Economy vs. Premium: Should you scrimp or splurge?

Economy: Should you Scrimp or Splurge?

The internet is filled with bargains - and bargain shoppers. I’m one of them; people enjoyed making fun of me for buying about 20 crock pots last black friday because they were great deals - until they got one as a gift. Often times, Online stores are able to offer better prices than their brick-and-mortar counterparts because they have less overhead and a world wide sales base. However, it’s a mistake to assume that everything online is cheaper for this reason. Several of our brands are economy, which means they’re lower priced not only because we have the best prices, but also because they’re designed with your wallet in mind.

The difference between economy and higher end brands takes a little explaining. A lot of times we assume it’s like buying generic soup at the grocery store - when you get rid of the name brand you save a lot without losing any quality. That’s not usually the case when it comes to restaurant equipment. Let me explain with three examples. Hopefully it will help you decide if you should scrimp or splurge.


First, take refrigerators. You can set an Arctic Air AR49 next to a True T-49 and the Arctic Air is going to win out on price every time; currently to the tune of about $750. But does that mean it’s a better deal?

Arctic Air AR49 - 2 Door Reach-In Refrigerator

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Maybe. It really depends on what you’re looking for. It’s hard to use words like “better” or “deal” because the two companies have two different goals. True strives to be an industry leader; they produce high quality, innovative, feature filled coolers. They build everything in the United States and have a large parts and service network to cover their 3 year warranty (5 on the compressor). Arctic Air aims to provide commercial refrigeration at a very economical price. They do a great job at this by stripping away little expenses that True adds on and you end up paying for. Things like Energy Star certification, an oversized cooling system, aluminum lined doors, and a 3 year warranty instead of 1 year.

At the end of the day, you have to ask, what is it that you’re looking for in a fridge? Do you like the bells and whistle, the little upgrades, and the higher quality of a premium brand? Or, do you want something that will simply stay cold and get the job done - and a price to match?

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is another area where you really get what you pay for. There are different kinds and thicknesses of stainless and the cheaper brands use the cheaper materials. It’s worth looking into what will best suit your needs - especially if you’re around salt water or acidic foods (tomatoes, for example).

While inner strength is one thing, we’ve found that it’s generally what’s on the outside that counts. The biggest difference you’re going to see on economy stainless is the finish. Whereas premium stainless is meant for beauty and function, economy stainless saves you money by not caring about looks. Surface scratches, exposed welds, and marks where the protective coating was cut are all commonplace on economy lines such as Atlantic MetalWorks. For instance, Atlantic MetalWorks is not designed to be put on display in the front of the house, though many are happy to do so, it is not what it was made for. It’s made to give you a sturdy piece of equipment at an easy price, and this is where it really excels.

Atlantic MetalWorks Stainless Steel Equipment

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Finally, let's talk fryers. With stainless, you’re probably not going to hurt your bottom line by having a less-than-beautiful finish on your sink. However, with fryers, saving money up front could very well mean losing money in the long run. When we talk fryers, we’re really not having a conversation about fryers at all, instead we need to talk about oil. Your fryer is going to last a long time; your oil is not. Therefore, when thinking about value, you want to think about oil since it’s going to be replaced far more frequently. The top destroyer of oil is heat - which is necessary to fry. Some have said lowering the temperature of oil just 10 degrees will double the life of your oil (Source: General Filtration).

Vulcan LG400 - 45-50 lbs. Freestanding Economy Gas Fryer

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So what’s the difference between an $1,000 and a $5,000 fryer? Many things, but mostly the consistency of the heat put into your oil. Most of the time, economy fryers’ thermostat will have a 20-30 degree variation, most premium ones will be within 3 degrees. This means that when you set your oil at 350, an economy fryer may have it at 320-380, a premium will be 347-353 degrees. Remember how that 10 degree difference can double the life of your oil? You see where I’m going with this...

Let me show you a comparison between two fryer’s oil costs:, an economy Vulcan LG400 vs a premium 1VK45C. Here’s what I’m assuming:

  • Your oil costs $1/lb
  • With an economy fryer, you’re changing the oil twice a week.
  • With the higher end 1VK45C, you’ll be changing the oil once a week.
  • We’re only talking about heat and oil, I’m not factoring in any of the other money-saving features like gas savings or longer warranties on the 1VK45C

Given these assumptions, here’s a chart showing your costs for the fryer and Oil.

1VK45C LG400 Savings with 1VK45C
Base Price (as of 8/1/15) $5,849 $1,117 -$4,732
Year of Oil $2,600 $5,200
Year 1 $8,449 $6,317 -$2,132
Year 2 $11,049 $11,517 +$468
Year 3 $13,649 $16,717 +$3,068
Year 4 $16,249 $21,917 +$5,668
Year 5 $18,849 $27,117 +$8,268
Year 6 $21,449 $32,317 +$10,868
Year 7 $24,049 $37,517 +$13,468
Year 8 $26,649 $42,717 +$16,068
Year 9 $29,249 $47,917 +$18,668
Year 10 $31,849 $53,117 +$21,268

After the first 2 years, that oil savings is going right to your bottom line. You save about 80% up front going with an economy fryer, but it will cost you in the long run. So, especially with fryers, make sure you think through what you’re going to pay in the long run if you’re thinking about a piece of economy equipment.

Vulcan 1VK45C PowerFry Commercial Gas Fryer - 45-50 lb. Oil Capacity

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As with any large purchase, it’s best not to assume anything. If you still have questions about your equipment purchase, please contact us! We want you to get the best equipment for your needs and are here to help make that happen.