View Full Version : Best knives for weekly rotation at restaurants in region, high volume sharpening

06-03-2013, 09:32 PM
Hey guys,
Okay, as you may know, I'm thinking about starting my own sharpening shop, old news.

Part of the game-plan for my shop is to have a weekly knife rotation at restaurants in my area.

Right now the restaurant I work at has a guy rotate knives every 2-3 weeks for $2/knife. 2 weeks is too long and the knives are pretty dull at the end of the rotation, the guy is coming from across the state, I don't know how he is making money.

The knives we get with this service are very inexpensive (basically the crappiest knives ever?). I'm wondering how I can sort of compete with this guy and make it worth my effort. I also wonder how I would deal with if a knife got the eff busted out of it or walked away. The awesome expensive knives we normally talking about here in the forum are out of the question unless I can talk the restaurant into giving me some kind of deposit on the retail price of the knives.. and i strongly doubt restaurants will do this.

What knives should I be thinking about? Should I just get the same knives this guy is getting? Should I get something a little bit better?

Service-wise, I'll be rotating the knives quicker. Price-wise, I won't beat him. Quality-wise, where is my break-point .. if a knife gets effed, I'm still okay?

What else should I be thinking about?

Any thoughts? Maybe this is a dumb maneuver?


Dave Martell
06-03-2013, 10:06 PM
Andy, I've got some bad news for you bud, this isn't going to work or I should say it appears to me that it won't work out but you might find a way, never know.

The thing is that most restaurants that rent/lease knives don't give a rat's ass how well the knives work, only that they get reasonably sharp, what they do care about is the cost.

Competing with the $2 a knife guy is tough. You have to do it for less?

These rentals use blade runners, that's a minimum wager in a mini-van who sweeps through your neighborhood dropping off and picking up. He brings the dull blades back to the shop where another minimum wager runs them through a giant grinder - single pass - done - back into the bucket for the next trip out.

How could you hope to do knives on site for less?

I used to use a generator but sometimes I'd get lucky and be able to plug in on site for free. That'd save me some gas but the time required to sharpen when you actually care about the results is about 10x what the rental companies do. Let's assume that you work crazy fast on site, can you do 60 knives in 1/2 an hour? You're going to have to do that because you can't shut down the restaurant while you work.

Then there's the upfront cost, if you can't work on site you'll need at least 2 of every knife that you're renting, that's one in house and one in the shop. That's a crazy amount of money to lay out even for these cheap-o rental knives.

Why do I know this stuff? Because I tried this game myself and never even got to the point of buying the knives, I was bust before I got rolling and I had the truck already making on-site sharpening a possibility. The bottom line was that I couldn't compete with the rental guys and I could do 50-60 knives an hour.

Oh and I almost forgot that some restaurants and supermarkets use the sharpening service offered through their supplier so they have contracts already.

I want to help you but this idea sounds bad to me.


06-03-2013, 10:14 PM
Here's a little story for you. Last year, I went out to visit Devin. There was a fireman camp (brush fires) and there was a catering service for them. Devin went out to say hello and offer to sharpen their knives. He came back with a pile of f-ed up, POS knives. We (Devin, John and myself) spend a few hours fixing and sharpening them. He took them back and the head cook picked one out, cut something directly on the stainless steel countertop and said something like "Yup. This will do." The moral of the story is most people just don't appreciate a sharp knife. Maybe you can educate them? Sorry.

06-03-2013, 11:11 PM
I can see something working if you did it with higher end restaurants and pick up and deliver cooks personal knives and sharpen them on stones. It would be like me calling up and getting 10 knives picked up for me and my crew and in 1-2 days getting them back with mirror polished edges. You can charge per inch. I just don't know how it could work. Maybe bring stone and do it in your van in the parking lot for imidiate turn around just 2-3 knives at a time. I don't have the answers just trying ideas in a different direction. The guys with the "house knives" just have so many and usually work out of a shop and if it gets messed up turn it into a boning or fillet knife.

labor of love
06-03-2013, 11:18 PM
definitely try and find restaurants where the cooks supply their own knives, because they will care alot more for them than the crap knives restuarants provide. i informally sharpen alot of knives locally but not as a business. remember, most guys with shuns and myabis are blown away by their OTB edge-and if you can make that same knife atleast twice as sharp as it was out of the box they will pay 10-20 per knife pretty easliy. Im speaking from personal experience.
that being said, this 2 bucks per knife game is for the birds. can you accept a loss in the short run just to get your foot in the door? I sharpened alot of guys knives the 1st time for free, and then they came back for more, they were hooked. Sorta like dealing drugs i guess. :laugh:

Dave Martell
06-03-2013, 11:24 PM
There's one guy that I know of who's been successful at the mobile knife sharpening game. His thing is unique in that he mostly deals with mid-to-high end places where the guys own their own knives but that's not the schtick - what works is how he does it. First thing is that he doesn't deal with the knife owners, he deals only with the owner or managers, he only talks to the cooks when picking up or handing off, this cuts down the time it takes to get paid. What he does is that he bills the owner or manager after service. This has allowed him to hire employees (sharpeners) and get them in a van hitting restaurants where they just keep track of what they work on for billing. The schtick is that the owner or manager gives this service to their cooks as a benefit. Oh and yeah they sharpen super ultra crazy fast too.

06-04-2013, 03:39 AM
Have been thinking about this a lot in the last few months. Thx for the incite Dave, I had not figured how to make money on 2$ a knife. Exp. when the turn around rate was way to slow.

06-04-2013, 07:26 AM
Keep in mind that by doing it every week opposed to the standard every other week, you're already doubling a restaurant's cost, unless you just charged the $2 per knife every other week. Which case you'll be sharpening knives for free one week out of the two.
I don't know how the guys whom we use does it. It's a family business, and he rotates the knives out every other week which means he has 2 of every knife for Each restaurant/account. He drives around switching out the knives a couple days out of the weak (or maybe Everyday?) and they sharpen them back at home/shop. I believe it's him, his dad, brother and son that all work the business. This tells me they are making ends meat, at the Very least. And for the most part, they run the greater Baltimore Annapolis area, which means for a LOT of driving...

06-04-2013, 10:30 PM
Alright, thank you for your input. I will keep thinking about what I can do.

Dave, thanks for the insight about the benefit offered by the restaurant to the cooks. I'll explore that. ... And of course all the other "reality-check" notes that you have.

The thing I'm hearing from everyone most is I got to find places with people owning their own knives.

Thanks again