Back room kitchen design can make or break the efficiency of an operation. In order to get the most bang for your buck, not only do you need the proper equipment, but it needs to be in the right place in the back kitchen. The fewer steps your employees take to complete a task, the better. This is a very difficult process, and is so important that many entrepreneurs hire a professional kitchen design consultant to help them develop floor plans.
Depending on your operation, your layout may be different. While a few aspects of the kitchen may vary, most parts will be universal. Below is a list of things every person should consider before drawing blue prints or buying equipment.
Employee Safety in the Kitchen
Regardless of what your kitchen plans to serve, the design should include plenty of room for the kitchen staff to move freely and safely while moving heavy and hot cooking equipment. If the space allotted for the kitchen is not very large, then there shouldn’t be too much equipment, or there shouldn’t be more than a few people in the kitchen at one time. Safety of your employees should be your number one concern when it comes to design.
Your cooks need good lighting to chop, bake, fry, sauté, as well as any other task that needs to be completed in the kitchen. In order to promote their safety and kitchen efficiency, good lighting is a must.
Appearances are crucial for your customers. When they get their food, they want it to look as well as taste fantastic. By having proper lighting in the kitchen, cooks can be sure that the food is presentable as well as tasty.
Equipment, Work Tables and Holding Stations
Kitchens with lots of equipment usually are banded together in a battery. Heavy duty ranges, ovens, fryers and steamers are strung together in something that resembles an assembly line. These items are usually up against a long wall. It is crucial that the wall is equipped to handle this equipment. Before purchasing the equipment, make sure you have proper electrical, gas and water hookups to fit your design.
When buying gas equipment, be sure to notice the gas connection hook up and the gas manifold size. These two diameters are used for two completely different functions. If you have a piece of equipment that stands alone, for example a range, then it should have a gas connection that will most likely be located on the back side. If it is in a battery, you will want it to have a gas manifold. In most cases you can pick which side this comes on. The piece of equipment on the end should house the gas connector that eventually makes it to the wall hookup while the rest of the equipment is attached together by the manifolds. When buying heavy-duty equipment, all of this must be specified upon ordering, so have your design plans handy when speaking to an FSW sales representative.
Holding stations, like refrigerators, heating cabinets, and proofers are best left in the corners out of the way. In an assembly line, the refrigerator should be at the beginning of the assembly line, since many of the items originally come from the refrigerator. Once the food has been passed down the assembly line and is fully prepared, the proofer or heated cabinet should be at the end waiting to hold the cooked food.
Work tables are imperative for any operation. Chefs need a place to chop and prepare fruits, vegetables and other products. Since these tables require no hookups, they fit very well in the center of the kitchen, as long as they are far enough away from the cooking area to avoid collisions.
Flexibility of Design
Some operations may keep the same management for fifty years, while others might change every other year. When new management comes in with a different plan on how to run the kitchen, certain equipment should be ready to move.
Even if management doesn’t change, sometimes menus do. It is good to have a versatile kitchen that is ready to adapt when necessary.
Casters are great for not only moving the equipment to clean behind, but also to move equipment to adapt to changes in the kitchen. Also, quick disconnect gas hoses are helpful as they make it easy to clean behind equipment and also make it easy to move the equipment in a pinch.
While you want to get the most out of your space, adding more items can sometimes cause more harm than good. If pressed for space, there are ways to safely couple equipment functions. For example, if you do not have enough space for a range and an oven, consider buying a range with an oven base. Most range manufacturers build both restaurant and heavy-duty ranges with standard and/or convection ovens. If you are in the market for a steamer and an oven, but only have room for one, consider a combi-oven. While these units are more expensive, they are very efficient. Another way to save time and space is to buy an accelerated cooking oven. These items cook in a fraction of the time, however they do cost much more than conventional ovens.
Another way to avoid clutter and make cleaning easier is to hang items instead of stacking or packing them in storage spaces below equipment. Work tables and cabinet bases are great for storing items, as long as they are stored properly and not so full that the cook has to pull out every single item before finding the one they needed.
Kitchen Up to Code?
After all the sweat, blood and tears that have been put into the design, purchase and installation of all equipment, it would be a shame to get shut down by the health department or from an accidental fire. Be sure to double check all local codes to ensure that everything is safe and ready to go. Also, make sure that all equipment has been installed with the proper clearances above and beside the units. This information is located in the equipment manual, as well as on the spec sheets which can be found on the FoodServiceWarehouse.com website.
Ventilation in a kitchen is crucial, not only for the comfort of those who work in the kitchen, but also to ensure that none of the equipment catches fire or gets overworked too soon. Speak with your design consultant about venting and air circulation.
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