"Latest Developing Trends in Kitchen Design"

1999 was a record year for our company in terms of new restaurant projects. During the course of the year, we were involved with over 200 new Foodservice Operations that we either designed, engineered, supplied or all three. We see no slow down in this pace for the coming year and in fact, our back-log of work is considerably higher now that it was last year at this time. With this in mind, I would like to comment on what we see as the latest developing trends in kitchen design, and how they affect the foodservice operator.

The first general change we are noticing is a reduction in size of the kitchen as a percentage of the overall space. Traditionally, a common rule of thumb was that the kitchen, walk-ins, storage areas, etc. took up about a third of the total space. Labor intensive menus and display kitchens could sometimes push that to as much as 40%. There is a growing desire by foodservice operators to reduce the size of the kitchen to comprise less than 25% of the available space, and therefore obviously increase the number of seats in the operation. To accomplish this, kitchens must become more efficient, more functional, and certainly have less wasted space. Every square inch counts.

We are also seeing more customization of equipment, based on the operators' or chefs' individual preferences. Breading stations are being custom-designed to better reflect that particular operation's style. Chef's lines are no longer merely factory buyout items such as steam tables, sandwich units, etc. placed side by side. Instead, they are now completely customized with various drop-ins, plate warmers, soup wells, cold pans, hot & cold bain maries, POS printer shelves, dressing stations, etc. Additionally, more customization and thought is going into the cooking line as well. Ranges may be outfitted with front or side sauce rails. Charbroilers and stoves may have built-in refrigerated drawers underneath. Pass-thru windows may be used between front and back cooking lines. Server pick-up areas are also becoming more efficient and customized. Built-in ice baths, roll warmers, and trash chutes are all being designed in ahead of time.

We consistently see greater use of newer technology becoming more prevalent in our designs. It has become unusual for us to supply fryers without built-in filters. Hands-free faucets on hand-washing sinks are more and more popular. We are beginning to see induction ranges used not only in the dining room, But heavy-duty units in the back of the house as well. Hi BTU open burners, many times with European stylings, are very popular. We are seeing greater use of steam equipment, and finally, especially last year, point-of-use gas hot-water boosters at the warewashing area are taking the place of the traditional electric booster.

Our customers are still very energy conscious and are also becoming very waste conscious. We are seeing pulpers, scrappers, and troughs being used in place of a garbage disposal or trash barrel. Some design elements from the 90's that were extremely popular, such as open display kitchens and woodburning brick ovens continue to exist. We expect that these will be less prevalent than they were during the last five years, but still popular in certain types of operations. It would appear that the micro-brewery craze has passed.

Similar to the size of the overall kitchen shrinking as a percentage of the total space, so is the size of the walk-in freezers as a percentage of total refrigerator space. Customers continue to be health conscious and demand fresh foods, therefore there is less need for freezer space. Likewise steam tables are shrinking in size, as more and more products are prepared to order and newer technology allows menu items to be prepared individually. Garde manger stations are part of most every kitchen we design. They are either separate from the main chef's line, come off the chef's line at a 90-degree L-shaped angle, or are a unique station as part of the chef's line. Typically all salads, hot & cold appetizers, and desserts are being prepared and picked-up separate from the entrees.

Employee needs are a changing part of trends in kitchen design. Changing areas, individual lockers, separate rest rooms and even break rooms are now being considered. Also along these lines, employee comfort and workability have become very important. A great many kitchens are now air-conditioned. Sufficient, more comfortable work space is part of our design criteria, and ergonomics and handicapped issues all demand more attention. Additionally, our customers continue to be concerned about sanitation issues, including HAACP requirements and more stringent Board of Health rules. How clean up will be accomplished, and how foodborne illness and cross-contamination will be prevented is being considered as part of the overall program.

Finally, the foodservice operator still demands value and durability in their purchases. Can a particular piece of equipment service multiple functions? Is it really worth the money and what will the service costs be five years from now? Our customers are not only thinking about the initial purchase price but are considering the entire useful life of each piece of equipment. The foodservice operator, by working closely with his architect, chef, and foodservice engineer truly can come up with a cost-effective, functional kitchen that takes advantage of the space allocated, and many times in significantly less space than was possible 5 years ago.

Jerry Hyman, President
TriMark United East Foodservice Supply Co.

For more information, contact Jerry at jhyman@trimarkusa.com.

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foodservice and restaurant industry design and supply United East

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