Flow and kitchen design
Let’s take a look at some common meal prep plans you’ll find in the kitchen. The most basic and most desired flow plan is the straight line, also known as assembly line flow. Materials move steadily from one procedure to another in a straight line. This type of style minimizes backtracking; it saves prep time and confusion about what’s leaving the kitchen and what’s coming back.
The straight-line arrangement works well for small installations because it can be placed against a wall and adapted to the chefs’ duties. Where there is not enough space to arrange food preparation in a straight line, parallel flow is a preferred and efficient option. There are four variations of the parallel style:
1. Back to back. Equipment is arranged inside a long central counter or island in two straight lines that run parallel to each other. Sometimes a 4- or 5-foot room divider or low wall is placed between the two lines. This is primarily a safety measure that keeps noise and mess to a minimum and prevents spilled liquids from one side from spreading to the other. However, putting a wall here also makes cleaning and sanitation much more difficult. The back-to-back layout centralizes plumbing and utilities;
you may not need to install as many channels, sinks or outlets as both sides of the counter can share the same ones. A back-to-back arrangement in which a pass-through window is parallel to (and behind one of) the production areas is sometimes recognized as a California-style kitchen. When the transmissive window is located perpendicular to the production line, this can be called a European-style kitchen style. The benefit of the European style is that each chef on the line can see the development of multiple dishes that make up the order of 1 table.
2. Face to face. In this kitchen area configuration, a central aisle separates two straight lines of fixtures on either side of the room. Sometimes the aisle is wide enough to add a straight line of workbenches between the two rows of fixtures. This setup works well for high volume catering facilities such as schools and hospitals, but does not take advantage of single source utilities. While this is a great layout for supervising workers, it forces people to operate with their backs to each other, effectively separating the cooking of the food from the rest of the distribution procedure. Therefore, it is most likely not the best style for a restaurant.
3. L-shaped. Where space is not sufficient for straight line or parallel arrangement, the L-shaped kitchen design is suitable for access to several groups of equipment and is adaptable for table service restaurants. This allows you to fit more equipment into a smaller room. You will often find an L-shaped design in dishwashing areas, using the dishwasher located in the central corner of the L.
4. U-shaped. This arrangement is rarely used, but is ideal for a small room with one or two employees, such as a salad dressing area or pantry. An island bar, such as those at TGI Friday’s restaurants, is a further example of the U-shaped performance. There are also round and square kitchen area designs, but their limited flow patterns make them impractical. Avoid excess room if you can by making your kitchen area rectangular, with an entrance on one of the longest walls to save steps.
The more restaurants you visit, the more you realize that the back of the house really is a separate and distinct entity from the rest of the business, with its own specific challenges and unique solutions.
Proper flow planning sometimes means dividing each function of the kitchen area into one type of department, then deciding how those departments should interact with each other. They also need to interact using the other, external departments of the facility: your dining room, bar, box office, etc. A great way to start the design process—both company-wide and kitchen-specific—is to create a bubble chart. Each region (or workstation) is represented as a circle or “bubble” drawn in pencil within the location you’ve decided might make the most sense for that feature. If two different workstations will share some equipment, you can let the sides of their circles cross slightly to indicate where the largest shared equipment might be located.
The finished diagram will look abstract, but the exercise allows you to visualize each performance center and think about its needs in relation to the other centers. You can also design a kitchen using a diamond configuration, placing the cooking area at one point on the diamond shape and other important areas in relation to it at other points. Note that this layout minimizes confusion (and accidents) with a separate entrance and exit from the kitchen. This allows people who transport tables to deliver soiled dishes to the dishwashing area without having to go through the entire kitchen to do so.
An alternative to drawing diagrams is to specify each execution center and then list all other work environments that should be placed next to it. Conversely, list each fulfillment center that should not be next to it. For example, it is probably not a good idea to have the ice maker and ice storage container in close proximity to the frying and baking center.
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