project at a very small medical center that outfitted its entire kitchen with used equipment purchased from a local salvage company. “There are liquidation companies or equipment savage companies that will pay for good pieces of equipment and then resell them at auction,” she says. “Some of them even have showrooms.”
4. Playing tag
When deciding what to do with equipment, tagging items to indicate whether they’ll be sold, reused, donated or scrapped keeps everything organized. “We always had the destiny [of equipment] identified,” Boublis says. “There was never a question if somebody would find ditching it to be the most convenient route.”