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Apr 19, 2014

Making A Shopping List: Equipment Shopping Tips For Grocery Stores

Opening a grocery store can be an incredibly overwhelming process.  Aside from the incredibly large quantity of front-end equipment needed, including check out and office equipment, there are a number of commercial pieces of equipment to sell, preserve, and store the tremendous amount of food that moves through a grocery store.  To make the process of shopping for a grocery store simpler, we have broken down the basic departments of a standard grocery store and the equipment they will require to function properly.

Storage & Shelving:  In a high volume operation like a grocery store, adequate storage space is an absolute necessity.  There are three basic types of storage your grocery store will need.

  • Retail Shelving – Retail shelving is of paramount importance in a grocery store.  If items for sale are not accessible and displayed in an eye-catching manner, it will have an effect on sales.  Retail shelving, and plenty of it, will be needed.
  • Dry Storage – On top of retail shelving, additional dry storage will be needed for any and all backstock, as well in all of the individual departments of the store.  Wire shelving, dunnage racks, speed racks, utility carts, and palette storage should be in heavy supply.
  • Refrigerated Storage Shelving – Storage will be needed in any and all refrigerated settings, but the added environmental humidity will corrode conventional dry storage shelving.  Refrigeration specific storage equipment, heavy duty plastic shelving, or epoxy coated wire shelves are some of the most popular, but whatever storage equipment you do purchase must be able to handle the conditions.

Refrigeration:  Grocery stores bring in tremendous amounts of perishable food items, and various forms of refrigeration are needed to properly house and market these items.

  • Walk-In Cooler Merchandisers & Additional Walk-Ins – Grocery stores require an expansive walk-in cooler merchandiser.  These refrigerated rooms allow product to be loaded from behind, and give customers the convenience of just opening a glass door for items like milk or eggs.  But in addition to a walk-in dairy / beer merchandiser, additional walk-in space will be needed.  It is relatively common that each particular department, such as the meat department or the produce department, have their own walk-in space so products are housed in product specific conditions.  A walk-in freezer will also be necessary to house backstock of any frozen items that are brought in.
  • Glass Door Merchandising Coolers & Freezers – Additional glass door coolers will be needed to house impulse buy items such as soda or water throughout the store, but there will be a tremendous need for glass door freezer merchandisers.  Businesses do not typically use a walk-in freezer merchandiser, but rather opt to store their frozen products in rows of glass door freezers.  Primarily, this is an attempt to save on the excessive energy expenditures that grocery stores have.
  • Open-Air Merchandisers – Open-air merchandising coolers and freezers have their place in a variety of different departments of a grocery store.  Frozen meats and seafood can often be found in open-air freezers, and most all produce is stored in open-air merchandising coolers (many of which are purchased with water misters to keep produce fresh longer).
  • Additional Reach-In Coolers – Additional refrigerated space may be needed in departments such as the bakery, the deli, or the prepared food department that will be working with ingredients that are perishable.  Standard or undercounter reach-in coolers usually need to be placed somewhere near the work area, as it isn’t always convenient for employees to make constant runs to the walk-in.

Bakery:  The bakery department of a grocery operates just as every standard bakery does.  Producing things like pizza dough, bread, and pastries, the standard equipment found in a grocery store bakery is much the same as you find in most other bakeries, though grocery store bakeries often have commercial donut fryers.  For more information on purchasing equipment for a commercial bakery, please check out our Buyer’s Guide More Than Just Dough

Butcher Shop / Seafood Shop:  Much like the bakery department, the meat department / butcher shop operates much like any standard butcher shop.  For more information on opening a butcher shop and purchasing meat processing equipment, please take a look at our Buyer’s Guide Meat N’ Greet.

Deli:  Grocery store delis are often one of the busier departments in the store, especially since many delis have started to offer sandwiches and sides.

  • Meat & Cheese Slicer – Heavy duty slicers will needed to slice the tremendous volumes of meat and cheese that need to be sliced on a daily basis.  Light duty slicers may be adequate in some situations, but when sliced cheese is available for purchase, heavy duty slicers become absolutely necessary.
  • Scales – Price calculating scales are necessary in a grocery store deli.  They are the most efficient way to weigh and price out deli cuts for customers.
  • Deli Case – A deli case is more than necessary to display cuts of meat; it’s expected.  Customers want to see an elegant display while weighing their options, and a deli case is the only way to appease deli customers while simultaneously keeping meats at proper temperature.
  • Sandwich Prep Unit – Many deli counters have started making sandwiches with some of their available cured meats.  Deli departments that intended on proving this service to customers will require a sandwich prep cooler to keep the various spreads, dressings, and vegetables on hand as well as at proper storage temperature.
  • Cutlery & Food Prep Tools – Many grocery store delis offer the staples of traditional delis, such as potato salad, 3 bean salad, or other chilled edibles.  Standard food prep tools and utensils, such as mixing bowls and cutlery, are necessary if you have cooks preparing food.  Some cooking equipment may also be necessary depending on the variety of menu items available, however some of this cooking may be done in a shared food prep area with the prepared foods shop.
  • Sinks & Dishwasher – Hand sinks, prep sinks, mop sinks, dish sinks, and a commercial dishwasher are necessary anytime food is being prepared.  These items should not only be in the deli, but in the bakery, butcher shop, and prepared foods shop as well.

Prepared Foods Shop:  A new addition to some grocery stores, prepared food shops offer customers that may be warn out from extended shopping ready-to-eat foods to take home with them.  In many ways a prepared food shop operates the way a standalone restaurant would.  There are, however, a few pieces of larger equipment that tend to be found in all of these types of shops.

  • Steam Wells & Heat Lamps – Once foods are prepared, they need to maintain proper serving temperatures until they are served to customers.  Steam tables, heat lamps, and even heated display cases are must-haves in your store’s prepared foods shop.
  • Combi Oven – Combi ovens are mutli-purpose ovens that can be used as both a convection oven and a steamer, and can operate at number of different levels in between.  Prepared food shops often offer a large range of food items, and a combi, one of the most versatile pieces of cooking equipment, is becoming commonplace in these types of operations.
  • Rotisserie Oven – Most grocery stores offer roasted chickens for customers, and a rotisserie oven is the most eye-catching way to roast chickens.  Though chickens can be roasted in combis, customers tend to expect a rotating rotisserie spit when they purchase roasted chicken.
  • Deep Fryer – Items such as French fries, fried chicken, falafel, and other fried foods will be offered in grocery store prepared food shops.  Deep fryers and dump stations should be purchased for any prepared food shop planning on offering fried food, but it is important to note that grease hoods and an exhaust fan will also be necessary to vent fumes.
  • Salad Bar – Salad bars are often incorporated into a grocery store’s prepared food area.  Refrigerated or ice cooled cold wells are a must for keep produce and other salad toppers, as well as a plethora of food pans, and crocks for things like dressing.