How to Design a Small Commercial Kitchen

Architects specialize in designing an area. One good reason to use an architect is that their insight and overall approach leaves the door open for expansion. A commercial kitchen designer may give you a working plan based on your operating experience. An architect can look at your current operation and design your kitchen to function efficiently and effectively. He can allow you the options of growing at the pace you set in your existing space. Later, you can change what you have into another location or multiple locations as the case may require. (See Reference 1.)

Make a detailed list of existing kitchen equipment. Take a tape measure and note the size of each piece of equipment. Check your records and list energy--both electrical and/or gas and ventilation--requirements. Look for a label on the equipment with pertinent information. Take a picture of the equipment and the label, or record the model number and manufacturer.

Make a second list with equipment you are considering purchasing. Contact a kitchen supplier and look at their options. Ask the supplier for cut sheets showing the details on replacement equipment. Make sure it is large enough for your anticipated growth and make note of the increases in gas, electricity and ventilation. If you are buying used equipment, you will need the supplier to call out information on the used equipment over what your existing equipment uses. This must include physical space.

Calculate your storage needs. This can be done by estimating how much square footage is now used, how many shelves there are and their sizes, and all existing storage areas combined. Now look at how the increased kitchen operation will affect your maximum output. Will your amount of specialty items be twice, three times or some fraction of that, compared to your current situation? The amount of raw products stored can increase accordingly. Storage can be on or off site as long as what you need is at your kitchen when you need it. This also includes a food preparation area, number of employees to do the work and their necessary facilities (restroom and changing and clothing storage areas).

Look carefully at your cooler/freezer requirements. Are there any slab thickness requirements or insulation? Consider an auxiliary power source to run key equipment holding expensive or exotic ingredients. Add this to your insurance if not already covered.

Start obtaining approvals from health departments with jurisdiction at the very beginning of the process. Ask for their advice and consul. Many health inspectors have up-to-date information on energy-saving and state-of-the-art commercial kitchen equipment and the experts in the field. The regulations can be complicated, especially if you are under local and state inspection, or federal if selling meals or products interstate. There are a lot of details that can be worked out ahead of time to avoid problems later. Specific elements of your kitchen need to be spelled out, such as hand sinks, cooking hoods, grease pits, dishwasher size, volume and hooding.

Contact the commercial kitchen architect and/or engineer to assist you in laying out a detailed plan for your commercial kitchen design. If you do your basic homework, it will assist the architects so they can concentrate on your model plan and save you money and time and establish a good liaison with your health inspectors.


  • Check with national equipment suppliers for details on similar size commercial kitchen upgrades.

    Contact old customers for their opinions and personally invite them to your new opening.


  • Be sure to have your architect meet OSHA standards in your new design plan.

    Also check with the fire department on occupancy codes and fire regulations.