Foodservice professionals work long, arduous days in the kitchen. While it’s important that their environment is attractive, it’s even more critical that it’s safe and efficient. Never choose a gorgeous kitchen design at the expense of safety and efficiency. Commercial kitchens must utilize sturdy, easy-to-clean materials, have a layout that minimizes cross-contamination risks and include designated equipment and prep areas for guests with food allergies.
I recently met a restaurant owner that invested significant money redesigning his restaurant without considering safety issues. His new kitchen didn’t meet codes. Unfortunately, he had to demolish the kitchen and rebuild. This was an additional, and significant, expense. It also delayed the restaurant’s reopening by several months.
I love high-gloss marble and porcelain floor tile. It’s beautiful, but it’s a potential disaster in a commercial kitchen. Don’t choose materials that are dangerous, such as slippery floor tile, or anything that is hard to keep clean, might chip or break easily, or won’t withstand heavy use. Chips, cracks and breaks in tile or other materials lead to bacteria growth and health code violations. Use easy-to-clean stainless steel backsplashes behind high-heat appliances, anti-microbial countertop materials, nonslip flooring materials, fiberglass reinforced panels for walls, and safe lighting, which means without exposed lightbulbs.
It’s thrilling to pick out new equipment for a restaurant, but keep in mind who will be operating it. Be certain your kitchen staff have the appropriate skills to manage the equipment. If the kitchen staff can’t operate the equipment appropriately and safely, it’s useless — and dangerous.
Refrigeration equipment is incredibly important. Decide on the appropriate amount of space for the anticipated volume, then add extra space in case the restaurant exceeds expectations. There was a time when I managed a restaurant that we had to erect a custom-built unit in the parking lot for additional dry storage and a walk-in cooler because sales were double the original projection. While I was thrilled with the sales, the stock rotation and inventory were a nightmare.
You’ve heard the phrase “Everything but the kitchen sink.” While on a consultation project, I visited a new build where they actually forgot the kitchen sink. Of course, it’s much easier to include a sink — or any equipment — during the design phase than it is to add it later. They ended up installing a sink right beside the dough mixer, which was a horrible — and unsafe — location. Sinks shouldn’t be next to equipment like that dough mixer, where dirty dishwater could contaminate the food. Instead, locate dishwashing areas near the kitchen entrance to streamline dropping off dirty dishes.
Holding areas for hot and cold food items that are ready for serving are incredibly important and frequently miscalculated. This can cause backups in the kitchen, or worse, prevent food from being held at the proper temperature, which could cause a foodborne illness outbreak.
It’s critical to consider function, efficiency and safety when designing commercial kitchens to maximize guests’ health and reduce — or even better, eliminate — risks.