The Layout: General Considerations in Running a Kitchen

The design of a kitchen involves so many considerations of a complicated nature that it is not surprising that it often seems as though insufficient thought is given at the outset to factors of fundamental importance. It is essential to consider the functions and integration of various parts of the kitchen when plans are first drawn up and to decide how the various priorities can best be satisfied. There is now a considerable amount of material available from research and experiment which it is important should not be overlooked by those who will draw up the plans. Today many experts are consulted by the architect before final plans are agreed and among these must be an expert in kitchen organisation who has given careful thought to kitchen planning. What happens far too frequently is that every other expert is consulted except this one, with the result that equipment is placed to suit the convenience of the plumbers, electricians and gas fitters, while the general arrangement of the rooms, windows and entrances, etc., fits in with the architect’s plan for the facade.

In planning a new kitchen and in redesigning an old one there is a practice which is growing of employing a firm of kitchen planning consultants to advise on matters of detail and to draw up working drawings in consultation with the architect. Such a procedure is essential when the building is a new one and the client has not yet a food service specialist in his employ. This could be the case in the building of a new hospital or a new university where the food service manager will not be appointed until the building is near completion. But the employment of a consultant can also be justified when the client already has a specialist in food service available to advise. The firm of kitchen planning specialists will be able to make recommendations on the choice of equipment because they have specialized knowledge not only of the newest types available but also of the relative merits of similar items from different manufacturers. All too often the food service manager is advised by the equipment manufacturer who inevitably is somewhat biased in his views of the performance of his own particular items.

In Canada and the U.S.A. there are now a number of firms with a team of specialists to advise on kitchen planning who are known by various names such as Kitchen Planning Consultants, Foods Facilities Engineers, etc. Their premises in addition to the normal office facilities have drawing offices and a good library of books and journals on kitchen design and equipment and a complete range of catalogs of kitchen furniture, machinery and equipment. The staff consist in the main of architects and equipment engineers who have specialized in kitchen design. But one firm at least has recently recognized the value of employing a specialist in food service management who can not only advise on layout in the early stages of a new proposal but can also be present in the kitchen when it is first opened for operation. She will be able to explain the correct use of the equipment because she knows the reasons for its choice and placing and thus will be able to steer the management through some of the difficulties of the opening period.

There are two main aims in good kitchen planning which are to a great extent interrelated. These are economy of time of operation and economy of effort. It is unnecessary to enlarge on these topics, for they are axiomatic, and yet it is amazing how rarely one finds a kitchen planned to achieve these aims. There are of course other influencing factors in addition to those concerned in the actual layout, as for example, choice and design of equipment and the provision of labor-saving devices. These will be dealt with in later chapters and in any case as they do not affect the actual design of the kitchen which is a much more permanent thing, they are more easily introduced into whatever scheme results from the more important and broader considerations.

The Flow of Work

The kitchen is similar to a factory in that raw materials are received, processed and converted into the finished product. In the modern kitchen, as in the modern factory, raw materials are received at various starting points at one end of the building and pass along in a smooth manner always proceeding nearer to the final point where the finished product is assembled and prepared for delivery to the customer. In the case of the kitchen the final product reaches the dining room as an assembly of various components which have traveled along different lines of progress through the various processes. If the kitchen is well planned, each time the material is moved it progresses towards the final assembly point, in this case the servery. When in the factory there are several lines of production converging on one final assembly point it is important that these lines should not cross each other, for if they do loss of efficiency will result. This is equally true in the planning of lines of progress in the kitchen. From the table on page 57 it is evident that this planning may not always be possible, because some pieces of equipment must be used in more than one line of production, but even here the use of common equipment must not interfere with the general line of flow. It follows that the placing of each item of equipment must be very carefully considered when planning the layout, so that the maximum convenience can be obtained for all possible uses.

In a new food service unit recently built at Northern Illinois University, the Director of Food Services, with a view to increasing efficiency, carried out preliminary studies before the building was finally planned. Bearing in mind the principles of minimum distance moved and flow to provide economy, pod efficiency and effectiveness”, the investigator focused attention keeping records of the number of times each piece of equipment was used and the relationship of equipment inter-usage. With the information collected he was then able to place as close together as possible those items of equipment with the greatest number of frequencies of trips between them. In this kitchen the two most frequently used combinations were steamer to mixer and kettle (boiling pan) to oven. The other complementary aspect on which he focused attention was in the placing of “subsequent production operations immediately adjacent to previous ones” because this will reduce production time, decrease employees’ efforts and fatigue, lower materials handling costs, increase man hour output and simplify supervision. The food service unit has now been built and is in operation for 2,000 students with very satisfactory results. The employees find that the new kitchen is easy to work in and that they do not have to work so hard physically. Moreover the efficient layout has ” significantly reduced production time and increased output per man hour “. In fact, compared with other kitchens on the campus the number of students served has been increased by 45%.

Let us now consider in some detail the various lines of progress which one expects to find in a kitchen. The starting point is of course at the entrance where the goods are delivered. It is advisable to have all goods delivered at one central point where they can be received, checked in and weighed before storage or use. One exception is that of vegetables, which should when possible be delivered from outside directly into the vegetable store, thus avoiding the carrying of sacks and crates inside the building. This means arranging for the vegetable store to open on to an area where delivery vans can unload. In many kitchens the storekeeper is responsible for the receiving and checking of goods and it is therefore advisable for her office to be placed near to the delivery entrance. After checking and weighing, the dry goods are taken to the stores and the perishable goods either issued to the kitchen for immediate use or stored in the refrigerator.

Fig. la is a diagrammatic representation of the various areas of a kitchen and their relationship with each other. Between some areas the flow is always in a forward direction, between others there will be traffic in both directions. It is important to place as near together as possible those areas between which there are many journeys even if the amounts transported are small. Where traffic between two areas is infrequent even though the amounts may be large propinquity is less important. Within the large central area of preparation and cooking, movement will be mainly from the preparation bench or table to the cooking equipment and back and within this area the location of a table in relation to an item of equipment is important. A horizontal surface is required adjoining all pieces of cooking equipment so that food containers can be set down before and after cooking to facilitate the opening of doors and raising of lids. This surface can be fixed or mobile, the latter being useful for subsequent transport of the food and also for use in different areas.

In the central cooking area, some of the factors of importance for comfort and efficiency in work are the width of the aisles and the height, length and depth of preparation tables. It is generally agreed that main trainic aisles should be 5′ wide and that those between equipment and work tables 3′ to 3′ 6″; 4 to 4′ 6″ being required if mobile equipment is used. For working tables an allowance of 4 length per worker seems to be generally acceptable. The standard height is 24 10″ but where possible this should be related to the height of the worker and to the type of work carried out. Depths range from 1 to 4′ 6″ the latter being adaptable for work on both sides.

Two main areas to which considerable attention should be given in the early stages of planning are the servery and the dish-washing area. The position of the servery must be carefully related to the dining room as well as to the kitchen and this entails decisions about the layout of the test of the building where the food service unit is part of a large complex, as for example in a hospital or university. The placing of the wash-up, because it must be related to both the dining area and the servery, is critical and also requires consideration at an early stage. In fact, it is of such importance that kitchen planners have been known to say “locate the wash-up first and then plan the rest of the food service unit around it.” This statement certainly has some truth, particularly for those systems described later where trays carrying used dishes reach the central dish-washing area by means of a conveyor belt. Even in less elaborate schemes the dictum is not without basis.

The service of food to patients in bed in hospital demands special arrangements to ensure that the food is in good condition and at the correct temperature when it reaches its destination. Many of the schemes adopted entail the use of a lift to transport the mobile Carts carrying the food. Some of these are described in detail in Chapter 22. The location of such lifts must be given careful consideration at an early stage because of the necessity of integrating them with the rest of the building plans. They must be located in a convenient position, not only for service from the kitchen to the wards, but also for the return of used dishes to the dish-washing room. In another system individual trays are assembled in the kitchen on a conveyor belt and then automatically transferred to a vertical conveyor shaft opening into ward kitchens on different floors. It is obvious that the siting of the vertical conveyor shaft will need consideration by the architect, to ensure that it is conveniently placed for all uses.

The table shows the five main sections of the work and the general items of large equipment required in each section for preparation, cooking, serving and washing up. To obtain an orderly flow of work through the kitchen it is necessary to arrange this equipment in sequence. The diagrams illustrate how this can be achieved in some of the sections, though clearly the problem of arranging the equipment in the ideal way is more difficult when each section has to be integrated in the whole.

Diagram A (Fig. 2) shows a layout for a vegetable store and preparation department. Goods can be delivered directly into the store where the sacks of root vegetables can be stacked on duck boards on one side and the green vegetables and salads in racks on the other. From the store the potatoes and carrots will be taken to the machine which removes the skin mechanically and which is placed so that they can be delivered direct into a sink after peeling. The eyeing process which follows is a long one and it is therefore advisable to fix sinks at a low level, so that the workers can sit to do this job. The sink shown in this diagram is the new one from the Kitchen Equipment Development Group (K.E.D.) of Moorwood Vulcan, and it will be dealt with in more detail in Chapter 10. It is a long narrow sink with a chute at the back down which the eyed potatoes roll into a mobile sink Provision is made for the preparation of green vegetables on the opposite side of the room with a draining board for cutting up, two adjacent sinks for washing, and a machine for shredding the greens before they are cooked.

Diagram Ci (Fig. 3) shows a layout for the wash-up section of a kitchen. As has already been stated, it is advisable to have a separate room for this work in order to exclude the steam and the noise from the main kitchen. There are several important features of this layout. They are: (1) The receiving and stripping table allows adequate bench space to sticking and cleaning plates and dishes. (2) The arrangement of oils in pairs allows one to be used for washing while the other is used for rinsing; alternatively, one pair of these sinks could be replaced by a dish-washer of the ‘turbulent’ or ‘brush’ type (3) The long draining board allows space for the drying of plates, etc., in racks after a hot rinse. (4) Floor space is provided for the storage of trolleys in which the clean dishes, etc., are stacked before transport to the china cupboards and hot plates: these latter should be fixed as near the wash-up as is compatible with their function in the general scheme.

Diagram C2 (Fig. 3) shows a layout for a wash-up where a “push-through” type of dishwasher is installed. Such a machine should be so placed that it can be operated from either side and it is important to have adequate table space at both ends of the machine for loading and unloading. This has been achieved by a T-shaped arrangement at the ends. It will be noticed that sinks also have been provided, as these are useful not only if the machine breaks down but also for part of the daily routine work.

The two layouts suggested above are for food service units of up to 500 meals. In large cafeterias where a dishwasher of the flight type or a similar machine is in operation, efficient arrangements must be made for speedy sorting of dishes and feeding into the machine. In many units in North America where clients are encouraged to clear their own places with trays, a great deal of use is made of the conveyor belt for transporting the tray with dirty dishes direct to the dish-washing room. At peak periods these trays are arriving at a great rate and a well organised system is essential to ensure that dishes are sorted and sent to the machine before a build up can occur. Two layouts described in the next chapter show how this can be organised. The dimensions of the room are critical and in addition to being related to size of the machine, they must also permit the movement of the trays on the belt and if necessary around corners. Adequate space must also be available for the parking of mobile racks on to which clean dishes can be loaded for return to the servery.

The relation of the ancillary rooms to the main kitchen

The need for a smooth, general flow of materials as they pass through the kitchen–delivery, reception, checking, weighing, storage and issue of stores, preparation, cooking and serving has already been emphasized, and it is as important in connection with some of the ancillary rooms. It is clearly necessary therefore to consider very carefully the placing of ancillary rooms in relation to the general layout. Care is needed in the location of such rooms as cloakrooms, lavatories, staff dining rooms and offices in relation to the main kitchen, but it is the placing of the storerooms, larder and cold rooms which calls for the most careful attention in connection with flow line efficiency.

Two points must be considered when locating the general store. In the first place it should be as near as possible to the reception area, to avoid a long carry of goods within the building. In a hospital kitchen visited recently all kitchen stores were delivered on one side of the building and subsequently conveyed a distance of about 50 yards along an underground corridor to the store on the other side of the building. The time and energy required to carry goods even when trucks are used, and the extra costs entailed, emphasize the importance of giving careful consideration in the initial planning stage to the placing of the storage accommodation. As has already been said it is not so important for the less frequent journeys to be routed as conveniently as the more frequent, however if distances can be cut saving is effected.

In the second place the store should be as near as possible to the part of the kitchen where the main bulk of the goods will be used. For although it is common practice to have an ingredient store in the kitchen for keeping, over a period, small amounts of issued goods, the general system is for the main goods required to be issued daily from the store. As these goods may be both bulky and heavy it is clearly an advantage to reduce the distance they have to be carried as much as possible.

Although a larder is not now usually provided in large kitchens, because it is replaced by a large refrigerated room, it is frequently still found useful in small kitchens for several purposes. Food which has been prepared in the kitchen, and which will be served cold but not refrigerated, is placed in the larder during the waiting period before serving in the dining room. Returned unused food from the servery is also stored in this room until needed. The larder is also required for the cooling of cooked foods before they are placed in the refrigerator. If therefore the position of the larder is to be fixed with these considerations in mind, it must obviously be so placed that it is easily accessible from both kitchen and servery. Often it is necessary to include it in the general cooling space of the kitchen to ensure that the temperature is below 50°F to conform with Section 25 of the Food His Regulations (1960). This is particularly necessary in basement kitchens where it is not possible to place the larder in a cool place and it must therefore be cooled mechanically.

The placing of the cold rooms and refrigerators also needs careful consideration. In a small kitchen one refrigerator only may be provided and used for all purposes which include the storage of meat, fish and dairy produce and the chilling of prepared foods for service. In a large kitchen, however, separate cold rooms will be required for each of these functions. Thus in a small kitchen it is not possible to place the refrigerator in the most convenient position for each of these various uses, and it is generally found most convenient to place it where it is easily accessible for the storage of foods on delivery. In a large kitchen the function of each of the cold rooms can be given more thought when planning. Large quantities of meat which are subsequently to be butchered in the meat preparation department are stored in the meat cold room, and these rooms should therefore open into each other. A similar circumstance arises in the preparation of fish. A useful location of cold rooms, where this is possible, is in the area separating the storeroom and kitchen, with doors opening on to both areas, thus avoiding the necessity of deliveries passing through the kitchen.

The placing of the supervisor’s office requires consideration. A good position is one which allows a view of as much as possible of the general work area of the kitchen and at the same time gives some privacy for certain aspects of the supervisor’s work. If these two conflicting requirements cannot be met when the office is located centrally it may be necessary to make special arrangements for screening the interior by such means as the use of blinds or Curtains or of glass which permits a view in one direction only.

The remaining ancillary rooms, apart from the vegetable store which has already been considered, are less difficult to locate. The lavatories and cloakrooms should be readily accessible from the kitchen. This point seems obvious and yet recently plans for a new hall of residence for students had the kitchen located at the cast end of the fifth floor and the cloakrooms and lavatories for kitchen staff at the west end of the basement. Clearly this would have been both inconvenient and unsatisfactory. The position of the staff dining room and rest room is also important. Staff are often reluctant to leave the kitchen for meals and seem to prefer to cat amid their working surroundings, a most undesirable arrangement. If however a warm and attractive dining room is provided near at hand they can usually be persuaded to use it.

One general point arises in the location of ancillary rooms. As these rooms are naturally placed on the outside of the building it frequently happens that they occupy almost all the outside space, leaving the main kitchen hemmed in. This does not mean that natural lighting and ventilation are thereby excluded from the kitchen, because as already stated if the surrounding rooms are not as lofty as the kitchen, clerestory windows and domed overhead lighting can be used to give both cross ventilation and natural lighting in the kitchen itself. But it does mean that the kitchen is thereby made a less attractive place than it might be and the psychological effect of working in pleasant surroundings is very important. There are some small canteens in Westmorland where the woman standing at the sink preparing vegetables has only to raise her eyes to get a magnificent view across the valley to distant fells. Obviously such surroundings are not often possible, but a little forethought in these matters may be well repaid in future contentment of staff.

The Placing of the Equipment

Although it is true that the flow of work is the main factor to bear in mind when deciding on the general position of equipment, there is usually a choice of two or more places where any piece could be fixed, each position being more or less equally acceptable in connection with the general flow of work. The final choice is then made after considering the following points:

1. Cost and Availability of Services
All equipment requires one or more of the services and the main part of the cost of fitting results from this work. Thus when boiling pans are being fitted, consideration must be given to the fact that fuel in the form of gas, electricity or steam is required for heating, hot and cold water are required for cooking and cleaning, while drainage is required for easy removal of waste liquids. It is therefore common practice to locate all boiling pars together in order to minimize the costs of laying on the services, For the boiling pans which are used solely for cooling vegetables this arrangement is satisfactory, but if certain pans are used only for milk puddings, custards or stews the vegetable cookery section of the kitchen may not be the most convenient position. The choice has then to be made between costs and convenience. A similar problem may also arise with the fixing of the steaming Ovens which are needed in one part of the kitchen to cook puddings and meats and in another part to cook vegetables. The solution here may be in duplication of equipment and in this case again the choice has to be made between cost and convenience. The placing of the ovens presents fewer difficulties, since only one of the services is required: water and drainage are not involved, only heat. It should therefore be possible to place them in the most convenient position, with the pastry oven easily accessible from the baking section and the ovens used for more general purposes near to the place where the foods cooked in them will be prepared.

Dairy produce is required for various purposes in the kitchen, and it is not therefore possible to determine so exactly the placing of the cold room for these goods. The cold room or refrigerator to be used for chilling food before service should be in a position similar to the larder. It is required for the storage of food after cooking and before serving and should therefore be fixed in a position readily accessible from both the kitchen and the servery.

2. Lighting
As has been shown in Chapter Two, good lighting is necessary on all equipment and therefore the amount of natural light must be considered carefully when placing equipment. Ovens should be placed so that the state of the food inside can be seen easily when the door is opened. This is frequently not the case: ovens are placed with their backs to the windows or with the oven doors hanging so that when opened they cut out the light. With those ovens which are fitted with an interior light, this problem would not arise. Boiling pans and boiling tables should also have good light. If boiling pans have hinged lids they should be so located that they do not cut off all available light when the lids are raised. The importance of good light on working benches and sinks is obvious.

3. The Center Block versus the Long Line by the Wall
In general there are two layouts for placing equipment in the kitchen. Either the working tables are placed in the middle of the floor space and the boilers, cookers, steamers and fish fryers placed round the walls, or the positions are reversed and the tables put by the windows with the cookers, etc., in the open door space. Let us examine the respective merits of the two systems.

There is no doubt that the work and cost entailed in laying the necessary services to the cooking equipment is least if this equipment is placed around the walls. All pipes can be run along the walls instead of under the floor or along the ceiling, and the waste channels for the boilers have a shorter run before reaching the main outside drainage. Ventilation and temperature control are simplified because of the natural outlet for steam and the products of combustion through adjacent windows. If, on the other hand, cooking equipment is placed in a central block in the middle of the room, an induced system of ventilation is usually required which may entail the installation of large canopies with ducting and extractor fans, resulting in increased costs. Moreover, the large surface of these hoods increases the cleaning work and impedes the view of the work of the kitchen.

With so many points in favor of placing equipment by the wall why is it that modern schemes of kitchen planning tend to favor the placing of cooking equipment centrally? There are three main reasons. The first is economy in floor space. The placing of all the equipment for a large kitchen in a single line against the wall requires a great length of wall and unless kitchens are built in long lengths of narrow span the necessary amount of wall space is not available. The second is concerned with planning to effect an easy flow of work. Fig. 4 shows a working table for a pastry cook with two possible positions for the two ovens she will use. Either position would be convenient and could be arranged to follow the natural flow of work. But when one considers the steps the cook will take each time she attends to the ovens it is clear that the C1 position is the better one. This illustration of course simplifies the problem but it is usually found when planning a layout that the various sections of the work can be grouped more easily if a central arrangement is used. The third reason relates to the position for working surfaces. The wall position is better than the central one for comfortable conditions for the worker. This is mainly because of the light and air available, but a working position near a window is dearly more pleasant than one in the center of a large area.

4. Accessibility for Cleaning
It is important that all cooking equipment should be fixed so that the cleaning of the walls, the floors and the pipes nearby can be readily carried out. All too frequently cookers are fixed so close to each other and to the nearby wall that cleaning operations are difficult and are therefore often neglected. This may also apply to banks of equipment in the middle of the room where pieces are fixed so close to each other that the floor space in between is virtually inaccessible for cleaning. This point must be considered in the early stages of planning so that sufficient space can be allowed. Ovens and hot cupboards built into walls to look like cupboards solve this problem of cleaning.

5. Comfortable Working Conditions.
The main problems affecting the comfort of the worker are the heights of the working equipment, and the heat given off by it. The former question will, however, be considered in Chapter Fifteen. The most obvious source of heat, solid fuel fired equipment, presents difficulties which can be solved only by efficient insulation; the main planning problem to be considered here is the placing of the hot cupboard. This piece of equipment is used for heating plates and dishes and for keeping food hot, and must therefore be fixed in the servery, but the actual position requires careful thought and will be affected by the type of service used in the dining room. When the service of the food is planned so that dishes of food are taken to the tables, it is most convenient to have the hot cupboard fixed as part of the service counter, and to choose a hot cupboard with doors on both sides so that food can be put in one side and taken out of the other. But if the servery is designed for a cafeteria system the question arises whether the hot cupboard should be fixed in this same position, so that service hands can use the top as a counter, or whether it should be fixed in a convenient position nearby and an unheated surface used for the actual service. The solution is not clear cut as there are advantages and disadvantages to both schemes. If the former system is adopted, the service hand must endure the discomfort of standing for upwards of two hours in an uncomfortably hot situation, for hot cupboards are only rarely insulated and the amount of heat radiated by their surfaces is quite considerable. On the other hand, if the latter system is adopted she will be more comfortable during the service but will not have the required food and plates in such an accessible position.

The layout recommended in Bulletin 11 where the hot cupboard is placed at right angles to an unheated service counter seems a good solution to the problem. In this position it is readily accessible to the person serving but at the same time as it is not actually used as a service counter the discomfort from its heat is to a great extent avoided. Another way of reducing the amount of heat in the servery counter is by installing heated cupboards of the push through type in the wall between the servery and the kitchen, as mentioned in Chapter 3. With these it is usual to provide infrared lamps over the counter to minimize heat losses from the food.