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For Better Restaurants, Reinvent the Open Kitchen!

26 May 2017

In fact, Dyer Brown has been researching the open kitchen and creating new riffs on the concept to benefit our clients. These ideas meet basic rules of comfort and enjoyment in dining by minimizing unwanted noise, fumes, and views but also by offering better views of the action and new ways for dining patrons to learn about their favorite establishments and cuisines.

The key to a crowd-pleasing open kitchen is to start with the intent, careful execution, and a full understanding of kitchen and dining area operations. In some cases, the focus is the original upscale notion: Customers are firsthand witness to a live-action reality event, better than a cooking show, as at Dyer Brown's most recently completed restaurant, Tapestry.

Step one is to align the open-kitchen goal with menu, the interactive experience, and customer group’s sensory expectations. Step two, since building or renovating for an open kitchen is a big decision, make sure it’s the right format. Ask a few key questions: What specific activities will be showcased, and where? Should customers see everything -- including prep work and dishwashing -- or just the sauté line and salad station? Is it possible to keep noise to a minimum and ensure proper ventilation? Will the bright lights needed in the kitchen area encroach on the dining area’s cool atmosphere?

Step three, consult with experts on health, building and fire-safety code. The layout should maintain a minimum distance between food preparation and patron zones, mainly to prevent contamination. Cleanliness and organization are essential to both layout and operations. In the open kitchen, everything is on display including pots and pans and raw ingredients.

Step four, and certainly most important is creativity -- there’s a lot you can do with the theatricality, intimacy and authenticity that comes with an open-kitchen restaurant. Consider the kitchen presentation: Is it surrounded by seating as in a thrust stage, or framed like a proscenium theater, as at Tapestry? Or is it a buffet-style line, or a bar, or a peekaboo series of openings and portholes? Whatever the concept, savvy owners work closely with architects and equipment consultants on layouts that fully reflect day-to-day functionality as much as experiential intent.

Step five: Get the details right. Great lighting is essential, so Dyer Brown works with the venue to reconcile the bright work lights of the kitchen with the mood lighting that creates a warm, relaxing environment in dining areas, combining aimable chef task fixtures with theatrical lighting -- so the kitchens visually “pop.” Ventilation should be unobtrusive and highly effective. Acoustical design is also unseen but essential to excellence in hospitality design. If the restaurant format is inherently noisy, we’ll recommend systems that help chefs prepare meals with Zen-like subtlety.

Mastering these technical facets of open-kitchen venues will help facilitate the proprietor’s vision for a dramatic, edifying and transparent restaurant experience. Start with the basics -- the creative concept and sensory expectations -- and the design solution is well on its way.

Excerpted and adapted with permission from RESTAURANT HOSPITALITY Magazine. The original article is here.

Post authored by Brent D. Zeigler AIA IIDA, Principal, President/Director of Design at Dyer Brown Architects in Boston.

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