How to Design the Best Restaurant Kitchen Layout

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Industry

Summary:

  • Understanding your restaurant and the needs of the staff are critical considerations when choosing a restaurant kitchen layout.
  • Floor plan examples include assembly line layout, island layout, zone layout, and open kitchen layout.
  • Restaurant kitchen design trends include an increased focus on sustainability, compact equipment designed for smaller square footage, and visually appealing equipment for open kitchen layouts.

The kitchen is the heart and soul of a restaurant. While it’s tempting to dive right into choosing a kitchen plan layout, it’s crucial to take the proper steps to arrive at your design. A functional and appropriate kitchen floor plan promises a productive and successful operation.

There are many important steps to designing a kitchen, so let’s get started with two of the big ones — who you are and what you do.

Understanding the Demands of Your Restaurant Kitchen

Restaurant kitchen layout: Three chefs work by stoves

Before you start designing a commercial kitchen layout, you need to understand the demands of your restaurant. What type of food do you make, and what’s the dining experience you wish to provide? How does your staff need to move through the kitchen? What are the constraints of your space? Asking yourself the hard questions up front will ensure a functional and thriving kitchen.

Having an understanding of the physical realities of your kitchen is a good place to start as it’s one of the most important roles in determining layout. For example, if your kitchen is narrow, an island layout is likely your best bet. From there you can start thinking about the food and experience you’re trying to execute.

Know your restaurant

The type of food you serve, the vibe of your restaurant concept, and the dining experience you want to provide will determine the requirements and layout of your kitchen.

For example, if you’re fast-casual, one of your highest priorities is speed and efficiency. Here you’ll want to explore an assembly line layout that accommodates multiple workers, allowing them to perform their responsibilities with ease. A highly organized assembly-style kitchen increases productivity and fulfills a higher volume of orders in a faster amount of time.

If you’re a high-end or fine dining restaurant, you might consider an open kitchen layout to provide a unique dining experience. Whether it’s the type of equipment you use or how you showcase flawlessly executed dishes, you should be thinking about the visual aesthetic of the kitchen and how you can best feature the skills of your chef.

As you get into the specifics of the kitchen, you’ll want to consider which stations need to be near each other and which ones are better left apart. Think about your menu, and if there are certain items that should be prepared together, you’ll want to place those stations close together. In contrast, you’ll want to make sure the dishwashing station is far away from where you prepare food.

Accommodate staff needs

You need to set your kitchen staff up for success. Think about it: how your cooks move through the kitchen is just as important as how your servers navigate the dining room.

Kitchen ergonomics is often cited as one of the most important aspects of commercial kitchen design, and with good reason. The flow of your kitchen can impact the safety, productivity, and the overall happiness of your staff. As you plan out your kitchen, be sure to consider your staff’s preferences and how they’ll use the kitchen — from the head chef down to the dishwasher, considering their needs up front will lead to a better kitchen.

Active listening and incorporating the staff’s feedback not only benefits the layout of your kitchen, but open conversation is also a huge booster when it comes to the retention of your restaurant staff. As you narrow down a few possible layouts, you could even try doing a mock test run to help get a better vision for what the layout might feel like in action.

Types of Restaurant Kitchen Layouts

Restaurant kitchen layout: Potatoes boiling in fryer

Now that you understand the type of dining experience you’d like to provide and how your staff will navigate the kitchen, let’s start thinking about restaurant kitchen layouts.

Here we’ll cover four types of restaurant kitchen floor plans so you can determine what is best for you: assembly line layout, island layout, zone layout, or open kitchen layout.

Assembly line layout

An assembly line kitchen layout focuses on exactly that — assembly. Designed for high-volume production, this kitchen floor plan organizes the flow of a meal from start to finish in a singular line. Think of it as a linear approach to quickly send food through the kitchen. It starts with food preparation, moves to cooking, and finishes at a service area designed to promptly get the finished meal in the hands of the customer.

Benefits:

  • Ideal for high-volume restaurants like fast food or fast-casual with limited menus and systematic preparation
  • Accommodates multiple workers and allows staff to focus on individual tasks
  • Washing areas can be separated away from the line
  • Creates efficiencies in the kitchen area for faster service

Zone layout

A zone-style layout separates the kitchen by function through the use of stations. For example, the food prep area will be in one section and dishwashing in another. Based on the types of food you serve, you may also have food sections based on the type of cooking equipment and preparation. This floor plan works great for larger kitchens that need to prepare a wide variety of menu items.

Benefits:

  • Allows staff to easily focus on their area of expertise
  • Increases the flow of the kitchen with open space between sections
  • Ideal for larger kitchens with a wide offering of menu selections

Island layout

With an island-style layout, the meal is the center of attention. Here you’ll find the kitchen equipment dedicated to meal cooking, such as ovens, ranges, and fryers, all centered in the kitchen in an island-like section. All other sections like the dishwashing station and food preparation area will have their stations and respective equipment on the outer surrounding walls of the kitchen.

Benefits:

  • Puts the meal at the heart of the kitchen visually and functionally
  • Circular flow improves communication and supervision
  • An island kitchen can be easier to clean

Open kitchen layout

An open kitchen layout provides a compelling and high-end dining experience. Customers are entertained by the preparation of the dish while creating transparency and intimacy between the chef, customer, and meal. In some restaurants, a chef’s table experience is created through the use of a chef’s counter, giving guests a front-row seat to the show.

Customers are proven to love it. A recent study shows that open kitchens may lead to better service and a more successful restaurant. Harvard Business Review says that “when customers and cooks could see one another, satisfaction went up 17.3%, and service was 13.2% faster.”

Benefits:

  • Customers can watch their meal being cooked
  • Provides an entertaining and personal experience for customers
  • Creates a visually pleasing, open, and rich dining environment
  • Increases satisfaction and service

Commercial Kitchen Design Trends

Chefs work at stations in kitchen

Commercial kitchen design is evolving with new trends like compact equipment for smaller restaurant footprints, transparent windows designed for visually appealing open kitchens, and an increasing focus on sustainable practices.

Increased focus on sustainable kitchens

Like most industries, there is an increased focus on sustainability in the food industry. Restaurants can make an impact by using energy-saving equipment and lighting, purchasing used equipment, using compostable supplies, and examining new ways to reduce food waste.

How does this impact a restaurant kitchen layout? Many sustainable-focused kitchens are reducing unnecessary waste by placing bins in the kitchen to save produce and protein trimmings to use for future meals like soups and staff meals. Incorporating waste reduction efforts into your setup can help save money, too.

When it comes to increasing energy efficiency in restaurant kitchens, the numbers are headed in the right direction. According to the National Restaurant Association’s State of Restaurant Sustainability report, here’s how restaurants are investing in energy-saving equipment: 46% use EPA Energy Star-rated refrigerators, 41% use EPA Energy Star-rated freezers, and 25% use EPA Energy Star-rated dishwashers.

Compact commercial kitchen equipment for a small kitchen

Compact equipment designed for smaller kitchen spaces and other small kitchen food service operations like food trucks was one of the top six equipment trends reported by Restaurant Business Online last year.

The ongoing trend of smaller kitchens is bringing an increasing amount of space-saving equipment.

“On view [at a food equipment trade expo] were multicook ovens that can be programmed to cook four to seven items at once—all at different temperatures and times; half-size display cabinets and warmers; portable compact prep tables; and mini pizza ovens,” Restaurant Business Online reported.

Visually appealing equipment

With many new restaurants using open kitchen layouts, visually appealing equipment is rising in popularity to meet this demand.

WebstaurantStore points out that in modern restaurant design, the visual appeal can come to life through exposed woodfired ovens, modular micro-farms, and the use of transparent windows on kitchen equipment.

“Features like transparent windows provide a view of food while it cooks, creating an immersive experience for guests. Windows play a second role by providing greater visibility for cooks,” WebstaurantStore explains.

A Kitchen Is Only as Good as Its Staff

Interior of professional restaurant kitchen layout

From floor plans and kitchen flow to your menu and the needs of your staff, there are many considerations to make when deciding on a restaurant kitchen layout. If you’re still trying to make a decision on how to choose your layout, bring in your chef and other key staff and try to narrow it down one or two layouts based on the style of your restaurant and do a test run.

Whatever you decide, the ultimate success of your kitchen comes down to the talent behind it. Pared connects you to trusted hospitality professionals who are vetted and reference-checked for experience and reliability. Get started with Pared today and never be short-staffed again.

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