The kitchen sizes of the nation’s estimated 900,000 restaurant locations are as varied as the food, décor and service style, spanning notch-in-the-alley lunch counters to opulent and expansive fine-dining establishments. The menu, preparation methods, and public health and building codes play a role in determining how big is big enough. There are a couple of standard ballpark-figure formulas in the food-service industry, a business where work flow patterns are just as important as square footage.

The Survey Says ...


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A national poll conducted by quizzed restaurateurs on the elements that affect start-up costs, including kitchen size. The survey garnered 722 responses. Owners reported a diverse array of dimensions, ranging from 500 to 1,375 square feet, for an average kitchen size -- drumroll -- of 1,051 square feet.

By the Numbers

The standard minimum formula for a full-service dining establishment is 5 square feet of kitchen space per restaurant seat: A 40-seat restaurant, for example, calls for a 200-square-foot kitchen. Fast-food quick-service operations and restaurants that use prepackaged convenience foods and need less in the way of storage and prep areas might get by with less space.

Percentile Pointers

The average kitchen size is 30 percent of the total square footage of the restaurant, reports food-service consultant Chuck Currie. In fast-food or other quick-service restaurants, which range in overall size from 1,375 to 4,250 square feet, the lion’s share of space is devoted to kitchen and storage areas. Seating space typically makes up less than 45 percent of the total area. In full-service restaurants, a 60-40 ratio is sometimes quoted as a starting baseline for divvying up space, with 60 percent devoted to the front of the house and 40 to kitchen, storage and prep areas.

Creating Space

Whether building from scratch, renovating, or making ongoing improvements, restaurateurs, designers and builders are always on the lookout for innovative ways to make best use of every available spot in the kitchen while easing traffic bottlenecks and ensuring that heating, cooling and ventilation equipment operate efficiently. Space savers such as up-the-wall vertical designs or under-counter storage aren’t solely for small facilities. Larger kitchens also remain on a constant quest for streamlined efficiency. Managers and kitchen and serving staff want the equipment and products they need safely within reach. Area health and building regulations also play a hand in kitchen size by requiring spatial elements such as separate hand-washing and food-rinsing sinks.