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The design and layout of your kitchen can be key to your restaurant’s success. If it’s done well, your commercial catering kitchen will be able to run smoothly and efficiently so you need to make sure you plan before purchasing any equipment. Here’s our guide to commercial catering kitchen design so it can be set up to run smoothly and efficiently.

We’ll cover:

Choosing a commercial catering kitchen layout

Before you start, you’ll need to measure the space you have available, making sure you have enough space in between, and in front of the equipment you need. Everything should be strategically placed to minimise the amount of movement staff undertake every day. Try and reduce the amount of walking, bending and reaching kitchen staff will have to do.

Common commercial catering kitchen layouts

There are a few common kitchen design layouts that help to optimise the space available. Which one you go for will come down to personal preference:

Island style

Island layout kitchens have one main block in the center of the space. The cooking equipment is placed in this center area, and food prep, storage and serving areas are placed around the walls. This set up can also be reversed. This type of layout is great for effective staff communication, or supervision from senior chefs.

Zone style

Splitting your kitchen into sections is called a zone style layout. There’ll be a different section for food prep, cooking, food storage, warewashing and serving. This layout keeps your kitchen organised and allows for different types of dishes to be prepared at the same time. There is usually a specialised chef at each station, so it’s ideal for large operations with diverse menus. If you have a smaller kitchen, we’d recommend you avoid a zoned layout as it doesn’t work well for multitasking.

Assembly line

In an assembly line, the kitchen equipment is placed in order of use to create a line. This is ideal for shops that only serve one style of food, such as sandwich shops. Usually there will be one cook assigned to their own part of the cooking process.

Temperature control

Commercial kitchens get hot quickly, and you’re required to make sure there’s enough ventilation to maintain a comfortable temperature. Doing this will also keep your staff happy and help to avoid faults with equipment. Remember to add extraction fans and ventilation systems above any combi ovens, fryers and gas appliances to remove the hot air. 

Commercial kitchen flow

A key part of planning your kitchen is working out the flow from delivery, to prepping, to cooking, to servicing, to washing. You don’t want your servers to have to walk through the main cooking area every time to return dirty dishes.

Map out how every part of the food service process will take place in your space. Prepping, cooking, and warewashing should not be crossing over.

Key principals of commercial catering kitchen layouts

When designing your commercial kitchen, make sure you consider the following factors:

  • Deliveries – when you receive deliveries they’ll need a clear path into the kitchen and to the correct storage
  • Storage Solutions – keep your ingredients free from contamination and at the right temperature
  • Food Preperation – different ingredients will have different methods of prep
  • Cooking – thinking about the location of cooking equipment is key to a smooth operation
  • Plating and Service – front of house staff will need easy access
  • Washing Up – where will your dirty dishes and glasses go to be washed?

You need to make sure your kitchen flows smoothly between these processes, so your staff can move around and access each point without getting in the way of eachother. 

Plan your space

The first step in determining your kitchen flow is to consider the space you have available, the dishes on your menu and how many staff and covers there will be each day.

What’s on your menu will determine what equipment you’re going to need, and the preparation processes. The number of covers will determine how many staff you’ll need, and the amount of staff will determine the working area.

It is a balancing act between all the parts to get the process as optimised as possible.


Make sure delivery vehicles have clear access to your site. They will need a route that does not disturb customers or the flow of the kitchen. Ideally your goods in area should be as close to the delivery point as possible. You’ll need to ensure there’s enough room for staff to enter and leave the kitchen to receive the deliveries.

Depending on your menu you’ll be getting different types of deliveries, that will require different storage. Consider fresh, pre-cooked and frozen ingredients and where there’ll be stored in your kitchen.

Commercial kitchen storage

You’ll need various types of storage in your kitchen:

  • Refrigerated storage – If you’ve got the space, you can’t go wrong with a refrigerated cold room. They offer a fantastic amount of storage space which can help to save you money by bulk ordering ingredients. They allow easy access to goods which helps to speed up your kitchen flow.
  • Freezer storage – In most kitchens, upright cabinet freezers are used.
  • Dry storage – This is where you’ll keep all your tinned goods, spices and vegetables. This could be a seperate storage room or wall cupboard.
  • Non-perishable storage – This will be for smaller items such as till roll, napkins etc. You’ll probably only need a small space for this but remember to include it in your planning.
  • Crockery storage – This should be in an area that’s clean and free from grease and water. Ideally, it should be close to the dish wash area so it can easily be stored after being cleaned.
  • Chemical storage – You’ll need somewhere to keep your cleaning supplies, either a lockable cabinet or storage cupboard.

Food preparation

Optimise your flow by placing your food prep area in between your storage and the cooking zone. Depending on how much space you have available, you should split up your prep zone into different areas:

  • Vegetable prep
  • Raw meat prep
  • Pre-cooked prep
  • Dessert prep

In each of these spaces, you’ll need counter space, tools and utensils and storage containers. It’s important to clearly separate your prep areas for health and food safety reasons and to avoid cross-contamination. If you’re designing a smaller commercial kitchen where less separation is possible, you must make sure that your staff follows strict processes to ensure utensils and tables are sanitised in between processes. 


Make sure you have enough refrigerated storage for both ingredients and prepared food. You might want to consider a combination of a cold room and smaller, localised undercounter refrigeration. Kitchen staff can take stock from the walk-in, and place it in the smaller refrigerators to reduce the movement around the kitchen. This provides a much smoother flow and cuts down on unnecessary crossovers.


Sinks need to be provided in your prep areas, and there needs to be a separate one for raw meat and for other ingredients. As well as prep sinks, you’ll also need one for pot washing and several hand wash sinks. 

Catering kitchen equipment grouping

Once you’ve determined what equipment you’ll need based on your menu and have an idea of the flow of the kitchen, you’ll want to plan the positioning of your catering equipment in more detail.

All cooking equipment needs to be placed under a ventilation hood, with removeable and washable filters.

Prevent oil splashes by placing fryers away from other equipment. If space is an issue, ensure you have a splashguard. Keep any kettles or oven ranges near one end of your cooking block, to ensure any boiling liquids are in one place.

The layout of your equipment can also have a huge effect on your energy efficiency. Don’t place equipment that emits heat next to your refrigerators or freezers. The constant opening of the refrigeration door will mean that it will have to work harder to keep cool.

Service areas

, you’ll need a service area to plate your dishes and hand them to servers once the food is prepped and cooked. This should have heat lamps to keep the food warm, and should be as close to the dining area as possible.

Commercial kitchen design guide


Think about how much room you have to work with, as this will limit the potential layout options. Generally, 60% of your commercial space should be for front of house, and the remaining 40% for back of house.

Staff communication

Remember to consider how your staff will communicate with each other. An open floor plan can help facilitate this and make it easier for executive chefs and managers to see what’s going on, helping with training.


It’s likely you’ll have menu change in the future, or you may offer a seasonal menu. Keep your layout flexible enough to respond to future changes.


One of the most important factors to consider is safety. Make sure your kitchen keeps food safe and follows regulations, for example ensuring food is able to be placed in refrigeration as soon as possible after delivery, and keeping cleaning areas away from cooking areas. Build proper ventilation and place mats on the ground to keep your staff as safe as possible.

Fire safety is also crucial, so ensure you have fire exits, smoke detectors and extinguishers.

Need some professional kitchen design help?

We have nearly 30 years’ experience in the planning, design and installation of commercial kitchens. Our team is fully prepared get you cooking, with hands on experience working with a range of customers, from high end restaurants to pubs, bars and coffee shops. Contact us with any questions you have or for a personalised kitchen design quote.

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