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How to Build a Commercial Kitchen

Marcel DeerAuthor

Every restaurateur wants to build the commercial kitchen of their dreams. After all, a great kitchen means you can make top-quality food, which is the #1 factor that brings 72% of diners to your restaurant. So what happens when you have the resources to actually make your dream kitchen a reality? Where do you start in designing and building your incredible new commercial kitchen?

The ideal kitchen has all the necessary equipment and utility systems to prepare the type of food that your restaurant needs. It also has to be well-designed so that workflow is efficient and easy. Plus, it must follow all necessary regulations in your area and be easy to keep clean for high-level hygiene and food quality. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s going to be worth it to make your dream commercial kitchen a reality.

In this article, you will learn:

  • How to maximize productivity and ensure a smooth workflow with a well-designed and efficient kitchen layout.

  • All the careful planning, adherence to local regulations, and consideration of various key elements that go into constructing a commercial kitchen.

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Assess Requirements and Regulations 

Before starting to build a commercial kitchen, it’s crucial to assess the specific requirements and local regulations for restaurant kitchens in your jurisdiction so you know how to build a commercial kitchen. Consider:

  • The type of cuisine you plan to serve, 

  • The size of the available space.

  • Any necessary approvals and permits required by local health departments. Ensure compliance with all safety, zoning, and building code regulations before proceeding.

  • Accessibility regulations based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Design Considerations and Layout Planning

1. Safety and Workflow

Above all, your kitchen needs to be safe. Wet areas need non-slip surfaces or floor mats. Cooking areas need to be properly ventilated, heat-safe, and designed to prevent burns. 

Your next concern has to be efficiency. Think carefully through the processes that your staff need to go through to create dishes and clean up. This will help you plan the designated workstations they’ll need, clear access to equipment and supplies, and smooth workflow to increase the ease of work and reduce the risk of accidents.

2. Equipment Placement

Plan out the equipment you’ll need when you build your commercial kitchen, then think about where it should be positioned for maximum efficiency and minimum workflow disruption. 

Equipment such as fryers, mixers, fridges, and freezers need power supplies. To make your electrical plan efficient and affordable, these can be placed closer together to share outlets.

Likewise, sinks and dishwashers must be plumbed in. Most kitchens have a “wet zone” to keep plumbing and wet floors to a minimum.

Cooking areas require ventilation to pull away smoke and steam. Hoods and fans are normally situated close together to share ventilation sources and keep the kitchen from overheating. 

Storage areas need to be accessible and close enough to prep stations to help staff get what they need quickly, but longer-term storage can be located further out of the way.

3. Storage and Organization

Speaking of storage, most commercial kitchens almost never have enough. While it may be hard to determine how much storage space you’ll need when first building a commercial kitchen, err on the side of caution by planning for extra space. You won’t regret it!

Your kitchen should prioritize ample storage space for food ingredients, cookware, utensils, and cleaning supplies and designate specific areas for dry storage, refrigeration, and frozen storage.

4. Ergonomics

When planning your kitchen, pay attention to ergonomics, ensuring that workstations are comfortable and accommodate different staff members' heights and movements. Consider the layout for prep tables, cutting boards, and sinks to minimize strain and maximize efficiency. The more a kitchen fits the movements of the people using it, the more efficient and comfortable to work in it becomes.

5. Accessibility and Compliance

Your kitchen design will need to adhere to accessibility codes, providing appropriate maneuvering space for staff with disabilities so that they can navigate through the kitchen safely and efficiently. It must also adhere to health department guidelines regarding proper spacing, food handling areas, and installation of handwashing stations. Remember that initial compliance may add extra costs to your plan, but it will save you lots of time and money in the long term.

Build a Commercial Kitchen: Utility Requirements

1. Plumbing

Make sure that your kitchen complies with local plumbing codes. This will include installing proper drainage systems, utility sinks, and dishwashing stations. You also need to ensure hot and cold water supply is easily accessible at all necessary points.

2. Ventilation

Plan to install a well-designed ventilation system, including exhaust hoods, fans, and proper ductwork, to eliminate odors, smoke, and excess heat. Comply with local regulations and safety codes regarding airflow rates and equipment specifications and you’ll create a comfortable and safe environment for your workers. 

3. Electrical and Gas Lines

For electrical and gas lines, don’t skimp. Use licensed professionals to install appropriate lines to ensure efficient and safe operations. Make sure your electrician knows about all of the industrial equipment you’ll be using to determine the power requirements for your kitchen equipment and to avoid overloads.

4. Lighting

Adequate lighting, normally at least 50 lumens per square foot, is essential to maintain a safe and productive workspace. A combination of overhead and task lighting to eliminate shadows and enhance visibility. 

Choosing Commercial Kitchen Equipment 

1.  Cooking Equipment

Even though the costs will be high, you should invest in high-quality cooking equipment like stove burners, ovens, grills, fryers, and steamers based on your menu and production requirements. When selecting your equipment, evaluate energy efficiency, quality, durability, and ease of maintenance to choose where to put your money. 

2. Refrigeration and Freezers

Choose efficient and reliable refrigeration and freezer units to preserve food safety and quality. Remember, you have options like walk-in coolers, reach-in refrigerators, and under-counter refrigeration units. 

3. Food Preparation Equipment 

Select equipment that streamlines food preparation, such as mixers, slicers, blenders, food processors, and scales. By investing in equipment that minimizes labor and ensures consistent results, you’ll be able to save money and keep your food quality as high as possible.

4. Dishwashing Equipment 

Consider the volume of dishes you expect to handle and choose suitable dishwashing equipment. Just remember to plan for the growth you hope to achieve.

5. Storage and Shelving 

Invest in sturdy and adjustable storage units, shelving, and racks to efficiently organize food ingredients, utensils, and supplies.

6. Smallwares and Utensils 

Stock up on essential commercial kitchen supplies and small wares like pots, pans, knives, cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring spoons, and utensils.

Construction and Installation

If you want the best results for your kitchen, hire professional contractors experienced in commercial kitchen construction to execute the construction phase. 

Key points to consider in your construction include:

1. Collaboration and Communication

It’s critical to regularly communicate and coordinate with contractors, plumbers, electricians, and installation teams to ensure a smooth process when you build a commercial kitchen. Having clear, detailed, and finished plans and specifications will minimize misunderstandings and delays.

2. Flooring and Wall Finishes

Choose durable, non-slip flooring materials that are easy to clean and maintain. For the walls, consider wall finishes like tile or stainless steel that are resistant to moisture, grease, and heat. Opt for smooth and washable workstation surfaces to ensure food safety standards.

3. Hygiene and Sanitation

Seamless design features can help to eliminate areas where dirt and bacteria can accumulate. To maintain hygiene standards, choose easy-to-clean materials like stainless steel and tile. 

4. Safety and Fire Prevention

Your kitchen will need to follow local fire safety guidelines and include fire suppression systems, fire extinguishers, and properly marked exits. Adequate fire-resistant materials, proper ventilation, and safety equipment are all common requirements to pass inspection.

5. Flooring Drains

Think about water flow and install floor drains strategically to facilitate easy cleaning and proper drainage. Ensure your contractor slopes the floor appropriately towards drains to prevent water pooling.

6. Grease Traps and Interceptors

Install reliable grease traps and interceptors to prevent grease buildup in the plumbing system and comply with local regulations so you don’t face future blockages and risk floods.

Final Inspections and Certification

Before you open, your kitchen will need to pass final inspections and receive certification. Be sure your kitchen complies with health and safety regulations, fire safety codes, and proper installation of equipment and utility systems. When you’re ready, schedule final inspections by local health departments and relevant authorities to obtain the required certifications and licenses. 

Remember if you don’t pass, the recommendations they make are there not to block you but to help you improve your kitchen’s hygiene and safety and can help make your kitchen as good as possible.

Build a Commercial Kitchen

There’s a lot to do, but the dream of having an incredible commercial kitchen can become a reality. The more energy you put into your design and planning now, the more benefits you’ll reap in the future when your incredible new commercial kitchen is up and running efficiently. 

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.