Restaurant Development & Design

JAN-FEB 2019

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 9 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 6 5 full width of the kitchen can also serve as delineating markers. Counters should be significantly lower than the 42-inch to 50-inch heights that semi-open kitchens featured in the past, Stillwell says. Refrigerated displays with seafood or cuts of meat can also serve as border markers while creating an eye-catching focal point. Shiny metal surfaces tend to yield an industrial commissary look, so most current open kitchen designs avoid using stainless steel or aluminum countertops. Think of chef counters as furniture, Stillwell says. Quartz and granite are tried and true natural materials that hold up well and are easy to clean. Don't discount man- made stone, he adds, as the quality of those products today matches that of natural stone. Adding faux drawer faces beneath counters can also soften and de-industrialize the look. Small details matter. Even though ticket rails don't take up a lot of space, they are noticeable customer-facing elements. "Stay away from aluminum ticket rails," Schultz advises. "That's not going to look good." Also, be sure that food looks its best when awaiting delivery to the dining area. To make the finished product look attractive, LED lighting above warming stations can eliminate shadowing, Schultz says. One of the design goals of an open kitchen should be to achieve efficient workflow between the front and back of the house. The server station is normally behind a wall, but an open kitchen concept can provide advan- tages. Servers can see the dining area better from the back of the house and can easily spot meals when they are ready even when attending to custom- ers in the dining area. That should translate into better quality service. There is one potential drawback to such open views, however. Any mistakes, such as servers neglecting to wash their hands or using an item af- ter dropping it on the floor, is on display for guests to see. The way staff members speak to each and the kind of language they use casually may also be seen and heard. In truly open kitchen and floor- plans, staff must be trained to practice both good hygiene and good behavior. Not So Loud An open kitchen adds noise to the restaurant. While hearing food sizzle on a grill can boost the appeal of the dining experience, there comes a point where the din from the kitchen can be too much. Nobody wants to hear the echo of pots and pans banging around. The cook staff should be aware of this and moder- ate the volume of their voices as well. Sound-dampening strategies can reduce kitchen noise. On one extreme is a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that blocks back-of-the-house noise. The drawback, of course, is that it will snuff out desirable sounds as well, and eliminate interactivity between chefs and the front of the house. An alterna- tive commonly used strategy to reduce the overall noise level is to install acoustic ceiling panels that absorb sounds in the kitchen and the dining room. This is one of the easiest ways to reduce noise while having minimal impact on overall aesthetics. Adding soft material such as spray-on acous- tic fiber to walls can further dampen sounds but may not complement the decor. Other noise-reducing strate- gies employed in the dining area can include booths of varying heights that break up sound waves and reduce the overall noise levels. Designing an open kitchen comes down to close attention to the numer- ous details that impact the customer experience. When designed well, an open kitchen adds excitement to the es- tablishment and helps to draw custom- ers in. "It can offer differentiation from competitors and provide a huge visual marketing benefit," Egnor notes. Following best design practices makes for a successful open kitchen with a long life span. "Executed properly, most open kitchens will work fine until you change the restaurant concept," Egnor says. +

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