Open kitchens are all the rage these days, with increasing numbers of foodservice operators – from QSRs to casual dining chains – keen to give customers a view of the magic that goes on behind the scenes. But a successful open kitchen depends on getting the design right. FEJ hears from John Eaton and Mark Sharland, directors of Hertfordshire-based commercial kitchen and design specialist Willis Jenkins, on the foundations that are needed to deliver compelling culinary theatre.
What steps should operators take to ensure they get the most from their open kitchen, especially if space is limited?
JE: In most instances, the concept of an open kitchen starts with a desire to be able to visually interact with the client. This grows into incorporating other aspects, with everything from the theatre which creates a visually changing display, through to the aroma and casual feel of an open air kitchen. Chefs can feel proud of what they are doing and how they are performing in the kitchen when it is all on display to the client.
MS: Compact but full specification is available and can provide many options, covering various menu choices. If your open kitchen has limited space then you should look towards flexible and multi-use appliances to make the most of your available space and cover all aspects of your offering.
What is the biggest mistake that operators make when creating an open kitchen?
JE: Getting the air movements wrong. There is nothing worse than coming out from having a nice meal and still smelling the restaurant on your clothes the following morning. You must be selective of what what aspects are on show and that the view that clients are given showcases the kitchen in its best light.
MS: Often in an open kitchen, mistakes are made when trying to produce too many menu items or cramming and filling an area with equipment that removes a theatre or show element due to a cramped or crowded workspace.
Are you seeing any key design or equipment trends / preferences when it comes to open kitchens?
JE: Fire and smoke are things that we are asked to show the most. This was at one time the colours of the food, but it is now moving on to more dramatic scenes.
MS: Plancha cooking that is incredibly versatile is great for open kitchens and adds a sense of theatre to the production of the menu.
The kitchen must show off its best aspects at all times, there is no point in putting a fish filleting or butchery area on display, as most clients are not ready for that yet”
What allowances do operators have to make when choosing an open kitchen as opposed to a traditional enclosed kitchen?
JE: The air movement in the restaurant needs to take into consideration the likely occurrence of cooking smells emanating into that area. Positive and negative air pressures need to be considered to ensure that the right balance of air flow is directed away from the seating area. There will be noise and the odd pan dropped and this will draw attention to the kitchen, particularly in a closed environment. The kitchen must show off its best aspects at all times, there is no point in putting a fish filleting or butchery area on display, as most clients are not ready for that yet.
MS: Ventilation and air handling equipment has to be correctly specified to ensure that heat, steam and gases are correctly removed from the kitchen and customer crossover point. The appropriate lighting must be chosen to take into consideration for diners eating at a car or chefs table type operation.
Aside from the aesthetics and appearance of the equipment, what equipment considerations do operators need to think about when it comes to their open kitchen?
JE: An open kitchen must be designed to flow well with the service stations rather then crossing them, ensuring that waiters are not stood with their backs to clients. With CAD drawings and visuals we can now show the client a walkthrough of the area so that they can clearly see what their open kitchen will look like once completed.
ME: Flexibility and mobility should be taken into consideration. With compact and modern modular equipment it can be easy to rearrange the kitchen dependant on the season or if the menu changes on a regular basis.