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What would you take from abandoned pan-Asian restaurant?

My sister's partner owns a strip mall and one of the tenants couldn't make the rent and abandoned the restaurant, leaving pretty much the entire place intact. The ex-owners of the restaurant cleaned out all of the food and took the decorations off of the walls, but the entire kitchen and front are there.

This has happened to my sister's partner before from time to time since he owns a couple of rental properties and they usually end up having to just throw the stuff out or it gets stored in a warehouse. My sister feels the stuff shouldn't go to waste and wants to have a look through to take some of it for home use.

The restaurant was owned by Vietnamese and served American style Chinese, Vietnamese cuisine, and sushi, so it has paraphernalia from all of those genres of cuisine.

She called me to ask what she should take. I told her most of the stuff is going to be industrial sized, like the deep fryers and stuff. She can also donate some stuff to charity.

Both of us know the inside of Chinese and Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants well since my childhood best friend's family owned such a restaurant and my sister actually worked for their family for a couple of years while in college.

We brain stormed based on our memories of my friend's two family restaurants, and the only cool stuff we could think of were the giant rice cookers, the ladles and stir fry stuff, the woks (my sister says there are tons and tons of woks probably since restaurants go through them fast)...also the plates and stuff. I told her to take the sushi paraphernalia, as well as any steamer baskets if they have any. Also to go for the knives.

It would be a shame for this stuff to just get junked. If you have experience in this sort of restaurant, can you give any ideas on what cool stuff to take so that it doesn't go to waste?

I told her not to take any big stuff, otherwise her place will start to look like some bizarre episode of hoarders packed with Chinese restaurant supplies.

If you know the back of a typical restaurant of this sort, can you give some suggestions?

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  1. I grew up in restaurants as both my parents were chefs and/or restaurateurs.

    Like you said, there isn't much you can take and repurpose for home use given the industrial size of most of the appliances and cookwares.

    And I'm not even sure I would take the knives, most kitchens and restaurants of that ilk don't (1) buy really quality knives and (2) if they do, don't really take care of them. Plus, many of the knives (as well other cooking utensils) will be too big to even store at home. More trouble than they are worth IMO.

    And aside from that it looks like you've already covered the basics, for everything else I would get a liquidator to take it off your hands or just put everything up for sale on eBay.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I agree. When we quit the restaurant business, there was very little that we could use at home. Most of the stuff is just too big for home use, or you don't have the same infrastructure to use it at home. You can't fit a 3-foot diameter wok on a home stove.

      1. re: raytamsgv

        And alot of it was too greasy (or dirty) to take home.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          But just think: if you had a 40-cup rice cooker at home, you'd only have to cook one batch a week!

          1. re: ricepad

            But then I'd have to bring the restaurant fridge back home as well cuz there ain't no way that much rice is going to fit in the fridge I have now.

    2. Don't junk what you leave - in most areas there is at least one dealer in used restaurant supplies, so sell it.

      1. I see you are in the DC area.We have many options for liquidation and disposal,not waste.
        Small private schools still working on kitchens,various charity kitchens,auction folks etc.
        Maybe call DC CENTRAL KITCHEN ,202-234-0707 .. http://www.dccentralkitchen.org for some advice or input.
        if you GOOGLE ..restaurant equipment liquidators the options are huge,even CRAIG'S LIST

        Finding a home for the entire inventory should be easy,sale or charity.Even the knives aren't worthless.Even if they look cheap and maybe are,they are dishwasher safe and will take an edge.They are just fine to fill the gaps in a school or charity kitchen.

        5 Replies
        1. re: lcool

          lcool - that's what I was thinking, there are plenty of "soup kitchens" out there with shoddy and substandard equipment who would be eternally grateful.

          for anything. that was the subject of my favorite episode of 'Restaurant Impossible' when they remade a small outreach in umm, Chicago? and blew most of the budget just on the kitchen.

          1. re: hill food

            That equipment may have to be cleaned first. Green demolition is another option. These guys are in CT - but they may be interested and/or know of someone in the DC area.


            1. re: scoopG

              OP responded to me below,the restaurant isn't in the DC area.Fortunately green demo and industrial cleaning for charity is wide spread on the east coast.

            2. re: hill food

              I know,many that have to build one item at a time.
              DC Central Kitchen is a wonderful success story,now with a catering arm.

              1. re: lcool

                Central Kitchen is indeed a great organization. so is ummm Miriam's Table? Martha's Table?

                ehh irrelevant to this thread, but every city has worthy needs

          2. Thanks everyone for the input.

            I am in the DC area but my sister is not, lcool.

            I have sent her a link to this thread.

            1. In addition to all of the above, I would definately keep a wok burner. Especially if your sister has natural gas or if it burns propane.

              1. I'd check to see if your sister is legally entitled to do so. I wouldn't take anything before knowing that. Jail time or a hefty fine may be a big price for "free goods".

                12 Replies
                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                  Of course it will vary by country and region but here it is common for landlords to sell off abandoned items.
                  Fatima, she could also try freecycle.org - a giveaway site.

                    1. re: luckyfatima

                      I'm no lawyer, but you should look into *Conversion* statutes....

                      1. re: fourunder

                        I'm quite sure my sister's boyfriend, who owns several such properties and has experienced this kind of abandonment before, and who has lawyers, knows the protocol and wouldn't have asked my sister if it were illegal.

                        1. re: luckyfatima

                          Landlords cannot convert property....They can remove it, but they have to store it for you...however, they can charge you for storage...Either way, they need a judgement to collect.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Are you certain that is true in all 50 states?

                            1. re: lcool


                              n. a civil wrong (tort) in which one converts another's property to his/her own use, which is a fancy way of saying "steals." Conversion includes treating another's goods as one's own, holding onto such property which accidentally comes into the convertor's (taker's) hands, or purposely giving the impression the assets belong to him/her. This gives the true owner the right to sue for his/her own property or the value and loss of use of it, as well as going to law enforcement authorities since conversion usually includes the crime of theft.

                              Since conversion is an act of theft....I'm pretty sure.

                              1. re: fourunder

                                OK makes sense to me.I do wonder where "abandon" ,"failure to pay rent" and the terms of a "lease" come into play.Evictions,forfeitures,lease or no lease for failure to pay rent must have some role,I know in Maryland they are different in each county.

                                1. re: lcool

                                  You cannot hold a person's property for ransom to pay rent.....you need to seek a judgement....You can claim the property was abandoned, but you have to make a reasonable attempt to contact the owner of the property. You sell the items off...but you would have to give all funds collected back to the property owner.

                                  You can remove the property and store it ...and charge a fee for removal and storage. Usually, the property owner will then forfeit the items...as they probably are not worth the amount owed.for the storage and fees.

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    This is more what I picture:
                                    I'm sorry we can't pay the rent for the third month in a row. Business is bad. I guess we'll have to close down.
                                    Ok I can store your stuff and go after you in court for rent and storage fees which I know you don't have, or we can both cut our losses, and I can try to sell some of this stuff (which you can't afford to move and have no use for) to recoup some of my (our) losses. Deal?

                                    1. re: julesrules

                                      IMHO, what fourunder describes is the correct legal process in many places.

                                      Even if the property is "abandoned", you need to file notice to the tenant and provide an opportunity to claim their property, minus any appropriate storage fees (many landlords discount storage fees as if the tenant takes everything it saves the landlord on disposal costs). If the tenant releases the property, or if they do not claim it within some amount of time, then the landlord can dispose of the property. How that happens is different from place to place as well, but generally any property under some value can be just thrown out, given away, appropriated directly, etc. Above the value, in some areas you have to put the property up to an open auction (at which the tenant may bid on the property, in addition to the landlord - which I think is supposed to prevent abusive "storage" fees greater than the value of the property that are really a veiled attempt to claim lost rent).

                                      Often, what Julesrules describes is what actually happens when a tenant abandons restaurant/retail space after a few months of non-payment, though it opens the landlord up to some potential liability if the ex-tenant sues to reclaim property or value of property that has been disposed.

                                      At the very least, make an itemized list and take photos of everything before disposal, that way they can't try to claim they had some priceless Ming vase in the place. Good documentation limits liability greatly.

                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                    In california, at least, the items still belong to restaurant owner. They have a certain amount of time to collect them, and if they don't, assuming that the value is over a certain amount (either 100 or 1000) the landlord is responsible for auctioning off the items and using the money to repay any amount of default (and the cost of the auction) with the extra money going back to the ex-tenant.

                  2. I'm not a lawyer either but I am an accountant. The equipment and fixtures in the restaurant could have very well been used as collateral for a loan in which case the creditors would get first dibs.

                    1. Did they leave any waitresses?

                        1. re: beevod

                          You assume they had one.

                          Maybe that's why they went out of business.