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The layout of your commercial kitchen is a vital part of supporting your back-of-house (BOH) and their future workflow during busy times. Whether you’re a seasoned restaurant operator starting a renovation or a new owner preparing to kickstart their opening plans, your restaurant kitchen layout needs to be specifically designed for both food safety and efficiency.
Not every restaurant has the same needs. Just as every menu is unique, every kitchen has its own layout solutions. Besides improving the BOH work process, a well-thought-out commercial kitchen layout also streamlines the guest experience. From quicker turnaround times to reduced meal miscommunications, your kitchen layout has a huge impact on the quality that comes out of your restaurant.
Ready to start designing for restaurant success?
What are the 5 main components of a commercial kitchen?
Before you hunker down with design plans and layout ideas, you’ve got to consider the must-haves of your restaurant kitchen. Depending on your restaurant’s unique concept, you may find yourself adding to this list, however, these are a good baseline to start your planning process.
These are the components that your restaurant kitchen needs to contain to function smoothly throughout the year:
Nothing goes through dishes as fast as a busy restaurant and if you can’t keep up, chefs won’t be able to get meals out to customers as quickly as they can — potentially backing up the entire restaurant.
Ensure that your kitchen has the necessary equipment to help it run, This includes commercial dishwashers, drying racks and three-compartment sinks for washing utensils. Ideally, the cleaning and washing station would be near the kitchen entrance to ensure that servers can easily drop off used dishes without walking through and disrupting the kitchen space.
Your commercial kitchen must have designated areas for storage, which also requires extra thought due to safety and food contamination standards. Kitchens store a wide range of items, from food (perishable and dry goods) to cooking equipment to cleaning supplies. Each of these items needs its own space.
This means commercial fridges and freezers for perishable food, pantries for dry goods and cupboards for kitchen equipment. Cleaning supplies should be accessible but stored separately from all of the above for safety reasons.
3. Food preparation
Food preparation requires multiple areas due to contamination safety, customer food allergies and customer dietary requirements. Each designated food prep area needs to have the following:
- Adequate counter spaces
- Kitchen tools
- Storage space
For efficiency, try to keep your food preparation area near the kitchen fridge. This helps cut down time as BOH staff go between the two to prep ingredients for your menu. Meanwhile, for safety reasons, keep food preparation areas further away from cleaning areas, such as where dirty dishes are dropped off.
This is where the magic happens! Depending on your restaurant’s menu, you’ll need space and designated areas for your necessary cooking equipment. Most restaurants will include ovens, stoves and commercial fryers.
However, if you offer unique or trendy dishes that need their own equipment, be sure to note that in your restaurant design. For example, if your restaurant specializes in shawarma, you’ll need an area with vertical broiler machines.
Your cooking stations should be broken down and outlined based on the restaurant menu’s needs (e.g., frying, grilling, baking, etc.).
Besides commercial cooking equipment, a restaurant owner may consider other cooking accessories to help BOH staff. One option is to equip a digital kitchen order system (KDS) to digitally display order tickets. This can help reduce miscommunications and ticket errors between front-of-house (FOH) and BOH teams.
As dishes are completed, they need a final area to be plated, garnished and handed off to servers. This is your service station.
Every restaurant owner should place their service area at the very front of the kitchen to streamline the transfer of dishes between BOH and FOH staff. This will improve food output, reduce foot traffic in the kitchen and cut down on time.
As dishes are completed for tables, this service area should also be equipped with heat lamps to keep plates and food warm before they’re served.
If your restaurant follows a buffet-style model, you’ll need to have the proper display equipment to show food offerings to customers. These must include warmers or chilled elements to ensure each food item is properly stored.
5 restaurant layout designs to inspire you
You’ve built out your commercial kitchen’s main components, now it’s time to consider the layout you’d like to emulate. What is the best configuration of the main kitchen components within your restaurant floor plan?
Every commercial kitchen has its own unique quirks and layout details, but there are established layout examples that can help you isolate the right design for your kitchen.
Get inspired and start designing based on these 5 classic restaurant layouts:
1. Island layout
The island layout centers the meal cooking in the kitchen and builds all other components around it. As the name implies, this type of kitchen has an island in the middle of the floor plan, which contains all kitchen equipment (e.g., grills, ovens, fryers, etc.).
Meanwhile, all non-cooking stations are located on the perimeter of the commercial kitchen. These stations are located in the order of the cooking process (cleaning, storage, food preparation and then service).
An island layout works best for a restaurant kitchen that is square-shaped with ample kitchen space to prevent the island from obstructing footpaths. However, a restaurant owner can customize this layout to work for other floor plan shapes.
Many choose this layout because it streamlines communication (everyone can keep track of each other and stay connected) and it’s easier to clean.
2. Open layout
You’ve probably encountered an open layout kitchen many times in your life. It’s a standout kitchen for customers because it, as the name suggests, is open to the dining room. Customers can watch meals being made and keep track of all of the action when they enter this type of restaurant.
If you’re not already designing for an open kitchen, but want to pursue this option, it’s often easier than you think — just a matter of taking down a wall or two. To ensure customer safety, an open layout keeps the cooking equipment and appliances in the farthest space from the dining room. As a restaurant owner, you may choose to incorporate a glass partition as an extra precaution between the two rooms. This can prevent any spontaneous hygiene issues (for example, a diner with a cough) from entering the kitchen space.
A major benefit of this layout is that it’s essentially dinner and a show. Guests can order food, watch it be prepared and then enjoy the results. It also opens up dining rooms to make them appear larger and more welcoming, which is advantageous for smaller restaurant spaces.
3. Assembly line layout
An assembly line is a great option for restaurants that need to serve large numbers of people quickly throughout their open hours. This type of commercial kitchen has a center island where all food preparation to meal cooking to service happens in a single line. Each station has a designated staff that is responsible for a single component in this process.
Meanwhile, cleaning and storage areas can be placed behind the assembly line to avoid complicating the cooking workflow.
From start to finish, this design prioritizes speed and efficiency by cutting foot traffic and serving time. It’s best used for menus with similar types of food that can be prepared simply and systematically. Think build-your-own pizza restaurants and fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle.
The best part of an assembly line kitchen layout is the efficiency. It works with the natural flow of meal preparation while utilizing a smaller amount of space.
4. Zone-style layout
A zone-style layout, also referred to as a zoning layout, divides the kitchen into separate zones for each main component. Typically, these zones are set up with each component’s major equipment (e.g., dishwasher for cleaning) located along the zone’s walls.
For best practice, the restaurant operator usually places each component block in order of the cooking process — imagine an island layout without the island. Since the floor plan’s center is completely empty, BOH team communication and supervision between stations are easy.
This method empowers BOH staff to divide into teams depending on each component, allowing them to become experts at their station. It’s an ideal equipment kitchen design for restaurants with larger or varied menus (e.g., hotels, caterers, etc.).
This is best for those with a larger kitchen floor plan.
5. Ergonomic layout
Ergonomic design is all about user comfort and efficiency. How will the space work with the staff and make their tasks easier and more streamlined?
Every single design element in an ergonomic layout kitchen is located in a space that makes the most sense for the restaurant employees. For example, this may mean purchasing taller prep tables to reduce kitchen staff back pain and physical exertion. It also means detailing where chefs are walking and how to make those distances as small as possible.
If you’re working with a tight budget, this may not be the layout for you. However, if money isn’t a limiting factor, an ergonomic kitchen has huge benefits for BOH staff wellbeing and efficiency.
As a layout, an ergonomic commercial kitchen won’t look the same as another. These layouts are grouped together due to their commitment to ergonomic design.
Why should you change your restaurant kitchen design?
Updating your kitchen design layout can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be if you use the above design examples and component guidelines to optimize your restaurant kitchen.
Your commercial kitchen is the engine that runs your restaurant. If there’s a problem in your kitchen layout, it’ll be reflected in the food and the customer experience. By prioritizing a layout that complements your menu and dining needs, you can both make your BOH teams’ jobs easier while also improving the restaurant’s reputation.
Who doesn’t want a kitchen that produces meals quicker and at the same high quality?
Setting up your kitchen and your business for success with Grubhub
Once you’ve got your updated commercial kitchen ready and open for business, it’s time to see the improvements in action — Grubhub can be part of that journey.
Through Grubhub, restaurants like yours can connect directly with over 33+ million hungry diners looking for their next meal. With your kitchen set up for success, you’re more than ready to meet these new customers.
When you partner with us, you also gain access to:
- User-friendly marketing and promo tools
- Online ordering experts (who can give tips to improve operations)
- A professional photo shoot and menu consultation — 100% free!
- One-of-a-kind growth opportunities
Join Grubhub today and see how you can grow your business to match your improved kitchen.