Arranging a commercial kitchen can feel like playing Tetris… but instead of directing falling blocks on a screen, you’re moving around giant pieces of restaurant equipment to create the perfect kitchen floorplan. That’s because commercial kitchens have to be laid out correctly, or even a couple of minor inefficiencies can compound to slow down service for every customer. For this reason, focusing on eliminating bottlenecks and creating a high-flow workspace is critical. So turn up that MIDI-generated theme song, take a good look at your kitchen, and maximize your layout with these tips.
If you have watched more than one episode of Top Chef, you have almost certainly heard someone crying out “Behind you!” as they pass behind other chefs with a dangerously hot tray of hors d’oeuvres. That’s because a professional kitchen requires people to move hot food, large equipment, sharp utensils, and other dangerous materials very quickly from one station to another; and a jostle at the wrong time can spell injury or disaster. Having a kitchen that allows enough space for that kind of transport is a must.
Ergonomics, in short, is ‘the science of minimizing the number of steps needed to accomplish your work tasks.’ Designing your kitchen so that each employee needs to change stations as infrequently as possible is one key to keeping things efficient. That means that the arrangement of restaurant equipment should facilitate the order in which a string of tasks occur.
In the same way that restaurants need to be concerned about efficiency and ease of motion, they also need to think about keeping costs down. Part of that is keeping the refrigerator and freezer as far away from the ovens and cooking surfaces as possible, so cooling equipment doesn’t have to fight equipment that is giving off intense heat. Additionally, it’s best to keep all of the heat-producing items close together under the minimum number of vent hoods.
Adapt or Die
The last key to kitchen configuration is recognizing that your configuration will need to change as time goes by. Keeping your options open and not permanently locking things in place (for example, by sinking bench legs into the floor) is an important part of being able to adjust to circumstances.
Maximizing a kitchen’s layout is half science, half art, and all focused effort. Do it well and your bottom line (and chefs) will thank you.