The kitchen will be the most expensive part of a new restaurant’s total buildout cost. It’s also where the most space and money tend to get wasted as a result of inefficiencies in size, flow, and equipment placement.
The bigger the kitchen is, the more it’s going to cost. Remember, money isn’t made in the kitchen; if the kitchen takes up a disproportionate amount of space, there won’t be enough seats to support the business. Every concept is different, but Shea says that in general, a kitchen (including storage space) should never be more than ⅓ of the total space of the restaurant .
If it works with the concept, an open kitchen with some counter seating can be a good way of maximizing kitchen square footage.
“That’s a way to blur the line. If your kitchen is going to creep out into the dining room, you want to make sure you at least get some seats out of it,” says Shea.
Go with the flow
Inefficient flow is a common symptom of a poorly thought-out kitchen. The best way to avoid this is to think about the new restaurant, particularly the path that food will take, in a holistic way.
“You really have to be cognizant of where the raw product comes in the door, where it gets prepped and stored, where it gets cooked, where it gets plated, and then how it gets to the table. Keeping those lines as short and straight as possible with minimal crossover is the best way to maximize efficiency,” says Zeman.
Stay stocked with equipment
Kitchen equipment will be another high cost and again is an area where many restaurateurs commonly overspend. Richard Coraine, the Chief Development Officer of New York City-based Union Square Hospitality Group, reminds the chefs at USHG that they can always add, but they can’t take away.
“We try not to build the dream kitchen right away and give ourselves an opportunity to move pieces of kitchen equipment in or out, and that saves us a lot of money. We ask our chefs to design their kitchens with only the things that they truly need,” says Coraine.
Be wary of your relationship with your kitchen equipment vendor. Even if they offer kitchen layout design as a complimentary service, the plan may come back with a kitchen that takes up half of the restaurant space. Remember, the company is selling kitchen equipment to chefs who want it all.
When working with a tight opening budget, consider renting some pieces of equipment. Aaron London, owner of AL’s Place in San Francisco, got great value out of purchasing pieces of equipment that were the most durable (like a range) and renting others that are notorious for requiring constant service calls (like an ice machine), since maintenance on rented equipment is always free. Given the size of his kitchen, the blast chiller that he rented before opening has proved to be the single most important piece of equipment for his team, but with a $9k price tag, he never would have been able to afford it outright.