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The Heartbeat of the Operation: Optimizing Your Commercial Kitchen Layout

The kitchen is the heartbeat of a restaurant. It's the place where various teams converges every day to collaborate and create the dishes that keep customers coming back. The behind-the-scenes star of every culinary show, the most successful kitchens begin with a well-designed layout that ensures efficiency, safety, and consistency.

Role of Commercial Kitchen Layout

Whether you’re considering opening a new restaurant or revamping an existing kitchen, a well-planned commercial kitchen layout can significantly enhance overall efficiency by optimizing workflow, maximizing space utilization, ensuring safety, adhering to regulations, facilitating communication, and providing adaptability.

  • Workflow Optimization: An efficient layout streamlines the flow of work, minimizes unnecessary movement, and reduces food preparation time. This involves placing all of the necessary stations such as prep, cooking, plating, and cleaning  in logical order that minimizes bottlenecks and eliminates confusion.

  • Space Utilization: The efficient use of space is essential for a commercial kitchen’s maximum productivity. From strategically organizing equipment and storage areas to optimizing workstations, making the best use of available space without overcrowding or creating obstacles is the goal of every well-thought-out commercial kitchen design.

  • Safety: Safety should always be at top-of-mind when designing or revamping a kitchen layout. This includes ensuring that there are proper ventilation and fire suppression systems in place, enough space between workstations to prevent accidents, and a minimized risk of cross-contamination.

  • Accessibility: The commercial kitchen’s layout should minimize the need for  staff to move long distances or navigate through busy areas to access ingredients, tools, or equipment, preventing cross-traffic bottlenecks, delays, and accidents. 

  • Cleanliness: An efficiently-designed kitchen makes it easier to maintain high cleanliness and sanitation standards. This includes factors such as installing surfaces that are easy to clean, providing a sufficient amount of space for dishwashing, ensuring that waste disposal is easily accessible, and making sure that there are clear procedures in place for keeping the kitchen clean and sanitary at all times.

  • Communication: A properly designed kitchen layout should facilitate communication between kitchen staff. This includes positioning workstations that allow for easy interaction and the use of technology such as  order management or kitchen display systems.

  • Flexibility: Even the best laid plans require updating from time-to-time, so the layout should be adaptable to changing needs and fluctuations. This could include utilizing modular equipment and workstations that can be rearranged and adjusted as needed.

Designing a Commercial Kitchen

When designing the layout for a commercial kitchen, the first step is to determine the size and shape of your kitchen, while keeping considerations such as actual space availability, staff capacity, your menu, and the order volume in mind.

The goal when designing a commercial kitchen floor plan is to be sure that it promotes efficiency. Other factors to keep in mind include:

  • Flexibility: Optimal utilization of the available space should allow for flexibility.

  • Simplicity: To ensure smooth operations and minimize staff confusion, it’s important to keep the layout simple and intuitive.

  • Workflow: Mapping out a logical workflow will make it easier for kitchen staff to navigate the kitchen and do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

  • Maintenance: A well-designed  kitchen should facilitate easy maintenance and cleaning practices.

Menu Considerations

When planning your commercial kitchen, it’s also important to keep your menu in mind. A restaurant that focuses on pizza may need certain specialized equipment and space, for example, while one specializing in desserts should prioritize pastry stations and cooling sources. Assess your needs and optimize a commercial kitchen layout that allows for streamlined cooking, food prep, plating, and off-premise packaging.

Sanitation, Food Safety, and Regulations

The location of your kitchen will determine the regulations involved. This includes staying compliant with current health codes, fire safety and ventilation rules, zoning restrictions, and obtaining  licenses and permits. Be sure to educate  yourself on the regulations applicable to your commercial kitchen layout to avoid costly fines and revision expenses. 

Three Types of Commercial Kitchen Floor Plans  

1. Island Kitchen Layout

The island restaurant kitchen layout establishes a central hub for the cooking station, keeping the main cooking equipment at the center with surrounding areas used for storage, service, and cleaning.

The prep station may also be located within the island area. The open nature of this type of layout not only promotes effective communication among staff, but it allows the chef to oversee operations. This type of layout works best for restaurants with ample floor space.

2. Zone Kitchen Layout

The zone restaurant kitchen layout optimizes efficiency by creating specific zones for different tasks and functions, with each containing the necessary tools and staff to prepare a variety of dishes at the same time.

There could be a dedicated prep zone for chopping herbs and vegetables, for example, and others for  measuring ingredients, slicing meat, preparing pastries, and deep frying. This type of layout works best for restaurants with diverse menus and a large staff.

 3. Assembly Line Kitchen Layout

Assembly line kitchen layouts work best for quick service (QSRs),  and fast casual restaurants  where order volume is high and speed is of the utmost importance. 

By prioritizing  efficiency and communication, these kitchens often feature a limited menu with variations of the same type of food, such as tacos and burritos, pizza, poke and acai bowls, salads, sandwiches, and burgers. 

In a QSR, the prep, cooking, and service areas are strategically placed in front in an order that makes sense. Cleaning and storage areas are generally placed behind the line, with the cashier marking the end of the assembly line. 

Enhancing Efficiency 

When designing your kitchen layout, be sure to include enough room for all of  the necessary equipment, thinking about where each piece of equipment will go and how and by whom they'll be utilized. 

Consider the size requirements you’ll need for the key elements of your commercial kitchen, including:

  • Refrigeration, including walk-in coolers and freezers

  • Cooking equipment, including ranges, ovens, grills, and fryers

  • Food prep, including food assembly, storage, and counter space 

  • Storage for tools, utensils, serving dishes, ingredients, and other inventory 

  • Dishwashing, including sinks, dishwashers, and drying racks 

Best Commercial Kitchen Layout for Restaurant Delivery

When optimizing a restaurant kitchen layout for delivery, it’s important to keep the three main stages of the delivery process in mind. 

Stage One: Receiving orders

Stage Two: Preparing dishes

Stage Three: Packaging orders for pickup 

These stages can be either integrated  into an existing commercial kitchen floor plan or  a dedicated space for delivery can be added to the design.  

Determining  how you will integrate delivery orders into the rest of your kitchen operations depends on your restaurant’s order volume, staff size, whether you have your own delivery drivers, and space availability. 

Ideally, a delivery zone should be positioned close to a door that can be easily accessed by drivers without the need to walk through the dining room or the rest of the kitchen. This is particularly important as a delivery driver who is likely not familiar with your day-to-day operations could cause bottlenecks or create accidents that result in order do-overs and costly delays. 

Take Away

Optimizing your commercial kitchen layout maximizes restaurant efficiency and productivity, creates a safe work environment, and allows for quick and accurate operations.  

By carefully considering design, workflow, and equipment placement, you can create a space that not only meets the demands of your restaurant, but enhances the  customer experience. 

By Eileen Strauss


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