5 Steps To Design An Exceptional Open Kitchen
The open kitchen concept is becoming a popular trend in the industry. By blurring the lines between the back and front of the house, you can deliver an enhanced sensory experience that increases the appetite and sense of hunger of your patrons.
Additionally, it enables you to cultivate trust and send a clear-cut message of confidence in your food production.
Especially in the era of coronavirus, there is a growing demand for transparency among consumers who want assurance of the food’s freshness and safety.
It can’t get more transparent than an open kitchen where your guests get a full view of what is generally behind the scenes.
How to design an open kitchen
As with a traditional kitchen, there is a different set of factors you need to consider to build an open kitchen.
There are different styles as well to serve the unique demands of each restaurant.
Some operators only show a peek with limited, strategically placed viewing areas. Others completely remove the walls and bring the kitchen and dining area together.
There are also operators that have a back kitchen solely for bulk preparation, batch cooking, and main cold storage. It may be hidden or partly visible, but the overall idea is to streamline the movement and sounds in the open kitchen to be more pleasing.
How open your kitchen is will depend on what you want to accomplish.
Here are five ways to consider to successfully build the open kitchen that is right for you:
1. Create the best theater experience
Many operators are designing their open kitchens like a theater.
Leverage the unique elements of your food preparation.
Do you use a brick oven for your pizzas or cooking on wood-fired equipment with live fire? Put on a show and get customers in on what goes into creating their favorite delicacies.
Customers should be able to experience the kitchen no matter where they are seated.
Guests love watching the high-energy action and want to get the best seats in the house, which is usually where they are closest to the hustle and bustle.
But they don’t have to be at the front to feel like they are part of it.
Be mindful of what the kitchen looks like from the perspective of the diner. Every single detail matters. Generally, you want the workstations to face customers so they get a good view of everyone at work.
What you see vs what you don’t see
Despite the name, most open kitchens are not 100% open. There will still be parts of your operation that customers won’t see.
This provides you with the opportunity to “edit” the space so you can show the best of what you have to offer and minimize errors and issues.
Take careful consideration of what will be visible to customers and what stays behind the scenes. What you put on display is as important as having great control over what you want to be kept out of sight.
Look at it from the perspective of your cooking staff. What do they need to do the best job possible? What do they want guests to see? What do they want guests not to see?
They probably want diners to see the protein brown to perfection. They would prefer to keep the disorganized work surface out of view.
A few ways you can tailor the space for this is by manipulating the height of the workstations. Elevated counters give you the best of both worlds - customers are able to see your culinary staff hard at work, but will not see past the front line.
In some cases, lower workspaces are ideal, such as when cooking food on top of the grill. Guests can see the food sear and sizzle, but not necessarily the mess that tends to form below it.
Open kitchens can be an effective avenue for increasing engagement by allowing the chef to interact with the people they cook for.
Very rarely do chefs get to meet their customers and vice versa. By taking down the walls in between them, an open kitchen instantly becomes a venue for connection and communication.
At the same time, your staff is able to enjoy an unobstructed view of the dining area, which could help them manage the operation more effectively.
2. Prepare your staff
One of the most important goals of an open kitchen is to promote a smoother and more efficient workflow between the front and back of the house.
Especially when things get busy, you don’t want people bumping at each other to get from one place to another.
Create stations that are equipped with everything the designated staff will need to fulfill their roles without taking multiple trips across the kitchen.
Consider placing refrigerators and cooking equipment closer together. Chef bases and refrigerated equipment stands are a great addition to an open kitchen because they consolidate multiple tasks in a single space.
They provide refrigerated space for ingredients at the base and then a flat durable surface to support heavy equipment or accommodate food prep tasks.
Pass-through ovens and cooking equipment are also great because food can be moved from one station to another without creating a traffic jam or requiring your staff members to leave their post.
The serving staff will also that benefit from getting a better view of the kitchen. This is because they can take a glance and waste no time to grab the food once it is ready. This means they can deliver it at its freshest to customers.
The heightened visibility of the kitchen will call for your chefs and kitchen staff to be more aware of their appearance and behavior. There is a higher level of expectation required of them.
This makes it all the more crucial to “curate” the space to put your staff in the best position to perform well under pressure.
For a kitchen staff that is used to working behind the scenes, additional training will go a long way to prepare them for putting on a show in front of customers.
3. Control the noise
Most of the time, the kitchen is hidden from view for a reason. What happens backstage does not always make for good theater.
There is the constant moving around, the clinking of wares pots and pans, and the conversations (sometimes yelling of orders) between your kitchen staff.
All this will produce noise that needs to be mitigated to maintain a comfortable dining atmosphere.
In addition, you will also have to find a way to minimize the sound produced by the ice machines or refrigeration equipment you use in the kitchen. Choose models that operate remotely, where the compressor is in another room or on the rooftop. This keeps out not just the noise, but also the heat produced.
Don’t forget that there are sounds you would want to permeate the dining room. The sound of the meat sizzling on the grill is one that can add to the atmosphere and can intensify customer cravings.
You need to optimize your acoustics so that only the desired sound escapes the kitchen.
A floor-to-ceiling glass wall may block out all the noise completely. One quick and economical alternative that can dampen the unwanted noise is sound-absorbing ceiling panels.
4. Get the right equipment
Open kitchens should look as pleasing as the front of the house. When shopping for kitchen equipment, think of it as furniture that should support your food production and will look good doing so.
The right materials should add charm to the space while also making it very easy to keep clean. Depending on the style you are going for, you have plenty of options to choose from.
Many operators have equipment customized to suit their vision. Some do the other way around and plan a design based on what’s already available.
You can’t go wrong with displaying numerous showpieces that catch the eye but also perform well for their purpose. A hearth-style oven for cooking pizza creates that classic pizza-making experience while filling the air with the delicious smell of piping hot pizza.
There are beautifully designed noise-reducing blenders that can help you make beverages or do some food prep.
Stainless steel is a sleek material that can help you create an industrial or modern look. Granite or Quartz countertops are a great choice if you want something less industrialized.
Decorative glass or subway tiles can create an attractive back wall. You can even have your logo printed on the back wall as a marketing boost.
Lighting is another factor where form and function should be balanced. Generally, you want something a little warmer, but you also want to have brighter lighting so that your staff can clearly see what they are doing.
Open kitchens should be minimal and free of clutter, so go with shelves without brackets and find ways to hide items that are unsightly but necessary to your daily operation.
Undercounter cabinets or drop-in dish dispensers can help you keep all the items you need within reach in a more discreet way.
5. Keep the kitchen clean
Keeping an open kitchen clean is different from keeping a closed kitchen clean. Closed kitchens do not have to worry about how they perform their cleaning processes.
It is the complete opposite for open kitchens. You have the opportunity to showcase your food sanitation protocols to let your customers know that their safety matters to you.
Since customers see everything, you will need to perform each task religiously and without slacking off.
Is the open kitchen concept for you?
Running an open kitchen means opening up your business to greater customer scrutiny.
It is not always easy to move the usual kitchen hubbub in front of an audience.
There is a greater pressure to get everything right and to make every part of it look good.
But, when done right, an open kitchen can help you increase your profits and expand your client base.
This is why it is important that you go into it with a clear plan of how much you are willing to put out there. Make sure you are well-equipped to do everything to perfection every single time to ensure the success of your open kitchen.