Small Back of House Inspirations

Finding inspiring design when traveling. 

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be in New York City to attend another trade show, as part of a panel that was sponsored by FCSI-The Americas. If you are like me, any time that I find myself in New York, I extend the stay just to enjoy the city. This time around, you could start to see the leaves turn red as the seasons changed from autumn to winter. Remember that I am based out of Miami, Florida, where we only have two seasons: rainy and more rain, humid and more humid.

What is a trip to New York City, without visiting a few gastronomy locations? So off we went both to learn and, well, to experience them. This time around it was hard not to notice how creative the operators are when it comes to efficiently using space. Since our core consulting service is efficiency via the application of industrial engineering in foodservice, this is clearly of interest to us. A post from last month focused on labor and included the idea on miniaturization of back-of-house designs by starting with a mobile restaurant footprint as the base design and then growing from there as necessary.

Well in NYC, not only do you see mobile restaurants in the streets, but you also get the sense of this space application in some restaurants as well, since real estate cost is at its prime.

JuansBlogInside a New York eatery.In one location, I not only noticed the compactness of the design and the efficiency of the line and the adjacency to other areas in the space, but also the creative way the staff uses the equipment. And this place had no hoods, by the way. You can see in the photo that they use rapid cooking ovens, a technology that has spread like wildfire over the last couple of decades. But take a closer look at the picture. You can see this location's unique approach to melting cheese. Instead of a typical cheese melter, staff members use a blowtorch. Get out of here! I actually had the French onion soup, where a member of the culinary team used this industrial device to melt and caramelize the cheese and I must say that it was very good. Creativity at its best! No hoods needed with a blowtorch!

The placement of the dishroom was another exercise in creativity. Employees in the front of the house could access the dishroom through a small window, directly adjacent from the bar. The kitchen also has access to this area, or better yet the dish room has access to the line through another window that is perpendicular to the one that the bar has access to, right in front of the employee in the picture with a chef coat. Creativity and compactness at its best!

In addition to using a very small space, another unintended (or perhaps intended?) consequence is that this restaurant runs with two employees working the cookline and one employee working the dishroom. It was not a very large space but large enough for me to tell you that in a more typical (larger) kitchen, they would definitely need more labor. One other note is that due to the compactness, the service times were good. Not too far for the kitchen to deliver food and the servers to get them. In this location, the BOH is definitely in the FOH. Exhibition kitchen!

As I offer this example, it occurred to me that any large urban area with high real estate costs will have countless examples of innovative, compact kitchen designs. So if you are low in inspiration of kitchen design compactness, just do a field trip to some restaurants in large downtown locations. But remember to observe how they operate it also and send us a note on what you see, to keep us learning.

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