Open Commercial Kitchen Designs

In restaurants across the country and around the world, walls are coming down to make room for restaurateurs' new favorite trend: open kitchens. While the design itself is not necessarily a new concept, it has become an increasingly popular choice for fine dining establishments and fast casual spots alike. This popularity may be due in part to one of the design's biggest advantages: Chefs and diners are both more satisfied when they can see each other. The visual connection provided by an open kitchen motivates chefs to take more care with the food they prepare and helps diners appreciate the work that goes into their meal.1

However, operating an open kitchen restaurant comes with a unique set of advantages and challenges that are important to consider before committing to an open-kitchen renovation. Below, we cover many of the other reasons open kitchens have become popular, as well as the pros and cons of each. Use this information to help you decide if an open kitchen is the right choice for your restaurant.2

Why Choose an Open Kitchen?

Advantages

You want to let customers see the process. The farm-to-table movement has placed an emphasis on using healthier, fresher, and locally sourced ingredients.3 Restaurants often advertise where their ingredients are sourced from on their menus, but open kitchens invite diners to see the ingredients for themselves, reassuring them that what they're being served is what the menu claims.

Challenges

Customers can see and hear anything that goes wrong. The transparency of an open kitchen also means your diners have front-row seats to anything that goes wrong during the course of preparation and cooking, whether it's a chef slipping and falling, a skillet's contents catching fire, or a plate shattering on the floor.4 Making sure every employee knows how to handle workplace accidents can help minimize the disruption that may occur during these instances.

You want to maximize your space. If your restaurant has limited square footage, implementing an open kitchen design can help maximize your seating area. That's because open kitchens allow operators to install bar seating where the wall enclosing the kitchen would normally be. In the absence of a bar, the design may include a half-wall with two-person tables along it.

Guests are often within speaking distance of busy chefs. This setup often puts customers within talking distance of chefs, which can be problematic if staff members working in those areas are not prepared to answer questions and chat with guests. Designing your kitchen to place less stressful stations or more sociable chefs near additional seating can help ensure employees and guests both enjoy the experience.

You want to create an experience. Open restaurant kitchens turn the process of cooking food into a show, giving diners the opportunity to watch steaks being perfectly seared and meals being carefully plated.5 In addition to giving guests the opportunity to watch chefs work, the scents of the meals being cooked can create an appetizing environment for waiting diners.

Noise from the kitchen can make your dining room uncomfortable. The cooking process can be fascinating to watch, but it can also be unpleasantly noisy if there is no barrier between the open kitchen and the dining room.6 To mitigate that, you may wish to include a glass wall in your design that will dampen kitchen noise without obstructing the view.

You want to keep chefs and line cooks on their toes. Because open kitchens don't restrict guests' visual access to your staff workspaces, chefs may be more likely to keep their areas clean and organized. Knowing they can be seen and possibly heard by diners may also remind chefs to behave in a professional manner, keeping personal conversations to a minimum and ensuring everyone stays on task.

The added pressure may overwhelm your employees. Commercial kitchens can be hectic and stressful work environments, especially during peak service hours. Removing the barrier between your kitchen crew and your guests can make staff members feel like they are working under a microscope, which can be a difficult adjustment for some employees.

  1. Cooks Make Tastier Food When They Can See Their Customers. Harvard Business Review. Accessed December 2017.
  2. Open Kitchens: The Right Choice for Your Restaurant?. Chef's Blade. Accessed December 2017.
  3. Nothing to Hide: Why Restaurants Embrace the Open Kitchen. TIME. Accessed December 2017.
  4. Oven Fires, Split Pants, and Make Out Sessions: Tales from Open Kitchens. Bon Appétit. Accessed December 2017.
  5. Open kitchens take center stage. National Restaurant Association. Accessed December 2017.
  6. How to reinvent open kitchens. Restaurant Hospitality. Accessed 2017.