Stainless steel and aluminum are two construction materials frequently used in the design of foodservice equipment and supplies, and is usually a big selling point for manufacturers and customers alike. So which one is better? Well, that depends on your needs!
Stainless Steel Work Table, CRP model 671-740
Stainless steel is composed of iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and copper. Don’t let the name fool you though. Stainless steel can still stain. A scratch to the surface can lead to rust, as well has heated water that leaves behind deposits and chlorides. However, the reason it is called stainless steel is because it won’t corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel.
There are five different classifications of stainless steel: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, duplex, and precipitation hardening. The most popular you’re likely to encounter when shopping for foodservice equipment and supplies is austenitic, ferritic, and martensitic stainless steel.
Austenitic stainless steels are one of the most weldable stainless steels and encompass the common 300 series (chromium-nickel combination), the 200 series (manganese-chromium-nickel-nitrogen combination), and specialty alloys.
Ferritic stainless steel contains iron-chromium alloys. They have high flexibility, but poor temperature strengths when compared to austenitic grades. This is a popular choice manufacturers use when designing kitchen sinks and counters.
Martensitic was the first to be developed for commercial uses, and in the initial stages it was mostly used for produce cutlery. It’s similar to the ferritic group, but contains a balance of chromium and nickel. Combined with the ferritic group, you have your 400 series.
Aluminum Stock Pot, CRP model 535-156
One of the biggest benefits of an aluminum construction is that the material is light-weight and durable. This makes it a great option for structural parts and equipment housings, as well as heavy gauge cookware. It’s also a great conductor of heat. It’s an excellent thermal conductor.
Aluminum has higher oxidation and corrosion resistance because of passivisation, the process of rendering a metal surface chemically inactive.
So, stainless steel or aluminum? Which should you get?
Depends on your use. Aluminum is typically cheaper than stainless steel as stainless steels are harder and usually more difficult to form than aluminum. However, aluminum has a better thermal conductivity which is better for cooking equipment.
Aluminum is more prone to surface scratches and more likely to dent, so this may be more challenging to clean.
If you’d like more information on the differences between stainless steel and aluminum, check out this blog.
The importance of your bar/restaurant’s ambiance cannot be overstated. Consumers leave their humble abodes not only in search of good food, but also fun experiences. New York Times journalist Moira Hodgson once questioned, “Considering the diversity of setting, one might ask, just how much does ambiance affect the enjoyment of food? Does the atmosphere of an elegant restaurant enhance the pleasure of what is eaten there?” We argue yes. Without the experience staged by ambiance, food is just food. Bleh.
Styles and themes vary far and wide, but profitable establishments know how to make a lasting impression. Here are some tips.
Don’t just rush to set up tables and chairs. Spend some time thinking up the right theme. How do you want your guests to feel while dining in-house? Does the mood you create complement what’s on the menu? When in doubt, Feng Shui! Rearrange and play around with the seating. Hang up artwork. Light some candles. Experiment until you find the right fit.
Make your marketing efforts consistent. Your menus should match the environment. Your social media posts should show off what potential customers gain by stopping by your place instead of another’s. Is your establishment not active on social media? Get active on social media.
Lighting is important. It underscores the tone and pulls the entire space together. Dimmer lighting creates a cozier, more intimate feel. Brighter lighting illuminates what you want your guests to focus on. Degree of lighting aside, make sure it’s evenly distributed. You don’t want your guests to feel like they’re under a spotlight (unless your theme is Disco Night). Shop candles and lighting options now.
The music you play also ties in. Don’t just put on the most popular radio station. Think about your mood, and play what fits. Cozier establishment, try an acoustic or jazz station. If you’re not already, consider investing in a satellite radio subscription. There are hundreds of commercial-free stations that serve up a genre for every mood.
Stainless steel and aluminum are two metals very important to the foodservice industry. So which is better? Both, actually. Each metal is better for different applications. When we attended Vollrath University in late June, they broke the two down and explained which is better for specific uses.
Stainless steel is made up of iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and copper. This iron alloy has a minimum of 10.5 percent chromium, an agent that provides corrosion resistance. It’s non-porous and non-corrosive with a higher resistance to rust as well.
What makes stainless steel less corrosive is a “passive” layer of chromium oxide that the chromium forms.
Vollrath explained this is 12 to 30 percent chromium and too thin to be visible but protects the metal beneath. Nickel assists in the process and restores itself with oxygen. So—as long as the passive layer or film stays intact, isn’t broken or contaminated, a product remains stainless.
Can it still stain though? Yes. A scratch to the surface can lead to rust. So can heated water that leaves deposits and chlorides found in salt, water, cleaner and quaternary salts. But even though the possibility to stain is there, Vollrath reminded us it’s called stainless because it won’t rust, corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel.
Types of Stainless Steel
There have been at least 150 grades of stainless steel found; 15 of those are used in the foodservice industry and four of those 15 are more popular among foodservice equipment and supplies.
Vollrath explained there are two types of stainless steels:
Comprised of alloy with nickel and chromium. There are the 200 and 300 series stainless steels and are the most specified grades in foodservice. Austenitic stainless steels are corrosion and water resistant. They are non-magnetic as well.
200 series: In general, this type of stainless steel is commonly used for wheel covers and door hardware. Being more specific to the foodservice industry, these are commonly found in counters, oven parts, covers and tray slides.
300 series: These are typically found in steam table pans, sinks, food processing equipment and Bain Maries. The 300 series contains 301 and 304 stainless steels.
301 stainless steel is 17 percent chromium and 6 percent nickel (otherwise known as 17/6). As there is less nickel, it isn’t as corrosion resistant as 304, however Vollrath said it is more difficult to form and is stronger because it has less nickel.
304 stainless steel is 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel (otherwise known as 18/8). It resists most oxidizing acids and is very corrosion resistant.
This type of stainless steel does not contain nickel and does not have the same corrosion resistance found in the 200 and 300 stainless steels. It’s also magnetic.
400 series: In general, type 430 stainless steel (explained more in detail below) is found in automotive trim, architecture and mufflers. Specific to the foodservice industry, this type is common in flatware, carts, structural parts and steam tables.
430 stainless steel is 16 to 18 percent chromium and contains no nickel (otherwise known as 16/18-0). Despite not having any nickel, it is quite corrosion resistant but not as much as the 300 series.
Vollrath explained aluminum has higher oxidation and corrosion resistance because of passivisation. When aluminum is oxidized, its surface will turn white and will sometimes pit in some extreme acidic or base environments.
Aluminum is more lightweight than other metals and is strong. It’s particularly strong when blended with alloy elements, hence being ideal for structural parts and equipment housings as well as heavy gauge cookware.
Aluminum is also a great conductor of heat. Vollrath said it has excellent thermal conductivity which makes it ideal for cookware and equipment where good heat conductivity is needed. It is also less expensive than stainless steel.
Types of Aluminum
Similar to stainless steel, there are different types of aluminum, each different for specific foodservice applications.
Vollrath said this type of aluminum is 99 percent pure. It’s soft, forms easily and can’t withstand tough commercial duty applications or high heat applications without warping. This type of aluminum also dents and scratches easily.
This type of aluminum is one to 1.5 percent manganese. It forms easily and items of this type hold up extremely well for normal use, however, may still be too soft for commercial/heavy duty use.
This type of aluminum is one to 1.5 percent manganese and 1 percent magnesium. It’s more difficult to form than the 1100 or 3003 and Vollrath said is much more impervious to sever use. It’s tougher and lasts much longer than 3003. This is a type of aluminum ideal for quality cookware, bake ware and tougher commercial equipment applications.
Recap: Stainless Steel vs. Aluminum…Which is Better?
Vollrath wrapped up this section with the following information to help determine which metal is best for specific applications.
Stainless steels are harder and are especially harder to form than aluminum.
Aluminum has a much better thermal conductivity than stainless steel.
Aluminum is more porous and prone to surface scratches and dent, which makes it harder to clean.
Effect of Foods
Stainless steel is less reactive with foods. Aluminum can react to foods which may affect color and flavor.
Aluminum is typically lower in price than stainless steel.
People lease all kinds of things from cars and homes to furniture and electronics. It’s the modern tool used by businesses to gain the use of equipment and furnishings.
Leasing helps foodservices and restaurants in a variety of ways; one of those ways being the ability to avoid a high capital expense all at once. Ownership of equipment doesn’t produce revenue; it is actually the use of that equipment that makes sales.
Really, it all comes down to what you’re comfortable with for your foodservice establishment and what is the best fit for you. As with anything, there are risks. Some risks are worth taking, while others aren’t.
“It’s best suited for restaurants that are existing,” said Product Consultant Greg Otterman about leasing. “They want to upgrade their equipment and they want to avoid a high capital expense all at once. So leasing to own works perfect to get the new energy efficient equipment. Have a low capital expense and save energy too.”
Upfront Costs and Freeing Working Capital
Restaurant equipment costs can add up and sometimes businesses just don’t have all the money upfront to buy new equipment. Or, even if they do have all the money upfront, sometimes that money may really need to be used for something else.
When on a tight budget, you evaluate what you need and what you don’t need—but sometimes businesses make sacrifices on purchases that hurt them in the long run such as buying a lower quality item that isn’t as efficient, or choosing one without needed features.
This is where leasing comes in.
Think back to what was mentioned at the very beginning—it’s the use of equipment that produces revenue, not the ownership. You don’t buy a new piece of equipment for the sake of buying it, you’re buying it because you need it.
Spending thousands of dollars on something that isn’t exactly what you need can hurt your business. Leasing equipment can get you the product you need without a large upfront cost.
“When equipment is leased, instead of exhausting cash accounts on fixed assets, it frees up capital for other expenses,” said Missy Fishburn, leasing and credit analyst at Central.
I’m Ready to Get Started…Now What?
“Once a completed application is received, it is forwarded to one of our authorized lease companies,” Fishburn said about how the process works at Central. “We usually have a decision within 24 hours. Most of the time less. The upfront cost is going to depend on the customer’s creditworthiness. It usually equals out to one or two upfront payments which is applied to the lease.”
Depending on credit, there may be a high interest rate involved with the lease. At that point, some customers go through with the lease while others don’t. A high interest rate may be a deal breaker—and that’s when you have to take a step back to weigh the pros and cons. You may find in some circumstances leasing with a high interest rate is more efficient than not getting a piece of equipment at all.
A Few Other Benefits to Help Make a Decision
Better Terms: Leases can usually be extended at fixed rates over a longer period of time than conventional bank financing without large down payments
Cleaner Balance Sheet: Lease payments may be entered as footnote items on a balance sheet and may not increase your liabilities as a loan does. This is important to obtain additional credit.
Competitive Rates and Terms: Some programs include seasonal plans, deferred payments and 12 month leases
Conserves credit lines for other use
Helps Overcome Budget Limits: Since a lease is generally treated as an expense rather than as a capital expenditure, room can often be created for monthly payments
Leaves Bank Lines Untouched: Normally a lender will not reduce a credit when equipment is leased. However, when the equipment is financed, it consumes available credit.
Most have no penalty for early payoff
Simplified Recordkeeping: One monthly payment covers the entire cost of the equipment
Tax Advantages: Lease payments are usually considered a pre-tax business expense and qualify for the Section 179 deduction
For more information about Central’s leasing options or to get started, visit our Leasing Page, or contact a Product Consultant at 800-215-9293.
Thanks to Missy Fishburn and Greg Otterman for their help on this blog.