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The Ultimate Guide to Commercial Kitchen Design

Commercial kitchen design is the arrangement of facilities and food equipment to optimize a restaurant’s food service process. It requires careful consideration of kitchen layouts to ensure safe operations and comply with local food safety regulations.

The right kitchen layout can improve workflow and increase productivity in your restaurant. To achieve these goals, it’s important to consider the following key elements of a commercial kitchen:

Know Your Menu

A well-designed menu is essential to any restaurant or food service business. Often, restaurant owners take shortcuts with their menu design and hire their teenage nephew or someone who’s “good with computers.” While it’s true that you can find stock menu templates for a low price on the internet, a professionally designed menu can bring in more customers, increase revenue, and make your business look more professional.

A menu’s design goes way beyond the placement of items on a page. A good menu designer understands how to influence consumer behavior, including the use of dollar signs, romantic descriptions, and images and illustrations that catch attention. In addition, they know the golden triangle (the three areas that a customer’s eyes typically travel to first) and how to maintain an optimal balance of white space.

It’s also important to keep in mind that your menu will likely need to change as you add new dishes and remove old ones. Whether you want to create a new menu or update an existing one, it’s best to start with a list of all the possible items you would like to offer your customers. Once you have that list, you’ll need to decide what type of format and layout will work best for your space.

The last thing you want to do is over-design your kitchen, which can lead to an inefficient working environment and poor food quality. However, you don’t want to under-design your kitchen either, which can leave your restaurant unprepared for the demands of your customers and third-party delivery services.

Finally, don’t forget to factor in safety codes when planning your kitchen design. From doorways to the distance between light switches, even the smallest details can impact your kitchen’s ability to meet code requirements.

Once you’ve finalized your menu, making flashcards for all the items is a good idea. This will help you and your employees memorize the menu faster, which can be especially useful when rolling out new menu items or seasonal or daily specials. Plus, creating flashcards can be a fun way to get everyone excited about your restaurant’s offerings.

Simplicity and Space Efficiency

The best restaurant kitchen layouts allow your back-of-house (BOH) team to produce high-quality food consistently. The key to this is a well-thought-out layout. A commercial kitchen that is haphazardly put together is challenging for the BOH to use and won’t be as efficient.

In addition to the food prep area, your restaurant will need a storage area for cooking tools (utensils, pots, and pans), perishable foods and dry goods, cupboards for place settings, and a clean storage area for trash. This can all be arranged in a way that makes sense for the space you have available and creates a natural flow between work zones. You should also consider your staff’s safety when creating a commercial kitchen layout. This includes ensuring the room has adequate ventilation and providing places for people to sit or stand in breaks to reduce knee and back strain. You should also build in fire safety components, such as a fire exit, smoke detectors, and a fire extinguisher.

Once you’ve accounted for the food preparation area and storage, it’s time to begin thinking about sanitation. Local health codes and food safety regulations will set strict standards for things like how far food prep areas need to be from waste disposal stations and handwashing sinks. Make sure to consult these rules and regulations as you begin designing your commercial kitchen layout.

Another aspect of sanitation to consider is how you’ll handle takeout and delivery orders. If your restaurant offers either option, you’ll need to plan for a storage area for warm food that’s easy for customers and third-party delivery drivers to access.

Finally, you’ll want to ensure the kitchen is designed to allow easy maintenance. This includes having enough space to move equipment around and keeping supplies like janitorial products and cleaning solutions nearby. You should also have a designated dish return area, as it’s important for FOH staff to be able to drop off dirty dishes quickly and easily. This prevents a lot of wasted time in the kitchen as dishes are passed from one person to the next.


One of the most important things to know when designing a commercial kitchen is that local codes and regulations must be considered. Organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Food and Drug Administration, and your state’s Department of Public Health set strict standards for food storage, safety, preparation, disposal, etc. These regulations can vary by state, county, and city, so it’s essential to understand them inside and out before beginning the design process.

In addition, your commercial kitchen must meet local regulations for fire safety. This includes ensuring your building has fire exits, smoke detectors, floor drains, and fire extinguishers. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may also have to take additional safety precautions, such as adding floor marking to promote social distancing and installing screens to separate workstations.

The connection between sanitation and disease was highlighted in the 1854 cholera epidemic when John Snow and Henry Whitehead mapped how fecal contamination in London’s water supply caused a cholera outbreak. Since then, the industry has understood that sanitary design can help keep foods safe for consumption.

Choosing the right materials and layouts can ensure that your kitchen meets all the necessary regulations. For instance, all surfaces that come into contact with food must be smooth and hard-wearing to prevent the buildup of bacteria. Any openings should be designed to simplify cleaning and disinfecting, and any waste facilities must be located outside the kitchen area.

Your food service business should also have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan in place to address any potential problems before they arise. This plan should cover everything from your cooking equipment and refrigeration to your staff’s training and responsibilities. You’ll need to secure all the proper licenses and permits before you can open your doors, so it’s essential to check out the requirements for your area before you begin the design process. You can find all the information you need on these regulations online. Once you know what you need to meet the minimum regulations, you can focus on creating an efficient and cost-effective kitchen.


Your restaurant’s menu will change on a daily basis, and you need your commercial kitchen to be able to keep up. The best way to do this is to design your kitchen with flexibility in mind. If possible, consider including shelving units and racks that can be moved around to accommodate your restaurant’s changing needs. This flexibility will help your back-of-house team stay efficient and productive.

A well-designed commercial kitchen will also have a designated area for cleaning, food storage, and sanitation. This space should be easily accessible for all back-of-house employees. This is a requirement under most local codes, and it will ensure that your commercial kitchen stays in compliance with food safety regulations. It will also reduce the risk of accidents and cross-contamination.

Another important feature of a flexible commercial kitchen is the availability of quality cleaning equipment and sanitizing supplies. The ease of accessing these materials will not only improve kitchen cleanliness but will also save you time and money in the long run.

Lastly, designing your commercial kitchen with ergonomics in mind is critical. This means ensuring all staff members have access to the necessary tools and supplies without bending, reaching, or crouching to get them. It will also reduce the number of movements your employees make throughout the day, which can positively impact their health and safety.

While there are some universal aspects of a commercial kitchen, it is essential to understand the unique needs of your specific menu before you move forward with designs. Communicating with your chef about what is required to prepare the dishes on your restaurant’s menu will provide you with a better idea of how large or small your kitchen should be, which types of restaurant equipment are necessary, and which ones can be eliminated to keep things simple and space efficient. It will also enable you to avoid investing in pricey kitchen technology that is not necessary for your restaurant’s specific menu. Ultimately, this will help you achieve a more effective and efficient restaurant kitchen layout, allowing your back-of-house team to produce high-quality meals in less time.

Ana Hoffman
Anna Hoffman is a part-time blogger who writes on Business, Technology, Digital Marketing, Real Estate, Lifestyle, and Educational topics.
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