How to Plan Your Restaurant Kitchen

Well planned layout of a commercial restaurant kitchen
Tetra Images / Getty Images

One of the biggest investments in opening a new restaurant is the kitchen. A commercial kitchen needs industrial-grade equipment that will withstand a busy restaurant schedule. The design and layout of a restaurant kitchen should allow food to flow seamlessly from the prep area to the line. Sometimes a new restaurant has a fabulous location, but a small kitchen space, and you have to adapt your plans accordingly.

Understand the Role of a Restaurant Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of your restaurant, where your menu comes to life. It’s where food is prepared, cooked, and plated. It is also where the dirty dishes are brought, where food is stored and where all your utensils, dishes, and cooking equipment are housed. Unlike home, where it’s just you and your family, a restaurant kitchen has dozens of people in and out of it on any given shift, so it’s important to be organized. There's a place for everything and everything in its place. It not only saves time during the busy rushes, but it also helps keep the kitchen.

Know the Differences in Commercial Ovens and Ranges

Commercial ovens and ranges are specifically designed for high volume cooking. Though they are one of the most expensive pieces of equipment you’ll buy, a good commercial range can last decades. The type of food on your restaurant menu will dictate what type of commercial range you’ll need. For example, if you are going to feature several barbeque items on your menu, you will need a good size grill. If sauté dishes are a mainstay of your ​restaurant menu, then a six-burner commercial range is ideal. Other things to consider with any kitchen stove, oven, or grills are the HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) system, which includes hoods and fire safety.​​

Consider Leased or Used Kitchen Equipment

Certain pieces of restaurant equipment are ideal for either leasing because they have a short lifespan or buying used because they have a long lifespan. Ice machines are ideal for a lease because they often don’t last more than a few years, and once they break are expensive to repair. A commercial oven, as noted above, is ideal to buy used because it can last a long time.

Keep Costs Low in Your Kitchen

Having a well-planned restaurant kitchen doesn’t just keep the food flowing to the dining room—it can save you money in time and waste. If your staff knows where everything is located, understands the rule of FIFO (first in, first out) this will help reduce food waste and spoilage. It will also make prep and cooking times in the kitchen more efficient.

Keep Your Restaurant Kitchen Clean

Nothing will ruin a restaurant’s reputation faster than a case of food poisoning. A clean kitchen is essential for any restaurant. A regular cleaning list will ensure that all staff knows what needs to be done during each shift. Setting aside scheduled time for bigger cleaning jobs each month will keep your kitchen safe for customers and staff. If your restaurant is open seven days a week, all year long, you should plan two to three days during a slow season to close and do a thorough cleaning of the entire establishment.

Many cleaning jobs can be outsourced to other companies, including hood cleaning, kitchen mats, and uniforms. It's also important that staff be held accountable for the cleaning tasks, whether they be daily, monthly, or yearly.

The kitchen is the heart of any restaurant. Without a functional commercial kitchen, restaurant owners would be hard-pressed to provide excellent food in a timely manner for customers. Choosing the right equipment before you open is important, as it will impact your startup budget; restaurant owners should carefully weigh the pros and cons of used, leased, and new equipment. Keeping the kitchen stations well-stocked, clean, and organized is essential to successful day-to-day operations. Clear communication between management and staff can help operations run smoothly both in the kitchen and the dining room.