Quite often, kitchens are designed hastily and it’s discovered at the last minute that no provision has been made for a critical function, such as dry storage. Make a detailed list of all the back-of-house functions you must accommodate. Then, allocate the appropriate amount of space into your design. Functions may include:
- Line cooking
- Bulk preparation
- Dry, refrigerated and frozen storage
- China, utensil and pot storage
- Coffee and tea service
- Dish and pot washing
- Garbage receptacles
- Ice machines
- Offices, staff change rooms and washrooms
Ensure the space allocation is balanced and that one function does not suffer at the expense of another. Frequently, the cooking function becomes the primary focus of the design process and other functions are overshadowed.
Choose the right equipment
Select the correct type and size of equipment for the intended task. In order to accurately specify equipment, a planner needs detailed information about the menu content and style of operation. Input from your chef and operator will help to ensure the kitchen can produce the necessary volume of food in peak periods.
Keep in mind:
- Based on your menu, calculating the production capacity of all equipment should only take a few minutes, and it can reduce costs and headaches.
- An oversized piece of equipment can be just as costly as an undersized one. Oversized cooking equipment can increase utility costs in gas consumption, as well as electricity costs to exhaust the unit.
Avoid this trap:
Many kitchen operators oversize their grills by purchasing 36-inch or 48-inch units, only to have half of it used as storage. Unless you’re serving a large quantity of grilled items, typically a 24-inch grill will suffice.
Make room for waste
Kitchens are sometimes designed with wall-to-wall equipment and the only place left for garbage bins is in the aisles. As you know, busy kitchens can generate extraordinary amounts of waste, as well as soiled equipment. In your plan, ensure space is designated for garbage bins and the accumulation of soiled equipment, as well as for clean dishes, linens, silverware and even take-out containers.
Ensure adequate work space
Ask yourself if there’s too much equipment crammed into too small a space. Initially, it’s easy to lose sight of the need for proper landing and work spaces. A flat-landing area, or spreader between ranges and fryers is as important to the cooking process as the actual cooking equipment. These areas for plating and landing during peak periods can make all the difference between an efficient kitchen and one that is constantly bogged down.
For maximum efficiency, landing areas for ovens should include space for at least two pans within a short distance of the oven.
Provide ample refrigeration
Is your cooking line designed to give you adequate refrigeration? Consider refrigerated drawer units that can be located under sauté units and grills to increase your storage space without increasing square footage. Work tables with refrigerated bases can also pull double-duty not only as a prep area but also as cold storage to ensure food safety.
Swing a useful equipment plan
Your equipment plan should allow for adequate clearances for door swings and drawer extensions. When planning, ensure the layouts show the full swing arc of all doors to ovens, refrigerators and storage areas so that any problems can be identified before installation to prevent accidents or unsafe work areas.
Doors should swing open into work areas for which they are intended and walk-in cooler doors should not open into traffic aisles.
Face the budget reality - with a plan
Equipping a kitchen on a budget can be challenging but not impossible. Be smart – defer purchasing some of the equipment that can easily be added later. These items can be planned for and all services provided (i.e. power and water supply) but the item is “futured” in the plan. When volume (and cash flow) allows, you simply add it to the lineup since all hookups are already in place. Sticking to your budget and setting realistic expectations can go a long way.
Some expensive equipment such as dishwashers can be leased to reduce capital costs.