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How to Handle all Those Rental Knives!

Posted by Travis Jones on

Getting a knife rental business going can open up some logistical problems you might not have considered. You’re going to be driving around with hundreds of kitchen knives every day, and that can be tough from a safety and organizational standpoint. As you begin building your route, you’ll want to have a pre-determined system for dealing with dull, dirty knives. You’ll want to have your sharp, clean knives ready to go so you can make the most of your time. You’ll also want to make sure that if you come to a sudden stop that you don’t have a 12” chef knife hurling towards your head!

So let’s break down these issues one at a time and talk about logical ways to approach all of these issues. Things will go a lot smoother in the earlier stages with some planning. You’ll have enough to worry about without losing an account for accidentally giving a restaurant a rack full of old dull knives. So, first up is keeping your knives completely separate. Commercial kitchens are incredibly hectic places and it is really easy to get confused or sidetracked when you are switching out knives. I kept it really simple and carried 2 trays into each kitchen. The clean, sharp ones were in the top tray and the dirty, dull knives were on bottom. It makes appearances better too as people just see the clean, sharp rental knives on the top. I also found it very useful to have checklists for which knives you are picking up in each location. I kept a checklist for each account (with blank squares next to each type of knife). This is easy to do in excel, so each kitchen has its own checklist that looks something like this:

Example Café (bi-weekly) – Tuesday

10” Chef       {}  {} {} {}

8" Chef         {} {} {}

10" Bread     {} {}

6" Boning     {} {}

14" Slicer     {}

Print these out and put them in the drawer with the clean knives. Bring another empty tray that you carry below. That way, when you go into the restaurant, you know how many knives you are picking up. You know what type they are, and if one is missing you can circle it and make note of it somewhere when you have more time. These lists will also help when you are sharpening the replacement knives, so you know how many of each to put into each tray. When you are switching out rental knives, speed and efficiency are crucial. Don’t be the guy that stands around talking too much. While it’s important to develop relationships, the people running the kitchens won’t appreciate you taking up too much time from the employees. Be the guy that flies under the radar and gets more accounts serviced in less time. If you want to make money in the knife rental business, that is. So pay attention to what knives you are picking up and dropping off. If you are changing out your kitchen knives every 2 weeks, they are certainly going to notice if they accidentally use a knife for 4 weeks. The chef or kitchen manager may give you a break once or twice, but there are usually other knife rental services they can use.

The containers that you keep the knives in should also be considered. Giantex makes color coded plastic drawers that work pretty well for most knives. The only trouble you’ll have is with the long rental knives (slicers, cimiters, breaking knives). If you just have a couple of places, you can keep them poking out of the drawers, but this can become a problem when you have 20 stops in a day. Keeping a separate container for long knives is a good idea at some point. For the dirty knives, just keep one big tub (with a lid) where you throw them all. Then you can just wash them all at home each night. When you have good relationships with your customers, somebody may let you wash your knives in their commercial dishwasher. That can definitely be a time saver.

And finally, you want to think about all those loose knives being in your vehicle. They really can be dangerous, so figure out a way to secure them. If you have a trunk, keep them in there. If nothing else, at least put a tarp or something over them so protect yourself. Eventually, you’ll want to consider a commercial vehicle with a cage that separates you from the cargo. Vans can be expensive with gas mileage, so consider other options like mini vans or SUVs. Ford Transits are very popular with knife rental companies as well.

While there are many ways to approach the basic logistics of commercial knife leasing, these are a few of the ways that I made it work for me. I hope that it helps you in thinking about a few of the things you’ll be doing before you get going. You may want to add on-site knife sharpening, industrial scissor sharpening, beauty and grooming shear sharpening, and knife and scissor sales to your services that you provide as well. Stability is the great thing about having a knife rental route as part of your sharpening business. As other types of sharpening may be hit or miss, having a stable knife rental route can provide consistent income. It can also put you in the same areas regularly where you can check in on other types of customers at hair salons, upholstery shops, and more. There is more than enough business out there for the sharpener who is willing to hustle!

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