Dealers consider theatre kitchen design

Catering design project houses are having to react to the trend of open kitchens and factor in the impact this will have on the layout and equipment fitted.

For example, Philip Howard, MD of the Catering Design Group (CDG) commented: “The design has to maximise restaurant customers’ interaction with the chefs. We are creating a sense of theatre to showcase cooking skills and produce.

“It is vital that the equipment chosen integrates seamlessly into the design space. As well as being pleasing on the eye, more importantly, it must be both functional and operational. There is absolutely no point in having an all singing, all dancing open kitchen space if it can’t deliver the chosen menu offer and service style.”

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Howard believes that the synergy between front and back of house is key to the success of any open kitchen. “Adequate ventilation and odour control are key considerations in the design. The challenge here is to provide suitable extract and ventilation, whilst meeting the operational needs of the kitchen.

"This can be particularly difficult with open kitchens, where a poorly designed system could result in air being drawn in through the pass, resulting in the food being cooled,” he cautioned.

He also feels that dishwashing area can often be problematic. “Compact machines are available, but there needs to be sufficient room for sorting dirties, racking up, pot wash, cleans storage, together with COSHH storage. Consideration needs to be given as to where to locate this in an open space.

“From a design perspective, we’d start by evaluating the following key areas: storage (refrigerated and ambient), preparation areas, cooking equipment, dishwashing, ventilation and services.”

While the equipment specified is usually dependent on budget, Howard advised that smaller kitchens would need to consider the flexibility of equipment to satisfy different functions at different times of the day. “Multi-functional equipment, such as combination ovens, is often sourced for this purpose,” he added.

Over at Brakes Catering Equipment, marketing manager Tina Carter stated: “The importance of good kitchen design cannot be overestimated. Bad design can certainly slow things down and whereas a poor layout might be able to cope at present, an increase in covers or menu might make it unworkable.

“The advent of open, ‘theatre’ style cooking means there is now a much greater emphasis on how a kitchen looks to the customer. [[page-break]]

"Front of house, good design is important to ensure customers can be served quickly and efficiently, and the feel the range of finishes now available for equipment means that it is possible to make these really eye catching and sympathetic to the overall surroundings.”

Paul Hirst, design director at Restaurant Design Associates (RDA), believes it is vital for designers to ensure that the visual impact of an open kitchen is in-keeping with how the client wishes their restaurant to look, feel and function.

“As a buzzing hive of activity, the open kitchen is the natural focal point for diners when they enter the room, so it must be aesthetically impressive and yet sit sympathetically within the premises,” he commented.

He cited further key considerations as efficient use of space, equipment, ventilation and flow, “bearing in mind that an open kitchen has a sense of theatre and entertainment, so everything is on show and, in short, needs to look good”.

These requirements can affect the equipment specified, which Hirst says should be striking, attractive and contemporary, when it is on display permanently.

He advised: “Designers need to look carefully at sight lines to ensure that counter units are high enough to disguise the floor and work areas, but still low enough for the team to showcase their talents and display their dishes, and for diners to have a good view of the action.

“As well as looking visually impressive, equipment needs to be compact, to maximise the efficiency of flow within a limited space. Combination ovens and adaptable refrigeration is of particular use in these environments.

"Also, prime cooking equipment is continually under scrutiny in terms of energy efficiency, so it is essential that any units meet the latest requirements, in order to avoid expensive replacements further down the line.”

He concluded: “Naturally, an open kitchen comes with magnified noises and smells, which do add to the ambience of the restaurant but can easily become too overbearing. It is best to hide the dishwashing area – one of the noisiest parts of the kitchen – out of view if possible, and explore sound-absorbing options such as specialised wall panels.”

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