Use these hacks to save space and your budget

You’ve been dreaming about owning your very own restaurant, bakery, sports bar, or other eating establishment for years, and you finally saved enough to open it. The only problem is that while your dream restaurant may have consisted of a grand space with square footage that Wolfgang Puck would be proud of, it simply is not the reality. You may have only a modest space to begin this exciting journey, but space limitations will make you dig into your bag of creativity. Fitting all your equipment and tools in a relatively small kitchen space is challenging, but you can make it work.

Your kitchen is where the magic will happen, so you want it to be just right. There are lots of ways you can use a cramped space to your advantage and design a fully functioning, beautiful kitchen with ease. All you need is a little imagination, know-how, and a few tips from hard-working small restaurant owners who have come before you. A few small kitchen tips, tricks, and hacks will get your creative juices flowing, so you can design the kitchen of your dreams in the space you have.

A Good Kitchen Starts with Being Organized

If you want your kitchen to run like a well-oiled machine, you have to start off with the basic principle of organization. Every item should have a purpose, and every person should have a space, so, before you design the layout, be sure to envision how things will look on a busy night in order to create an efficient workflow in your kitchen.

You may have a list of gadgets that you have lusted over and intend to purchase for your kitchen. They are all probably great, but the truth is that gadgets aren’t always necessary. List your proposed tools and equipment, and consider the return on investment for each item individually. How often will you use an item, and what profitable menu items will it produce? Pare your list down wherever one tool can serve multiple functions, and others can be eliminated. Keep it simple, and choose high quality tools and equipment.

Kitchen knives are essential, but which ones? Maybe you’ve coveted a designer set of knives for eons that has a tool for nearly every task. It is more likely than not packed with redundancy. All a good chef really needs are four knives—a 10-inch serrated knife, an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 7-inch Santoku knife, and a 4-inch paring knife—so start there. Get the highest quality knives you can afford, and keep them clean, dry, and sharpened. Find a handy spot to attach a magnetic metal knife holder, and you have just saved space and focused on usability.

A good food processor would be a delightful addition to any kitchen, but there isn’t always space for this this kind of bulky equipment. By contrast, an immersion blender is smaller and can still tackle multiple tasks, such as making whipped cream, purees, dips, soups, salsas, smoothies, and more.

Eliminate the hassle of chopping, and forgo the expense and space for a garlic press. A quality zester can easily prep ginger, garlic, and carrots for salads. Similarly, a good cheese grater can do more than shred cheese; use it on vegetables and poultry for your salads and soups. These are just a few examples of how you can pare down to save yourself, time, money, and space.

You Can Only Go Up from Here

Small kitchens mean you use vertical storage; use items like extended bar racks to hold sieves, pots, and any other items that can dangle from a hook. Similarly, pegboards are great because not only are they on the wall and out of the way, but they’re also great for visible organization and easy access to tools. Trace the items stored directly on the board, so when you’re finished with that pot, just look for its shape on the peg board, and, voila: easily stored and easily found.

Magnetic knife strips aren’t just useful for holding your knives; they are also great for holding spices up and out of the way. Keep in mind, this will only work if the containers they are housed in are also magnetic. When it comes to adding space to your small kitchen, going vertical is the only way it can happen; use empty walls and cabinet doors by refurbishing them to hold and store your kitchen equipment.

What Doesn’t Go Up Must Come Down: Essential Equipment for the Small Kitchen

While going vertical helps your storage needs in the kitchen, there are some key items that are better on the ground, as long as the design is right. Lose the open-door kitchen refrigerator and opt for a commercial sliding door refrigerator. These are great because they don’t compromise the room, and you maximize your space and the flow of the kitchen. In smaller kitchens, having an open-door refrigerator can cause space problems. Their doors swing open, impacting the space and making it hard for kitchen staff to maneuver, which affects flow. With a low-to-the-ground sliding refrigerator, staff can easily pass by, and you don’t lose out on function.

Countertops provide essential space for prep work and are therefore sacred, so space-taking countertop equipment must prove themselves. Fryers, hot plates, and combi ovens are a few of the kitchen appliances that may demand space on your counters. Among the most versatile appliances is a Hobart Mixer. These commercial gems can mix up anything from mashed potatoes to pizza dough in a snap, and in large quantities. This alone will cut your prep work in half and increase productivity. There are attachments for all types of kitchen work. As a bonus, they last forever.

The last tip we have for you is: ingredient bins. Lose the storage cupboards and quit wasting countertop space on ingredients, when you can easily store your dry ingredients in bins that get pushed under the counter when not being used. Essential ingredients and dry products like flour, sugar, salt, rice, and so forth are better stored in ingredient bins. They slide out from under the counter, making them easy to access, but are also hidden when not in use to give you even more space.

When it comes to designing the perfect small kitchen, you need to start with organization and flow, and then it’s all about choosing the right tips, tricks, and hacks that benefit you most.


Rich has been in the restaurant industry for two decades, including helping run my family's restaurants in Washington, D.C. He writes about his own experiences in an effort to help those just starting out and those struggling to make it. One of his favorite things to do is host dinner parties for friends and family.
Expert Takes, Feature, Kitchen Equipment