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How to Design a Commercial Kitchen Floor Plan: Commercial Kitchen Layouts, Blueprints and Design Plans (Template)

Grace JidounAuthor

Imagine a commercial kitchen perfectly designed so everything essential is within reach and you and your team can move between stove, prep station, and fridge with ease. Perhaps it’s a long galley-style kitchen, or a vast space boasting a battery of ovens, or a one-room setup with a center island. Such an ideal kitchen offers one of the great joys of cooking – the opportunity to streamline your workflow and, more importantly, maximize your creativity. It’s hard to unleash that culinary wizardry when you’re hunting for the right pots and pans and tripping over other cooks in the process. With the average restaurant kitchen size clocking in at 1,051 square feet, according to a poll by Restuarantowners.com, you’ll likely have a lot of room to play with.

This guide will help you initiate and carry through the process of planning, designing, and creating your commercial kitchen. You’ll find inspiring advice aplenty, along with some very practical guidance on the pros and cons of different layouts, ergonomic and safety considerations, and making the right choices when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability.

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Starting a Commercial Kitchen Checklist

So many things go into opening a commercial kitchen. Use this free PDF checklist to set your new restaurant up for success.

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What is a commercial kitchen floor plan?

Nailing down the floor plan is the starting point for nearly all the choices you’ll need to make about cooking stations, cleaning stations, and even restrooms. For each piece of equipment, every prep table, every oven, and wire rack, you’ll need to answer the question: where will it go? Before any of this can happen, however, you must understand your menu. Your menu will drive all of your kitchen needs, so if you can’t decide between boba and barbecue, bookmark this page and come back. The uses you envision for your kitchen will greatly affect its layout and, ultimately, determine the best way your spaces fit together.

Areas to Include in a Commercial Kitchen

Storage

Storage is vital to any kitchen; you’ll need open shelving, racks, sizable refrigerators, and cupboards for the copious amounts of dry ingredients, fresh produce, meats, seafood, and more that you’ll be incorporating into your creations. How many cooking tools, appliances, pots, and pans do you want on the shelves of your commercial kitchen? If unsure, gather your tools now and see how much space they take. Plan for more storage space than you think you need, if at all possible.

Food prep

A tape measure is your best tool for getting a rough idea of the space you need for food prep. Typically, you’ll want separate areas for washing produce (with a sink), cutting raw ingredients, and mixing and sorting food into batches, like chopping vegetables. Many kitchens place the food prep area next to storage so cooks can quickly grab the necessary ingredients.

Cooking stations

Remember, step number one is to know your menu. The type and number of cook stations are highly dependent on your cuisine. In the traditional French Brigade system, there are separate stations for sauces, meats, seafood, vegetables, and legumes, and finally, pastries and desserts. A crucial aspect of designing your floor plan is determining which cook stations are necessary for your cuisine.

Cleaning stations

The cleaning station is another critical section of the kitchen (and a huge source of bottlenecks if not managed efficiently). You’ll need a large enough space to accommodate the dish pit, which, at a minimum, includes a place to drop off dirty pots and pans, a large two-compartment sink for rinsing, a waste bin for scraps, a dishwasher, and drying racks.

Staff areas and backroom

Of course, your hard-working staff will need a place to kick back, take an occasional breather, eat lunch, and fuel up with coffee. A comfortable, well-designed space leads to happier employees and a better work environment all around. 

Restrooms

Restaurant regulations dictate a lot of common sense. For instance, bathrooms in commercial kitchens should never open directly into a room used to prepare food served to the public. Check with the building code requirements in your area for more specifics.

Options for creating a commercial kitchen floor plan

Professional help or DIY? Deciding whether to do it yourself or use professional designers should come early in the planning process, whether you’re remodeling an existing kitchen or building one from the ground up. It’s essential to be realistic about your skills and available time.

  • Suppose you choose to hire an architect or designer. In that case, you can expect a collaborative process where you and the professional work together to hone your aesthetic and create the best experience for workers and chefs. Besides brainstorming and creating the design with you, an architect or designer can help evaluate your budget, deal with codes and permits, and adhere to a timeframe to complete the project. 
  • If you choose to do it yourself, you should begin with what architects call the “broad brush” approach, which is to do a small-scale sketch of your commercial kitchen showing the relationships among its various elements. This is the point at which you’ll begin to make decisions about specific details of your kitchen, such as the ones discussed below.

Understanding Commercial Kitchen Layouts 

Different types of commercial kitchen layouts

This is the most challenging and exciting phase of your project. You and/or your designer will explore design concepts to help you visualize what kitchen layout style works best for your concept. The layout creates a flow among areas in your kitchen, and each chef has their personal preference.

  1. Island-style layout

This island layout puts the heart of the kitchen — the central prep and cook station — on a literal “island” in the middle of the room. Storage units, prep counters, and washing stations typically ring the kitchen along the perimeter. An island workspace may be the epitome of convenience for some and an annoying blockade for others. It’s often favored in large commercial kitchens that need a central command to promote clear communication among staff.

  1. Assembly line layout

An assembly line layout is just what it sounds like. A long central row starts with food prep and then moves through the various stations until a complete dish materializes at the end. Ideal for kitchens with set menus and high output (think pizzerias like Blaze), assembly layouts cater to situations with multiple cooks who are each responsible for one aspect of a dish.

  1. Zone-style layout

A kitchen designed for zones may include separate areas just for sauces, meats, poultry, soups, frying, and baking. A zone-style layout is a “stay in your lane” concept that speaks to specialized chefs instead of line cooks. Each zone will also have specific equipment for the task at hand.

  1. Galley layout

This type of kitchen gets its name from the galley of a ship, where space is tight, and the cooking takes place in a long, narrow aisle. All stations and cleaning areas are placed on two parallel walls, making efficient use of small spaces.   

  1. Open kitchen layout

In a traditional restaurant, an open kitchen pulls customers into the exciting action, blending the kitchen space with the public area. Sometimes, a glass wall separates chef from customer, but often, there’s no barrier. If your commercial kitchen takes walk-ins, tearing down the literal wall will maximize a small space.

Key Elements of a Successful Commercial Kitchen Floor Plan 

Workflow optimization

The whole point of a food business is to turn around spectacular food quickly without compromising on quality. Here’s your chance to design for a smooth workflow, and trust us, this opportunity doesn’t come around often. Here are three key layout considerations.

  1. The food prep, cooking, and serving areas should be separated. Not having distinct areas for these very different tasks is a literal recipe for disaster. Sure, we all love watching the kitchen chaos of The Bear on TV, but we don’t want to actually live it.

  1. Design the layout to minimize traffic flow disruptions. For instance, the simple mistake of not including enough space for kitchen trash and recycling can mean long walks to the garbage or — even worse — refuse piling up in the walkways.

  1. Use the space efficiently. Granted, this is easier said than done, but one way to approach it is to think through how much space is needed when you’re slammed. You’ll want a layout that works for your busiest periods and one that will grow with your business.

Ergonomic and safety considerations

Before you proceed along with your plans and dreams, a crucial aspect of designing your kitchen is outfitting it properly for safety and ergonomics. Many planned projects never get built or are endlessly delayed because of inadequate attention to regulations.

  1. Once you’ve determined what equipment you need, there’s the tricky task of installing it. You (or your designer) should call in electricians and equipment specialists at this stage to handle proper installation. 

  1. Utilize ergonomic design principles. Whatever layout style you choose, you want your staff to have a comfortable and safe experience in the kitchen. Cooking is one of the most grueling jobs in the world. According to one Frontiers in Public Health study, 47% of Italian chefs polled reported two or more health complaints. This is your chance to improve on the statistics.

  1. We’ll say it: Ventilation will likely be the most expensive part of your budget, but it’s a non-negotiable in a hot environment potentially filled with contaminants from cooking oils. Ventilation protects the safety of your staff as well as your food.

  1. Local health codes, safety regulations, and required permits will be a huge factor when designing your layout. Every state and county has different rules regarding restaurant codes, so your best bet is to be proactive and check with your city’s health and building departments to ask for a complete list of what’s expected. 

Energy efficiency and sustainability 

Kitchens rely heavily on energy to keep the machine running, so to speak, from gas burners and multiple appliances to refrigeration and climate control. Green design, energy conservation, water efficiency, and site planning that minimizes the impact on the natural environment should all be considerations when designing your kitchen from scratch.

  1. Choose energy-efficient equipment. All told, Energy Star reported that restaurants use about five to seven times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings.

  1. Incorporate sustainable practices from the get-go. Sustainability can relate to your shopping practices, such as leasing equipment instead of buying or, more broadly, employing green building materials during construction (for instance, energy-efficient windows). Lighting is often overlooked, but even the small act of changing an incandescent light in your walk-in refrigerator to CFL or LED can make a difference.

Once you’ve done the preliminary legwork, it’s time for the fun stuff: getting down to business. Many practical considerations affect your layout, but by doing your due diligence and enlisting professionals to help when over your head, you’ll have a commercial kitchen that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

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