The Dangers of Domestic

While bargain-hunting for appliances may on the surface save commercial caterers money, many business owners and managers are unaware of the dangers it poses. As leading suppliers and distributors and servicing partners testify, relying on domestic equipment is a short-term fix which may have long-term implications for efficiency, safety and compliance...as well as your bottom line.

Owners and managers may be forgiven for the oversight in buying domestic instead of commercial machines in many cases, with the distinction being far from clear - more manufacturers are designing high street units to look like commercial alternatives, and for many in the market for cookers or refrigeration equipment, this is enough to create an illusion of reliability. Indeed, there is no legal ‘line’ between domestic and commercial catering equipment; as long as compliance obligations are met, it’s fair to say that anything goes. On that note however, it’s likely that regulatory guidelines will not be upheld where lighter-weight equipment is used, with ‘off-the-shelf’ equipment simply unable to stand up to the rigours of daily operation.

Domestic refrigerators for example do not have the same insulation or compressor power as commercial units. This renders them unable to maintain safe temperatures in commercial use, leaving those in charge of the company open to punitive measures upon failed inspections.

Don’t pay for choosing the cheapest deal

It’s on a practical and economical front that the difference between domestic and commercial options becomes crystal clear. Many budget-stretched organisations buy with only price in mind, but as JLA’s Head of Catering Kirk Whitehead reflects, that could actually be more expensive approach in the long-run:

“Our engineers see care homes, hotels and restaurants using domestic appliances, without realising that they’re working to a false economy. These units are more likely to break down and leave them unable to offer a valuable revenue-bearing service, and even pose a risk to staff due to overuse or poor build quality and design. They could face repair or replacement costs too when they realise warranties are void when high street ovens, microwaves, fridges, freezers and dishwashers are used in commercial settings.”

Another thing worth noting is that, should insurance companies learn of domestic appliances being used for business, they could reject a claim on the basis that equipment is ‘not fit for purpose’. In cases of fire, such claims could amount to thousands of pounds - which few could afford to redress without help. Kirk continues: “A major concern is that domestic standard units come with domestic standard support - if any. Opting for commercial grade appliances instead opens up possibilities for inclusive, heavy-duty service packages such as our own Total Care package, and complementary solutions like preventative maintenance or gas safety checks which ensure performance as well as safety. For busy businesses, that can be a real benefit in both compliance and convenience.”

The morale of the story told by Kirk and other catering industry experts is to refrain from buying bargains, and ‘buy better’ instead. When performance and cost are taken into consideration the message from those in the know is that although using domestic equipment is legal, it is anything but frugal. 

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