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Commercial Kitchen Design: The Six Common Layout Types

May 12, 2022  |  Commercial Kitchens

Commercial kitchen layout types

Commercial kitchen layouts usually follow consistent principles. There's a very good reason for this — in a hectic, fast-paced environment like a kitchen, you want to stick with what is proven to work safely and efficiently. As a result, most commercial kitchens fall into one of six common layout types, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

1. The Assembly Line

An assembly line kitchen works just like an assembly line in a factory. It consists of an island or row of prep surfaces. Ingredients start at one end of the line, and a finished dish comes out of the other.

This layout is best for restaurants that offer a few variations on a dish. Think of a busy sandwich or salad shop — it makes sense to have several employees who each perform one step of the preparation process. It minimizes mistakes, ensures consistency, and helps fill customers' requests quickly and easily. Since there isn't a lot of moving from one station to another, the risk of slips, falls, burns, or spills is also greatly reduced.

That said, it isn't great for more complex or varied menus. The assembly line is efficient, but limiting.

Assembly line kitchen layout

2. The Galley

A galley layout is often the only option for small spaces, but can also work well for large ones. In this, preparation and cooking stations line the walls of the kitchen, leaving an empty space in the center.

This is perfect for kitchens that are a bit tight. A cook can stand in the middle of the galley kitchen, and all they have to do is turn in order to access everything they need. It keeps kitchens with a few staff from running everyone ragged and makes sure that all of the tools, surfaces and ingredients your cooks need are right at their fingertips.

This layout isn't great for large kitchens with a lot of staff. In situations like that, there's a much higher probability that your cooks need to run back and forth across the kitchen to access what they need.

Galley layout

3. The Island Layout

Picture the galley layout in a large kitchen. Now add an island in the center. That's the island layout. It's a great way to make a galley work in a bigger space and facilitates communication between employees.

One way the island layout works is by placing food storage, prep, and washing stations along the walls of the kitchen, and cooking stations in the middle. It offers the same benefits of a galley layout — the ability to reach whatever you need quickly and easily — but adapts it to suit bigger spaces with more staff.

In some situations, the central island can create an obstacle. Make sure that this layout suits your space, number of staff, and menu before implementing it.

Island kitchen layout

4. The Zone

A zone layout breaks the kitchen up into specific areas. there may be one for preparing salads, another for baking, another for soup, another for meats, and another for frying.

This layout is good for restaurants that offer a wide variety of dishes since multiple different ones can be made at the same time. One employee can focus on preparing desserts, another can handle meats, and another can fry foods. With enough staff, employees can specialize in one specific area to produce consistently high-quality dishes. It's great for hotels, event spaces, or anywhere that has an extensive menu and a lot of patrons.

Zones aren't as good for small kitchens, since they can end up being an inefficient use of space.

Zone kitchen layout

5. The Open Layout

The open layout is usually seen in high-end venues, where seeing the food prepared is part of the experience. This is really less of a layout than it is a potential feature -- you can make almost any layout "open" with a little remodeling.

One very nice thing about an open concept is that you can turn it into additional seating by placing stools near the counter. It's also great for entertaining guests by showing them how your dishes are prepared. If you have a very small restaurant, implementing an open kitchen can help create the illusion of more space.

Make sure that cooking surfaces aren't within the reach of guests, so nobody gets burned or scalded. You'll also want to put extra thought into attractive organization and cleanliness.

6. The Ergonomic Layout

An ergonomic layout takes the basic idea behind a galley — that things should be within easy reach — and turns it up. Like an open concept, ergonomics is less a layout than it is an idea. Essentially, it's any layout that maximizes employee comfort and ensures that they don't need to move around much in order to do their jobs.

This layout places surfaces, tools, and supplies so cooks don't need to stretch, crouch, or walk away from their stations. This helps protect them from repetitive stress injuries and reduces the risk of accidents. It's also good for reducing the amount of time wasted moving from one station to another.

On the flip side, this can mean that there's some redundancy. Ergonomic kitchens are also not as energy efficient as other layouts, since food storage generally ends up closer to cooking surfaces. This means that refrigerators need to draw more power in order to keep cool.

Every commercial kitchen layout is best suited for a specific environment. For small kitchens or food trucks, a galley is the way to go. For large spaces, islands or zones may be best. Examine your specific venue and menu, and determine which layout is best for your situation.

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