- Written by Clay Gordon
Continued from "The Perfect Kitchen," see the concepts here.
Do your homework. Research your local market, research product, research equipment. Go to shows, talk to people. Research products from different manufacturers until you are sure you know that the meaningful differences are.
Plan. Create a business plan. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it is important to have some sort of plan. Create a marketing plan based on the local market research you’ve done. Know who your customers are, what they want, and how to reach them.
Think about workflow from the point ingredients come into the kitchen until the point that product leaves the kitchen. Imagine yourself in the space performing every day production tasks. Do things seem to flow easily, or do one or more steps seem forced? If something seems out of place, the time to deal with it is before construction begins. Also think about the maximum number of people that are going to be working in the kitchen at the and where they will be spending their time. Will they be able to stay out of each other’s way?
Think about deliveries as a part of the workflow. Where is the door? Does the delivery person have to wheel the hand truck right through the middle of the work space, interrupting things? Is there a temporary place to put delivered items that is not in everybody’s way?
Think about storage as a part of the workflow. Separate areas are required for dry goods and ingredients and items that need to be refrigerated or frozen. Says GTI’s Seabury, “It’s far easier to get the flow wrong than the equipment wrong.”
Is there enough of the right kind of refrigeration to support the quantity and variety of production you envision? Are you designing a kitchen that can only support a $200K business, or are you designing a kitchen that can support a million dollar plus business? If you are making ice cream and buying bases from a local dairy supplier, consider a walk-in rather than trying to use reach-ins to handle the volume, especially if daily delivery is not an option.
Store tools and equipment off work surfaces as much as possible. Few things affect productivity like having to move things around constantly to change over from one task to another. If you do have something that needs to be moved (e.g., an induction burner, immersion blender, food processor), make space for it on a shelf directly above where it will be used to increase efficiency.
You want all of the tools, and only those tools, that you use all the time in the kitchen and you want them exactly where you will be using them. If you have to cross the room repeatedly to use a piece of equipment or get a tool then it’s not in the right place. If you only use something once a month, quarter, or year – think three times before making permanent space for it in the kitchen. “Sometimes,” says Tom Funka of Zeroll, “it’s the little things that make all the difference, even something as seemingly simple as the scoop you choose to use. Your workers and your customers will appreciate the attention to detail.”
Build all the way to the ceiling, making sure to keep delicate stuff away from air being blown directly out of HVAC ducts. Way up high is a good place to store packaging. At the beginning of the day, pull down what you need to take care of the production you’ve got planned for the day. Any dust that settles can be wiped off before production begins.
If possible, the only things built-in in the kitchen should be the plumbing and wiring. Everything else should be movable.
Forget what code says about the spacing of electrical outlets; it’s never possible to have too many. You want one GFCI-protected quad outlet, above the work surface and on its own breaker, for every four linear feet of countertop. Place dedicated outlets for each machine where they are needed.
Consider total cost of ownership, not just initial capital costs when making equipment decisions. It may be tempting to try to save $1000 on a machine, but if monthly operating costs are higher (higher utility load, it takes up more space thus increasing ground rent, etc.,) then the machine can quickly end up costing more than you saved on the initial purchase price.
You don’t know what you don’t know, so even with a plan, an open mind and flexibility are important. Cakes and novelties may not be a part of your menu to begin with, but ice cream cakes at national chain stores often account for 20-30% of total sales. If you do plan to offer cakes (or add them later), space to assemble, decorate, display, and store them is needed. Space for storing the decorative items and utensils is also needed.