Restaurant kitchens are usually hidden from diners sights. And for a good reason. Restaurant kitchens are chaotic and fast-paced by nature.
You are sure to find varying levels of mess and noise that may not be pleasing. Yet there are more and more restaurant kitchens that are embracing the open layouts where kitchen and dining areas are merged.
Interestingly, most diners consider the open kitchen as a hallmark of good restaurant design. This layout embraces transparency, and it adds to the sensory thrill that appeals to most customers.
This layout sets challenges for the Chefs and the kitchen staff to provide safe, good quality delicious food while limiting the unsightly issues involved during food preparation such as mess, noise and improper staff behaviour.
But the open kitchen can be a risky move if not done right, so here are some points to consider:
- Layout and efficiency
Involve your Chef in the design process, why?
Who stays long hours in your kitchen? Your Chef.
Who directs the flow of operations and oversees the rest of the staff as well? Your Chef.
Who knows your menu? Your Chef.
There are more reasons out there that merit the opinion of your Chef but you understand where I am going.
Your Chef can help you identify the right equipment to get. This is because he knows your menu and will know which tools to use to produce the dish. Plus, being in the kitchen all the time, he can suggest the right setup to promote a good working flow.
Open kitchen design enables restaurant diners to watch the process of food preparation. Some designs have glass partitions while some have the kitchen area directly exposed. Some restaurants feature this design as part of a presentation, such as in some Japanese restaurants where Chefs showcase their skill to elevate the dining experience.
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If and when the design process of your kitchen is well ahead of you finding a Chef for your restaurant (this happens!), this is the next step you can do. Write down the meals and the ingredients needed for that dish to help you identify the kitchen zone assignments. Ideally, design your kitchen by function such as storage, food prep, cooking, service and cleaning. Waste disposal should be as far away from the view of the diners as possible. Meals to be served exit the kitchen from one side, while dirty dishes enter the kitchen on another.
If your menu is flexible that you change it every season, you can put equipment on wheels or create stations that can be used for multiple tasks. This allows you to use your space efficiently.
- Food Contamination
Governments worldwide are developing (if not already) stricter food safety rules due to various outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
In Queensland alone, there have been more than 8,700 cases of Campylobacter infection, 3,548 of salmonellosis, and 11 of listeriosis.
To address this, you need to consult with experts on health, building and fire-safety code. The government regulations will specify the requirements such as distance between any a food prep station to a sink, the location of food storage areas, placement of grease traps and vents and more. In particular, for open kitchens, find out the minimum distance required between food preparation and diners zones to avoid contamination.
- Staff Skills and Behaviors
It would be easy to think that with the open kitchen design, your Chef and kitchen staff will be anxious and stressed out. Surprisingly, this layout can encourage and motivate them to perform better. Of course, any new staff will be conscious of the proximity of diners, but this can be addressed with proper and sufficient training. As with most tasks, confidence comes when a person is knowledgeable about what he is doing; therefore, you have to ensure that your kitchen staff are properly trained. One way is to have the least experienced staff stay “behind the scenes”, but there are some cases where being on “centre stage” can make a person learn and adapt quickly, so be mindful of how they perform. Some Chefs love to interact and banter with diners, and this can make for an engaging experience, with diners feeling special and attended to. When this interaction is encouraged, make sure that the rest of your kitchen staff knows how to respond appropriately to direct questions and concerns from the diners.
As your ingredients and pots/pans are exposed, so are the behaviours of your kitchen staff. As the restaurateur, you set the rules on proper staff decorum, and this can vary per owner. What should be held with utmost importance is that food safety and hygiene should be upheld to the highest standards. Some restaurants and food establishments pride themselves with having impeccable food safety rules every day, but all it takes is one employee to break the chain, and foodborne illness outbreak can occur.
The principles of food hygiene and food safety are considered pillars of foundations when running a restaurant business or any food serving operation. Knowing these principles are crucial for every newly hired staff because it can mean the difference between causing harm to your customers or to your business.
- Aesthetic cleanliness and organization
In the open kitchen, diners are able to see almost everything, including pots and pans and raw ingredients.
This is where creativity comes in because you have to achieve efficiency while making the view appealing. The whole kitchen doesn’t have to be completely open, but you have to make sure everything is set in a way that won’t make the workflow any less efficient, and it won’t affect the quality of your product.
Identify a location where dirty dishes are going to be piled up so that they are the least visible to the customers.
Edit your kitchen gadgets so that you only have what’s needed and use tools that can multitask to minimize clutter.
Kitchens can get very hot. You don’t want your customers to feel the heat as it doesn’t make for a comfortable dining experience. Therefore, ensure effective and proper ventilation not only to prevent the escape of kitchen heat to the dining area but to control the kitchen odours as well.
The open kitchen design is a challenging way to show your customers that your kitchen can be trusted to provide safe and delicious food. It can promote confidence in your Chef and kitchen staff while creating interesting dynamics for your diners.
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,