A well-organized kitchen has far-reaching benefits

Having a kitchen that is not organized properly leads to poorly prepared and poorly plated food—and this leads to a loss of customers. Remember, word of mouth is the best advertising you can get, and it works both ways. All it takes is one customer who had a bad experience with the food or the way it was plated to ruin your reputation, whether you are located in a small town or in a large entertainment district.

Kitchen Zoning Setup

When you are building a new kitchen, whether in a new building or you have space allocated to you in an existing building, you’ll want to take several things into consideration when you plan the location of equipment, but the most important thing to consider is your menu. If you are serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus you have baked goods, your setup is going to be different from a restaurant that serves only lunch.

For a full-service kitchen, plan on a minimum of two walk-in coolers and a walk-in freezer, a baking station, main prep station, cold prep station, vegetable prep station, hot prep station, hot line, and cold (salad/sandwich) line. You’ll also need a wait staff pick-up station, a dishwashing station, and a hand-washing station.

Creating an Economical Setup: Front

When you plan an economical setup, you want to arrange the equipment so that it uses the least amount of energy. You also need to create a setup that keeps employees from running all over the place. A full-service kitchen would have a minimum of six employees at any meal time, and this does not include the dishwashers. This includes the head chef, sous chef, two hot line cooks, one pantry (salad line) cook, and a baker. Imagine the chaos if all six were crossing paths all day.

To keep each person in his or her spot as much as possible, create work zones that contain almost everything that person needs. A hot line should have stoves, ovens, a broiler, deep fryer ,and grill on one side of the line. The other side should contain under-counter refrigeration, a waitstaff pick-up shelf, and a work zone above the refrigeration.

The work zone might also contain a plate warmer, soup wells, and wells to hold hot food over the area that does not contain under-counter refrigeration. Over the refrigeration, you might have a bain-marie to hold prep items such as pre-sliced onions, tomatoes, lettuce and garnishes for the plates. Just in front of that, you should have a cutting board shelf built in to the counter.

The cold line should have under-counter refrigeration, a bain-marie that would contain sandwich and salad prep items that need to be refrigerated, and a large counter space for prepping. It should also have a plate holder that is set above the refrigeration so the plates stay cool. If space is at a premium, you could use the large counter space for vegetable prep instead of having a separate area for that. The cold line should also have a service shelf so the wait staff can pick up their orders. Additionally, this line should have a refrigerator compartment with glass sliding doors so that pre-prepped salads and desserts are easily accessible to the wait staff.

Creating an Economical Setup: Rear

Behind the hot work line, you should have two large soup kettles, at least two convection ovens, a standard oven, and any warm food holders. Just behind that, a large prep table would be economical.

Set up a baking station behind the cold line. While the baker would have to take a few steps over to the ovens, it is more economical to keep them on the “hot” side of the kitchen. The baker should also have under-counter refrigeration and a large marble countertop to work on.

Line the coolers and freezers along the back and side walls. Place one hand-washing station at the employee entrance to the kitchen and one in the middle of the kitchen. Vegetable prep sinks should be near the vegetable prep station or cold line, whichever you choose to use.

Small Equipment Usage and Storage

Each station should have its own slicer, a place for knives and other hand-held kitchen equipment, and room for anything else required to prepare any meal on the menu. The baking station would have a place for piping bags, specialty knives, and spatulas; the cold prep might need a space for hand-held graters and other small equipment.

Pots and pans should be hung from the ceiling over the hot line. Sheet trays can be stored in the portable unheated food storage lockers. Place mixers, buffalo choppers, and other equipment in a central location so that all employees who need them have access to them.

Happy Staff Means Happy Customers

When your staff has everything at its disposal to create magnificent plates, the staff is happy—and this means the staff will create quality meals, the plating will be top-notch, and the customers will be clamoring for more. Additional tips include making sure any new staff follows the “first-in, first-out” rule for ingredients, making sure to label and date any prepared foods such as soup bases, as well as anything that goes into the freezer. Not only do the inspectors require this, but this ensures that your ingredients and pre-prepped foods are always fresh.

When you set up a kitchen to be economical, you also create a kitchen that is a well-oiled machine, you keep employees from burning out and keep the best food in the world satisfying your guests—leading to them bragging about their experience so that they and their friends come back time and again.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

Expert Takes, Feature, Kitchen Equipment