It’s often said “seeing is believing” ― and the same is true for commercial kitchens. With the increased focus on freshness and a desire to know how food is being prepared, customers want to see the back-of-house operations move into the forefront.
As a result, more restaurants are being designed or reconfigured to give customers access to kitchen operations ― whether it’s through the made-to-order production line of fast casual pizza restaurants like Blaze Pizza or Your Pie or a design update, like the “biscuit theatre” in newly remodeled Bojangles.
Although this increased transparency can have its challenges, there are numerous benefits for an operation that opens up its kitchen ― primarily the promotion of quality, freshness and cleanliness.
People are becoming more aware about the quality of the food they are putting into their bodies and are looking for freshly prepared food. Related to trends toward choosing fresh over frozen and selecting establishments that offer clean label ingredients, the preparation of the food is also taken into account.
Additionally, open kitchens give visibility to a clean, streamlined operation, which can build confidence for the consumer and encourage them to become a repeat visitor.
Equipment plays a role in communicating these messages, and there are several considerations for how they fit into the operation:
When it is consumer-facing, the look and feel of the equipment becomes more important, elevating the industrial design aspects, such as finishes and integration of technology.
Well-maintained and properly cleaned equipment ― in addition to extending the life of the equipment ― provides insights into the overall quality of the kitchen operation. Customers have the expectation that their food comes from a sanitary operation, and putting the back-of-house on display only draws further attention to food safety and the need for clean equipment.
Operations with open kitchens need to be organized with a planned transition between cooking the food and preparing it to serving it to the customer. In addition to how easy the equipment is to use, which can help facilitate this process, the kitchen layout itself should also be thoughtfully designed.
For restaurant chains considering the open kitchen model, work with the equipment manufacturers as early in the design or redesign process as possible ― leaning on their detailed understanding of how their equipment can best fit into the space.
For example, countertop equipment that allows operations to cook to order, such as Antunes’ Egg Stations or on-demand toasters and steamers, allows chains to provide freshly cooked menu items to customers without sacrificing time.
As we look to the next-generation kitchen and how it will address customer needs, open kitchens can be an asset ― emphasizing a brand’s reputation for quality, freshness and focus on the consumer.