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  • John Marks

To Lease or Not to Lease: A Guide to Leasing Catering Equipment

Updated: May 1

To lease or buy commercial equipment in the catering industry? It depends on available capital, cash flow projections, and tax implications, each with specific consequences for business operations and financial health. Here's what you need to know about catering equipment leasing.

Chef in restaurant kitchen finishing a dish

What Does Catering Equipment Leasing Mean? 

Leasing catering equipment involves renting necessary tools and appliances for a specified period, typically through monthly payments. It provides a cost-effective alternative, allowing you to use the best equipment without the significant upfront costs. 

You can lease all kitchen equipment, whether you run a bustling restaurant kitchen, a catering service, or a mobile food truck. Practically, you can get everything your staff needs (and dreams of) without spending all your cash reserves — from commercial-grade ovens, refrigerators, and freezers to specialised equipment like food warmers, grills, and beverage dispensers. 

Deciding Between Leasing and Purchasing in The Catering Industry 

Financial Considerations  

Leasing offers are budget-friendly and typically involve lower upfront costs than outright purchasing. It's particularly advantageous for small or startup catering businesses with limited capital, allowing them to obtain necessary equipment without straining their finances. 

Plus, leasing catering equipment allows you to manage your cash flow with smaller, fixed payments instead of sizable lump-sum upfront costs. This predictable expense structure facilitates better budgeting and financial planning, enabling you to allocate resources efficiently and maintain stability in your operations. On the other hand, purchasing equipment outright may strain liquidity in the short term, but over time, ownership of the equipment can lead to cost savings and greater control over expenses. 

Looking for tax-efficient solutions? Purchasing brings depreciation deductions, while monthly payments are typically fully deductible as business expenses. 

Equipment Needs and Usage 

Leasing offers flexibility with possible short-term or temporary requirements, such as catering for a specific event or seasonal demand. On the other hand, long-term operational needs might benefit more from purchasing commercial kitchen equipment, especially if used extensively over an extended period. 

Beyond usage, equipment obsolescence can also influence your decision. Leasing gives you access to the latest equipment and technology without the risk of owning outdated equipment. You can upgrade to new equipment at the end of the contract to remain competitive and maintain product quality and customer satisfaction. 

Another advantage of leasing catering equipment is scalability. Suppose you're experiencing growth or seasonal fluctuations in demand. In that case, you can quickly adjust your inventory without significant upfront costs or long-term commitments.  

Maintenance and Support  

You bear the full responsibility for maintenance and repairs for the kitchen and bar equipment you own. You cover everything, from routine cleaning and servicing to unexpected breakdowns. Maintaining equipment costs and effort can add up over time, particularly for complex or specialised equipment. 

You won't have any of these issues when leasing, as it often includes routine servicing, repairs, and replacing faulty components. You can minimise downtime, reduce repair costs, and ensure that equipment remains in optimal working condition throughout the lease term. 

It's a double-edged sword, as the quality and responsiveness of customer support will significantly impact the reliability and performance of your catering equipment. All the benefits depend on your attention when picking your partners. As a general guideline, look for access to a dedicated support hotline, on-site servicing, or timely resolution of maintenance issues.  

Lease Terms 

Review all provisions, including payment terms, lease duration, and usage restrictions. Pay close attention to clauses related to equipment maintenance, insurance requirements, and liability to avoid unexpected costs. 

Another factor to consider is end-of-lease options, which are crucial for planning and optimising the value derived from the leasing agreement. Evaluate the costs, obligations, and potential benefits to make strategic decisions aligned with your long-term goals. 

Buying vs. Leasing Catering Equipment  



Offers a budget-friendly option with lower upfront costs

Requires substantial initial investment

Provides flexibility with smaller, fixed payments

Strains cash flow initially but offers long-term cost savings

Payments are fully deductible as business expenses

Offers depreciation deductions for tax benefits

Suitable flexible terms for short-term or temporary requirements

Ideal for long-term operational needs

Provides access to the latest equipment without risk of obsolescence

Risk of owning outdated equipment with potential need for upgrades

Enables scalability without significant upfront costs

Limits scalability and poses challenges in managing excess equipment

Includes routine servicing, repairs, and replacement of faulty components

Requires full responsibility for maintenance and repairs

Minimises downtime and reduces repair costs

Adds up costs and efforts over time

Relies on the lessor's quality and responsiveness of customer support

Depends on the business to manage maintenance and repairs

Focuses on access to a dedicated support hotline, on-site servicing, and timely resolution of issues

Requires attention to quality and reliability of support services

Benefits of Leasing Catering Equipment 

  • Leasing catering equipment helps you conserve your capital and allocate funds to other essential areas of operations, such as marketing or staff training. 

  • You get access to the latest and most advanced tools and appliances without the significant investment required for purchasing. 

  • Lease terms empower you to adapt to business changes, as they can be tailored to suit specific requirements, such as short-term leases for seasonal businesses or longer leases for stable operations. 

  • Many leasing agreements include maintenance services. 

  • Lease payments are fully deductible as business expenses for tax purposes. 

  • Predictable monthly payments maintain liquidity, making it easier to manage their finances effectively. 

Disadvantages of Leasing Catering Equipment 

  • The total amount paid over the lease term often exceeds the cost of purchasing the equipment outright. 

  • You don't own the equipment, so you can't sell or modify it according to your needs. 

  • If the lessor doesn't provide adequate assistance, you may face disruptions in operations and register additional costs to address equipment issues. 

  • Lease agreements may include restrictions on equipment usage or penalties for exceeding usage limits. 

  • The end of the lease term may bring additional costs or obligations, such as returning the equipment in good condition or negotiating lease extensions or buyout options. 

A Strategic Roadmap for Deciding to Lease or Buy 

Step 1. Evaluate equipment requirements, considering both current and future business plans. Analyse factors such as production volume, menu expansion, and anticipated growth. 

Step 2. Pinpoint the specific catering equipment needed to sustain your operations effectively. Consider capacity, functionality, and specialised requirements unique to your business niche. 

Step 3. Compare the total cost of leasing versus purchasing catering equipment over the expected lifespan. Include all associated expenses, including upfront fees, monthly payments, maintenance, and potential resale value. 

Step 4. Analyse how each option affects your ability to manage expenses and maintain financial stability. 

Step 5. Review lease agreements provided by leasing companies, paying close attention to key terms such as contract duration, payment structure, and any additional fees or penalties. 

Step 6. Discuss options like contract extensions, upgrades, or purchase options at fair market value to maximise the return on investment in leased equipment. 

Step 7. Consult financial advisors, accountants, or industry experts for insights on the potential financial implications of each option. 

Step 8. Research leasing companies or equipment suppliers, seeking references and reviews to ensure reliability and quality of service. Look for companies with a proven customer satisfaction and responsive support track record. 

CMKE Finance Options for Affordable Catering Equipment 

CMKE has partnered with Tower Leasing to provide a wide range of finance options for acquiring catering solutions that are simple, affordable, and tax-efficient. Tower Leasing Ltd handles the entire lease process efficiently, ensuring a hassle-free experience for you and your suppliers. 

Leasing from CMKE offers many financial advantages, from maintaining healthy cash flow within your business to enjoying 100% tax relief on rentals. We simplify upgrading to the latest technology anytime while offering customisable payment structures, easy returns, and practical investment solutions. 

Read more about Tower Leasing Ltd funding solutions for further information about credit lines and monthly payments. Contact us for further details about kitchen equipment, installation, and maintenance.

We're happy to provide information and guidance for designing or upgrading your kitchen space. 



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