Simple restaurant kitchen layout ideas to help back of house run easier

Editorial Team

6 min read
Staff cooking in restaurant commercial kitchen

Designing a simple restaurant kitchen layout can be challenging because every decision you make when planning your back of house will affect how people work and how many dishes your kitchen can efficiently produce.

Let’s look at some common layouts and recommendations that may help you make the most of your small commercial kitchen.

Following are some things to consider as you design a restaurant floor plan that not only works for your dining area, but also works in tandem with the needs and flow in your back-of-house area.

Commercial kitchen layout types

Not all commercial kitchens are created the same. These commercial kitchen layout ideas are all viable options, but some may do a better job of maximizing smaller footprints so you can make the most out of the space you have.

Assembly line layout

Like the name suggests, the assembly line layout uses a series of tables and countertops to create a one-flow through the kitchen that sees dishes going from their station of origin straight through to the expo area where they’ll be whisked off to guests. This layout tends to work best for restaurants that focus on small menus with lots of similar dishes being prepped shift after shift — think a burger bar or pizza parlor.

Island layout

The island layout has one central cooking station or cluster of stations surrounded by other essential areas like food prep, the dishwashing zone, and dry storage. This allows the cooks to quickly get ingredients and drop used pots and pans with ease, and it also allows for greater supervision as the executive chef can circle the island and check what’s cooking and better monitor ticket times.

Zone-style layout

Restaurants that use a zone-style layout have designated areas for each type of kitchen activity that takes place on a regular basis. There will be a cold station for salads and cold appetizers, dessert station, fryer station, meat station, sauté station, and so on.

This layout can be beneficial because there’s a clear-cut way to know who should be doing what and where the head chef should look for a particular dish or component of a dish. It also keeps cold items cold, and all the zones lend themselves to executing large menus and heavy volume. Small restaurants might struggle with a zoned layout because all that separation requires more staff and can derail multitasking.

Galley layout

Galley kitchens are popular with small restaurants because it can be one of the best ways to transform tight spaces into a workable back of house. You’ll put all your equipment and cook/prep stations against two parallel walls, so your team is basically working back-to-back in a hallway-type environment.

Frankly, this can lead to a lot of accidental bumps and knocks, but the closeness can also be a huge benefit. As your team gets into a rhythm, they’ll be able to man multiple stations, work with less staff, execute dishes quickly, and pass dishes down the line with impressive efficiency.

Open kitchen layout

Open kitchens combine good food and good entertainment by allowing diners to see into the kitchen and watch as the dishes they order are prepared for service. You can execute this idea in several ways:

  • Remove the wall separating the kitchen and staff from the dining area and make it so all seated guests can see at least part of the kitchen action.
  • Have a bar-like seating area that peeks into the kitchen — in this case, you’d want the kitchen to be big enough that guests aren’t in contact with other diners’ dishes or too close to hot cooking implements.
  • Have a partial opening, like a window, and then offer guest seating in the corner of the actual kitchen — this can make for a great VIP experience, but it’s tough to make this workable when you have a smaller restaurant and little free space.

Essential components of restaurant kitchen layout

As you consider various commercial kitchen design ideas, keep in mind all the things you need your ideal restaurant kitchen setup to do so you can cook everything that’s on your menu and properly take care of guests.

Prepping

Many of your ingredients may need to be prepped. Your team might have to break down primal cuts of beef into steaks and roasts, slice and dice veggies, shred cheese, etc. You’ll need food prep areas for washing and cutting, plus adjacent storage for all the tools of the trade.

Cooking

Sautéing, frying, roasting, broiling, grilling, searing — it all happens in a restaurant kitchen, and you need both the equipment and space for chefs and cooks to work their magic. That means adding stoves, ovens, flat tops, and refrigeration to your chosen layout, as well as integrated storage and workstations.

Storing

Some equipment will be stored adjacent to the stations it’s used on, but bigger items will need to be stored elsewhere. You also need dry storage for pantry items such as flour, sugar, salt, and herbs, and larger refrigerators and freezers for holding raw ingredients before they’re moved to the line.

Keep in mind, too, that you’ll need a dedicated area for all your cleaning supplies and chemicals that must be stowed far away from anything that comes into contact with food.

Washing/cleaning

The dishwashing area is one of the most underappreciated spots in a restaurant. Small restaurant, huge restaurant, any sized diner in between — no restaurant works without clean dishes, cups, cutlery, and cookware. Smaller businesses can possibly get away with a three-compartment sink and drying area, but you might consider upgrading to a dishwashing machine and speed dryer for faster output.

Servicing

Your service area is where you truly unify the front and back of house. This area usually holds your restaurant POS system as well as utensils, garnishes, and other important items that servers and food runners use to finish off whatever the kitchen has created. This might also be where you have to-go containers and disposable silverware for curbside orders and delivery pickups.

Run your restaurant easier with Clover

Your kitchen layout plays a major role in determining the efficiency of your day-to-day operations. Try to choose the options best for your smaller restaurant, but keep in mind, too, that not everything is set in stone. Make changes as needed and get input from your staff to see what tweaks might improve life for all involved.

Interested in other ways to boost your business? Reach out to a Clover Business Consultant to see how we can help streamline your restaurant operations.

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