Why You Should Be Shopping At Restaurant Supply Stores

They aren't just for chefs.

Kitchen Utensils

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They’re usually located somewhere in the industrial district of your city, hidden between warehouses and bathroom fixture showrooms. Maybe you’ve seen their signs and wondered what a restaurant supply store might contain—or thought, can I, a civilian, go inside? Perhaps the commercial deep fryers and three-compartment sinks advertised in the window put you off, as surely there’s nothing for the home cook in there.

But that’s not strictly true. Not unlike Costco or Sam’s, restaurant supply stores offer discounts on kitchen items in bulk, but they also sell restaurant-grade (i.e. incredibly durable) equipment at lower price points. Sure, you won’t find most of the name brands carried at a home cooking store, but you’ll find kitchen items that will last a lifetime in unbranded glory.

Why I Love Restaurant Supply Stores

It’s one of the best places to shop if you are moving into your first place or just looking to outfit your kitchen on a budget. My college roommate and I subsisted all four years on inexpensive pots, pans, and utensils from a restaurant supply store, and they managed to survive a rotating crew of additional 20-something roommates who accidentally attempted to burn, melt, or break just about everything in the kitchen. Many of those pots, nearly a decade after they were first purchased, are still in my friend’s kitchen, shiny and working just the same as they did before the many cooking incidents. 

After college, I started working in restaurant kitchens, and began outfitting my home kitchen in earnest. Even on an entry level baker budget, I could afford the whisks, bench scrapers, and spatulas that all rung in for less than $5 each. I may have left restaurant kitchens, but I still can’t part with the gear. 

What To Know Before You Go

You likely won’t get the same level of customer service as you would at your local kitchen store (they tend to assume you know what you’re doing). That said, the staff are also very knowledgeable, so don’t feel like you can’t ask them a question about a pair of kitchen scissors.

While they will have a large variety of kitchen gear available, it often won’t come in multiple colors, and the colors they do offer tend be one of the two primary colors, black or white. No pretty pinks or mint green like KitchenAid makes.

These kinds of stores also tend to carry the same handful of commercial brands instead of a whole slew of options like at a typical kitchen store. Often what’s on the floor is not all that’s available though, and more items can be found online or ordered in store.

What To Buy

These are some of my favorite things to buy at a restaurant supply store:


For rubber spatulas you aren’t afraid to stain, or tongs and spoons you’ll feel no guilt chucking into the dishwasher, this is your store. Since these tools are made to go through commercial restaurant dishwashers, they’re super durable, but typically cost less than their counterparts made for home cooks at regular stores. They also sell the best cookie dough scoops in every size imaginable.

Storage Containers

If it's time to replace the random assortment of plastic storage containers in your kitchen, try sourcing a new set from a restaurant supply store. You can build your own collection of clear or opaque containers with interchangeable lids. They come in a wide array of sizes, and commercial brands like Cambro are prized among chefs for how they neatly stack in fridges.

For smaller storage, clear deli containers, like you get from takeout, are sold by the dozens at super low prices. This means you won’t mind if a few go missing after dishing out leftovers at your next party. 

Cutting Boards

Cutting boards are designed to get destroyed, and for durable plastic boards that are easy to sanitize and don't cost a fortune, a restaurant supply store is the way to go. They’re typically sold in a variety of sizes (including larger than average ones that are great for meal prep), and in a few primary colors too, so you can designate one just for meat. You can clean them with bleach or throw them in the dishwasher. You can also hack at them with a cleaver. They'll survive anything.

Sheet Pans

Much like cutting boards, sheet pans are kitchen workhorses and the perfect place to buy them is at restaurant supply stores. They not only retail for less, but come in more sizes than typically available at a department store or kitchen store (including the cutest mini sizes). Like any sheet pan, it will stain in places, but some elbow grease can fix that.

One Item You Should Purchase Elsewhere

If there's one thing to avoid buying at a restaurant supply store, it's knives. Much like everything else in the store, these knives are built for durability. Yes, they're inexpensive, but they usually have plastic handles that while dishwasher safe, are uncomfortable to grip. They have a decent enough blade to get by on, but they aren’t going to last long term. That’s because tools take a beating in restaurants, so it doesn’t make sense for businesses to invest in expensive knives that will likely get destroyed. If you are just starting to learn to cook and don’t want to invest in a good knife, then restaurant supply store knives are fine; otherwise, invest in something that will hold an edge a little longer. 

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