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10 Restaurant Kitchen Design Mistakes You Must Avoid

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Last Updated on April 7, 2016


Restaurant kitchen design: planning is everything

Your kitchen is the heart and soul of your restaurant. Getting your restaurant kitchen design wrong can be a huge disaster. Design impacts the success of your restaurant in many ways:

  • the efficiency of your food prep
  • the ability of your staff to follow safe food handling practices
  • cleanliness of your restaurant
  • whether you’re meeting all applicable codes and standards (if not, you could be shut down or your opening could be delayed)

As a provider of HVAC, refrigeration and kitchen equipment maintenance to NYC restaurants for decades, we’ve been involved in lots of restaurant renovations and build-outs. Over the years, we have learned a thing or two about what NOT to do when creating a restaurant kitchen design. Whether you’re remodeling or opening a new establishment, avoid these bad practices that can cost you big time.

Don’t make these 10 restaurant kitchen design mistakes

1. Not making workflow and safety your priority
If you’re working in a kitchen all day, you certainly want it to be attractive. But never make the mistake of choosing a beautiful restaurant kitchen design that sacrifices efficient workflow, or worse, worker safety. For example, common mistakes include forgetting to include the proper landing spaces around appliances, and locating a fryer at the end of an appliance run.

Begin by thinking through the food you’ll be cooking and the volume, how many people will be working in the kitchen, and your entire workflow. Be sure to consult restaurant kitchen design experts to make sure you follow applicable standards, such as ANSI, NKBA, ADA as well as your local building codes.

2. Poorly designed ventilation
Inadequate ventilation in your restaurant kitchen can be a safety hazard for your workers, and it can lead to smoke and unpleasant odors migrating into your dining room. Not to mention all the grease that can accumulate when it’s not properly vented out, making your kitchen harder to clean. Planning for the right ventilation in your restaurant kitchen design can be complex; it involves planning ductwork to vent to the outside, a makeup air system to replace the air vented out, and the right type and size exhaust hoods for the type of cooking you’re doing. Make sure to involve HVAC design experts in this part of your restaurant kitchen design process.

Related article: 5 Essential Tips for Choosing a Commercial Kitchen Exhaust Hood

3. Choosing the wrong appliances
While it’s exciting to pick out the latest-and-greatest in cooking technology for your restaurant kitchen design, remember to consider who will be using it. Does your kitchen staff have the right skill level to operate programmable combi-ovens and computerized deep fryers?

Also, make sure the refrigeration equipment you choose is right for the amount and type of food storage you need. Just as important is making sure it is correctly installed! It’s worth enlisting the help of refrigeration design experts to make sure you won’t face expensive problems down the road.

Related article: Restaurant Refrigeration Installation: Get It Right the First Time

4. Using the wrong building materials
Glossy marble (or even porcelain) floor tile may be beautiful, but it’s an accident waiting to happen in a restaurant kitchen. Don’t make the mistake of choosing materials for your restaurant kitchen design that are dangerous, hard to keep clean, or easily damaged by heat. That means using non-slip flooring materials, stainless steel backsplashes behind high-heat appliances, anti-microbial countertop materials, and semi-gloss paint or fiberglass reinforced panels for walls. And don’t forget safe lighting without exposed bulbs.

5. Insufficient wash stations
The fun part of restaurant kitchen design is the cooking and prep areas, not the cleanup stations. But if you don’t carefully think through your needs, you’ll end up with piles of dirty dishes and nowhere to put them. Or even worse, nowhere to put the clean ones! Wash stations should be located near the kitchen entrance for ease of dropping off dirty dishes, and also near the service area to avoid double-handling. When planning the size of drain boards, racks and landing tables, take into account the volume of cutlery, dishes, glasses and trays that will accumulate throughout your busiest day, as well as capacity of dishwashers. Be sure to include a sorting area and space to put clean items.

6. Failing to plan for refuse
Speaking of the non-sexy part of restaurant kitchen design, don’t forget to plan adequate space near the kitchen for trash and recycling. If the trash area is too small or too far away, you’ll end up with trash where it doesn’t belong, or having to empty it constantly.

7. Inadequate or poorly-located service and holding areas
Your food service areas, including holding areas for hot and cold food items that are ready for serving, are frequently underestimated and need to be carefully planned. Otherwise, you end up with backups in the kitchen. Think through how much space is needed for your busiest periods. Also, your restaurant kitchen design should place food service areas close to the final cooking process to avoid double-handling of plates.

8. Poorly designed delivery areas
Set up a delivery zone with a large enough door to handle large items, and located close to storage areas to avoid having delivery personnel walking through your kitchen and service areas. You may want your restaurant kitchen design to include a check in desk and a computer at the delivery door to speed the process of accepting deliveries.

9. Not enough storage
Have you ever accepted a delivery and realized you didn’t have enough space to store everything you just got? Is that delivery included perishable food, you just wasted a lot of money. Be sure to plan for minimum delivery requirements as well as future growth when you buy refrigeration equipment and plan for dry storage spaces in your restaurant kitchen design.

10. Failing to plan for equipment maintenance
An important part of planning a restaurant kitchen design is planning to keep everything working efficiently on a day to day basis. That’s why restaurant owners need to plan for regular maintenance of their mission-critical equipment. Doing so ensures safe cold and frozen food storage since you can be sure food is held at the right temperatures. Maintenance also prevents breakdowns that can disrupt your business.

Even before you open, enlist the help a service provider that can handle all your refrigeration, kitchen equipment and HVAC service. One provider saves you time and gives you a single point of contact when you need service in a hurry. Here’s another tip: you’ll get the best pricing with a maintenance contract. Learn more about refrigeration maintenance and how it saves you money with this free guide to Refrigeration Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your Food Service Operation.

Get Your Free Guide to Refrigeration Maintenance Contracts, Today!