Which Commercial Kitchen Layout is Right for Your Restaurant?
26 February 2021
The kitchen is the heart of the restaurant. What comes out of it (and how quickly it comes out) makes or breaks the dining experience for customers.
A commercial kitchen’s layout can determine how smoothly the restaurant functions. When the kitchen is designed strategically, it enables the back-of-house (BOH) team to work efficiently and produce high-quality meals consistently. When the kitchen is put together haphazardly, it can become an obstacle for the BOH team. In a poorly designed kitchen, staff can’t be as efficient because they have to worry about bumping into each other.
A successful commercial kitchen layout is easy to use, meets the restaurant’s needs and enables your service staff to deliver an amazing restaurant experience. Whether you’re building a restaurant from scratch, or have (literally) hit a wall with your current design and need to renovate, you’ll become a commercial kitchen layout expert after reading this guide.
1. Assembly line layout
The assembly line configuration consists of a central row or island that starts with food prep and ends with a completed item that is ready to be taken to be served.
The benefits of the assembly line layout
This commercial kitchen layout facilitates the production of lots of the same type of dish over and over again. The assembly line works best with multiple cooks who are each responsible for one part of the food production process.
Which restaurant-types is the assembly line layout best for?
The assembly line layout is best for fast food restaurants or restaurants with limited menus that have similar preparation styles, like pizza parlors or build-your-own bowl restaurants.
Fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Sweetgreen use an assembly line configuration in the customer-facing side of their kitchens.
2. Island layout
The island commercial kitchen layout starts with the ring layout and adds a central preparation or cooking station. For example, a kitchen may have storage units, washing stations, and food prep counters along its perimeter, and cooking equipment in its center.
The benefits of the island kitchen layout
With a central “command center” or passthrough point for all meals, the island configuration facilitates staff communication and executive chef supervision.
Which restaurant-types is the island kitchen layout best for?
The island setup is best for restaurants with ample kitchen space to ensure that the island doesn’t create an obstacle for the BOH team.
You can watch the island layout in action at the Dutch restaurant Latour.
3. Zone-style layout
The station layout creates separate zones for each type of activity that goes on in the kitchen or for each kind of dish that is prepared in it. For example, a restaurant could have a soup and salad station, meat station, frying station, and baking station.
The benefits of the zone-style layout
The station commercial kitchen layout keeps the kitchen organized and allows different types of dishes to be prepared at the same time. This layout helps BOH staff divide and conquer. You can hire a specialized chef for each station rather than a line cook to create everything from start to finish.
Which restaurant-types is the zone-style kitchen layout best for?
This layout is best for restaurants with diverse menus and lots of staff. The station layout is suited for large operations like hotel restaurants, catering kitchens, or event space kitchens.
Restaurants with small kitchens should avoid the station-based configuration as it doesn’t allow for multitasking. You’ll need ample space and staff to make this type of kitchen function smoothly.
You can see examples of station-based commercial kitchen layouts here and here.
4. Galley layout
In this commercial kitchen layout, all stations and equipment are on the perimeter of the kitchen. In a very tight space, kitchen equipment is placed along only parallel two walls.
The benefits of the galley layout
If your kitchen is large enough to have a ring layout with empty space in the center, you can have multiple cooks in the kitchen and they can easily rotate to work multiple stations at once. In a very small space, like a food truck, the galley kitchen is the only option the space allows.
Which restaurant-types is the galley kitchen layout best for?
The ring and galley configurations are best for tight spaces with few staff, such as food trucks.
Pretty much any food truck.
5. Open kitchen layout
An open kitchen layout lets customers see the action that usually takes place behind the scenes. Any commercial kitchen layout can be turned into an open kitchen by taking down a wall.
To ensure guest safety, it’s best to keep hot cooking appliances as far away from customers as possible. A glass partition between the service area and guest seating is a smart choice to protect the food from unexpected sneezes or coughs.
In the example above, Lightspeed customer Pastel, named one of Canada’s 100 best restaurants, has an open kitchen layout that lets guests see executive chef Jason Morris and his team prepare dishes with precision.
The benefits of the open kitchen layout
The open kitchen is great for entertaining guests. An open kitchen is also a good opportunity to maximize a small space. You can create chef’s table seating by placing bar stools by the kitchen.
Which restaurant-types is the open kitchen layout best for?
Open layout kitchens are typically seen at high-end restaurants or restaurants with small commercial spaces. Watching the cooks prepare dishes becomes an integral part of the dining experience.
Sampan in Philadelphia and Minibar in DC have open kitchens and chef’s table seating.