5 Essential Elements of an Efficient Commercial Kitchen Design

Whether you’re opening a new restaurant or revamping an existing commercial kitchen, there are several essential steps to follow to get the most out of your space.

1. Space Efficiency

When designing a commercial kitchen, it’s important to consider the flow of your staff and equipment. If there aren’t adequate pathways between appliances and workstations, it can create major problems. For example, if you have a crowded layout, it’s easy for your food runners to get in each other’s way while passing off prepared items from one station to the next. This can lead to a breakdown in communication and ultimately slows down service times.

Creating the right flow in your kitchen requires that you keep the distance between workstations as short as possible without sacrificing mobility or safety. This is why it’s important to plan out your entire restaurant and identify the most efficient layout for your space.

There are many different commercial kitchen layouts, but the most common is a linear line that starts with food prep and ends in the area where your customers receive their meals. This design is ideal for restaurants that need to be able to work fast and efficiently from beginning to end.

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Another way to maximize space efficiency is by taking advantage of your kitchen’s existing infrastructure. For example, if you have movable equipment bays or prep tables, you can use them to create a triangle-like layout that allows your kitchen crew to move freely between the sink, stove, and fridge without having to take more steps than necessary.

Having a designated dish return area for FOH staff to drop off dirty plates, utensils, and other items is also important. This can help you minimize waste and prevent cross-contamination between food preparation and dining room service. Additionally, you can utilize the FIFO method of inventory management to minimize food spoilage and waste by placing and labeling items received first in your dry storage, refrigerators, or shelves and then sorting and storing them in reverse order as they are used.

2. Flexibility

Every commercial kitchen gets cleaned on a daily basis, and the layout needs to be flexible enough to allow workers to move equipment and supplies easily. Whether you use an assembly line layout or a kitchen with separate work and traffic aisles, ensuring that all your staff can reach items without backtracking reduces fatigue, food safety risks, and accidents.

Your restaurant concept will also dictate the type of kitchen layout that will work best for your establishment. For example, some restaurants require an island kitchen that resembles a circle to ensure that all chefs congregate in the same area so that handoffs from prep to cook to the expo are seamless. Others may utilize a station-based layout where all the kitchen equipment is located around a central area, which is ideal for large operations that need to service a large volume of guests in short periods.

When deciding how to configure your professional kitchen, it’s important to consider the workflow of your operation and any health or fire codes you must adhere to. It’s also helpful to consult with your chef or food service team, who can provide valuable insight into the types of commercial kitchen equipment you will need for your restaurant’s menu.

In addition, the right point-of-sale system will also help you streamline your workflow and improve operational efficiency. Instead of relying on paper tickets or chits posted to a board, a kitchen display system provides customizable routing preferences for prep stations and servers, ticket and fulfillment time tracking, and integration with online ordering systems to maximize accuracy and increase the number of tickets your restaurant is able to serve at a given moment.

3. Energy Efficiency

Energy costs account for a significant portion of the expenses incurred by commercial kitchens. Inefficient use of energy squanders money, reduces operational efficiency, and harms the environment.

Several factors contribute to an efficient commercial kitchen design, including space planning, equipment selection, and traffic flow. It’s important to involve your chef and food service team early in the process so they can help you determine what configuration and equipment will best serve your menu.

Space efficiency is the key to maximizing energy-saving opportunities. An effective commercial kitchen design places equipment and supplies in a way that minimizes unnecessary movement. When staff members must walk far to reach ingredients or tools, they’re spending extra time and energy that could be spent more productively. This also contributes to fatigue and physical injuries, which are a major drain on the operation’s profitability.

Another opportunity for commercial kitchens to save energy is through electrification. While the initial cost of converting to electricity may be more upfront, it’s often more affordable than running gas appliances continuously throughout the day. Electrification can also reduce utility bills by allowing operators to utilize the most efficient equipment for specific cooking processes.

Streamlining workflow is also critical for energy efficiency. An efficient commercial kitchen design will take into account the flow of people and materials, ensuring that nothing backtracks through the space during service periods. This helps prevent the confusion, inefficiency, and sanitation issues that can hamper an operation’s profitability.

Finally, it’s important to educate employees about how to maximize energy efficiency in the commercial kitchen. This could include teaching them to close refrigerator/freezer doors and turn off lights when not in use, turn the water off at the sink, and limit dishwasher wash cycles. It might even include adding a policy to the employee handbook that emphasizes the need for a mindful approach to energy consumption in the kitchen.

4. Safety

A commercial kitchen layout that isn’t designed with food safety in mind is a recipe for disaster. It’s essential for a commercial kitchen design to include fire suppression systems, floor drains, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and more. Additionally, your staff should be trained in how to use the fire suppression system and other basic safety tactics.

Restaurants must streamline their workflow during the lunch and dinner rush. A restaurant layout that doesn’t optimize this process can lead to chaos in the kitchen, which can result in confusion and injuries for staff members.

Your commercial kitchen layout should create a “work triangle” between the stove, refrigerator, and sink. This configuration allows cooks to move in a predictable path with minimized movement, increasing productivity during your busiest hours and reducing the risk of accidents and fatigue.

Another important consideration when designing a restaurant kitchen is the layout of your cooking equipment and supplies. For instance, you’ll want to make sure that you have a separate zone for washing dishes and a designated area where utensils and other items are returned for cleaning after service. This will help ensure that your kitchen meets local health department regulations and standards for safe sanitation.

Your kitchen should also have designated areas for receiving deliveries, preparing and prepping food, and then moving it to the proper storage locations. This arrangement will help you to avoid overloading your storage spaces and prevent dangerous items from contaminating other foods. In addition, it’s important to make sure that your staff has a designated place to conduct a quality check before the meals are served. This will help to reduce food waste and ensure that customers receive only the highest-quality meals.

5. Equipment

Your equipment choice and placement are almost as important as the layout of your commercial kitchen. Most food service operations will need professional stoves and refrigeration that can be cleaned, sanitized, and reach the temperatures required to cook or cool foods. Energy-efficient options for these appliances can save you significant amounts of money, paying for them in a short timeframe.

Your food service operation will also need a designated space for cleaning and sanitation. This is usually required for a variety of reasons, including meeting health and safety codes and employee safety protocols. Ensure that this area is equipped with three-compartment sinks, commercial dishwashers, and space to stack dirty dishes and utensils.

Once your food is fully prepared and ready for service, you will need a designated place to perform quality checks. This will require a table or counter with an easy-to-read menu and clear instructions for your staff to follow.

If you’re looking to streamline your restaurant’s operations and improve efficiency, implementing an online ordering system will give your back-of-house staff all the information they need to process orders quickly and accurately. By integrating this system with your kitchen display system, you can avoid errors by ensuring all tickets are processed correctly and efficiently.

Most restaurants change their menus on a regular basis, and your commercial kitchen design should be able to adapt along with it. Consider adding shelving units or racks that can be easily moved, allowing you to reconfigure your space as your menu changes. It’s also a good idea to invest in flexible appliances that can be used for multiple purposes, such as an immersion blender that can be used for soup and salsa.

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