Many people are surprised to find out that the majority of commercial kitchens rent their knives. There are companies who bring in sharp knives into these kitchens and remove the dull ones on a regular schedule. They normally charge a flat fee for weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly service. The knives are all sharpened in a central location (or several locations) and then deployed to be switched out for the dull knives. This greatly increases the productivity of the sharpening company, who no longer has to provide mobile sharpening services to the restaurant. It means that a lower skill level can be part of the business model as the employees who switch out the knives only need to have basic driving and communication skills (they do not need to know anything about sharpening). It means that larger, industrial methods of sharpening can be put in place thereby creating sharpening jobs that require less skill. It means, in short, that a knife rental business can be scaled in a way that a traditional knife sharpening business cannot. And the best news is that anyone who is willing and able can start a knife leasing company for very little money.
Like any new business, getting started is challenging. The skill set of somebody wishing to start a knife rental business must include the ability to sell. There is also the matter of sharpening knives and sourcing them. In most cases, the knife will have been paid for by the second time it is sharpened. Each time it gets swapped out after that is gross profit. Knives can be bought in bulk for anywhere from $2 to $6, depending on the style, length, etc. Prices that can be charged per knife for service vary by region but are generally between $2 and $5. So, if a medium sized restaurant needs to have 15 knives on hand, they may have them changed out every week for $3 per knife. So, the leasing company will charge that restaurant $180 per month for weekly service. They will normally have a mix of knives that includes chef (both 8” and 10”), bread, boning, slicers, cimiters, paring, and occasionally some specialty knives like double handled cheese knives or pizza rockers. Some kitchens like to have color coded knives to help avoid cross-contamination. Typically, this would involve yellow knives for poultry, red knives for other meats, and green knives for produce. Other restaurants just prefer all black kitchen knives. The knife rental business isn’t just for restaurants though. There are all sorts of other commercial and institutional kitchens that use these services as well (like hospitals, schools, dormitories, catering companies, office cafeterias, the list goes on). The key to success is in acquiring a lot of accounts.
It may sound like a new knife rental company would need to go out and buy thousands of dollars’ worth of new knives to get started. Fortunately, that’s not really the case in starting out this kind of business. You can start out with smaller quantities and pay a little bit more for the knives, and then build up from there. So, one person can easily start a knife rental company if they are willing to start small, work hard, and reinvest the profits into more knives. Then the knives become cheaper because they are being purchased in bulk. That increases the profits, and continues to have a snowball effect as the company is grown.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand the basics of how knife rental companies work. There aren’t many legitimate businesses that can be started with a small learning curve and a relatively small initial investment. This is one of them!
At Foodserviceknives.com, we provide different styles and colors of all the common kitchen knives that commercial kitchens use. Single knives, small packs, and full case pricing are available. We are happy to put together custom knife orders as well.