What kind of equipment do I need to start a small French fry restaurant?
My advice is to buy the best machinery you can afford, because if you do high volume you will need it. The biggest investment will be the fryer. Both electric and gas can work, but it depends on what is available for your space.To start out you could try purchasing a used fryer, but get a name brand like Frymaster or Pitco. There are several used fry machine dealers on the internet now and Ebay is also an option. While I don't personally recommend one over the other, here is a site to get you started: http://www.basequipment.com/Gas-Floor-Model-Fryers-s/210.htm
Capacity is important, but so is recovery time and the shorter the recovery time, the better you will be able to keep the oil at a consistent temperature and increase your chances for a better fry. If you can finance a new fryer, even better. Just remember, staying in business means you have to break even as fast as possible, so don't over invest in your first place. You can always upgrade later. But buying quality always pays off. Remember to get extra baskets and possibly a rack to have cut, blanched potatoes ready to go. A roll-around holder for the baskets can help.
As far as cutting the fries, my favorite hand cutter is one that is durable, won't flex when used frequently and is easy to get replacement parts. An old reliable is the Keen Kutter. It runs about $300 and is money well spent. Vollrath also has a good one. If the cost is about $100 I can almost guarantee it won't last and the blades will not stay sharp for very long.
You will also need all the usual kitchen equipment: three-compartment or double stainless steel sinks to wash and drain the potatoes. Rinse the cut potatoes and place into big tubs of water (or use plastic buckets that food such as pickles and mayo comes in). You HAVE to blanch the potatoes to get a decent final fry. I don’t know of any way around this. Then, you need to store the blanched potatoes, usually in plastic tubs, in refrigeration such as a walk-in or, if starting a restaurant on a small scale, a reach-in.
For peelers, Hobart has some of the traditional ones that grind off the skins, but they’re abrasive by nature and can bruise what is left of the spuds. Most restaurants leave the skin on as the best way to give a homemade appearance.
That pretty well sums up the equipment needed. I wish you the best of success in your venture. By the way, the best investment you could make is to volunteer to work at a place that does fresh cut fries for a couple of weeks to see and experience the steps firsthand.