Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sold: One 10-Burner Vulcan Range

Tom says:
The original plan was to attend the restaurant auction with my friend, Tim, whose past experience with such events would benefit me, but it was not to be. The weekend's ice storm left his morning manager without power, which, in turn, left Tim without coverage at his own restaurant. I was on my own, armed with a plan and a handful of cash.

The cornerstone of that plan was to avoid overwhelm, not to be the metaphorical kid in the candy store. I arrived 30 minutes before the start of the auction to scope out the inventory. I knew what I'd come for--a 10-burner Vulcan range--but didn't know what else might catch my eye. Turns out, not much.

My plan also included identifying who, among the masses, were restaurant brokers and used-equipment dealers. Targeting those bidders, watching them closely would, I knew, help me to establish a baseline and keep me from over-bidding. The other attendees were an interesting mix of bargain shoppers and people like me seeking to outfit their restaurants at a price set by someone else's failure.

The bidders (myself included) were a pack of dogs circling the auctioneer, sniffing out the value of the lot, tracking his each and every word. The auction opened in the bar--stools, television, hand rail, the art on the walls--everything, even the silk flower arrangements, was for sale (it went for two dollars). A hundred plastic speed pours sold for a dollar; the blond granite bar top garnered $1,000. The lots were going fast, the majority of bidders devouring them like locusts in a wheat field while the seasoned bidders observed from the perimeter of the room. This told me what I'd already suspected: the best deals to be had were in the kitchen. And the kitchen lots were last on the auction's program.

When we moved into the kitchen, the energy shifted. Bidding increments increased from one or two dollars to $25 and $50 and the brokers and dealers pushed their way to the front of the pack. It appeared to me that they all knew at least knew of one another. There seemed to be an unwritten rule not to bid against one another else they they had prearranged agreements in place as to who was going to bid on what.

But I won the 10-burner I'd come for and it cost me exactly what I was willing to spend after factoring in delivery, minor repairs and cleaning. It wasn't a steal, but it was still a good deal. I made a significant equipment upgrade for what amounts to fairly short money. Should I be worried that no one bid against me? Is there something they knew that I didn't? If so, I'm sure I'll discover it soon enough. Meantime, I'll take one of the restaurant's line cook's word for it: it was the best range they'd had on their line, he said.

Within three hours, the auction was over. Within five, the restaurant was stripped bare (everything sold was required to be taken off premises same day). Nothing remained but empty liquor bottles and some misfit small wares that weren't worth five dollars.

Now it's time to turn my focus back to my to-do list with all the things on it that will keep the auctioneer's gavel from Z. Demo starts tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I doubt the dealers and brokers knew something you didn't. My guess is they based their bid amounts on what they could expect to resell the range for to make it worth their while. You didn't have that constraint so my guess is that your bid, while higher than theirs, was considerably less than you could buy it from a dealer or broker.