Kitchen Plumbing: Form Must Follow Function

When it's all laid out in a beautifully crafted rendering or sketch, a new kitchen design is a sight to behold.

Mike Orlando, Director of business development and strategic accounts, T&S Brass, Travelers Rest, S.C., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.But going from that picture-perfect design to the real world can be a bumpy, costly transition if planning fails to take into account two significant considerations: menu and workflow.

Plumbing is a significant part of any kitchen design. From rinsing fresh vegetables to cleaning dirty pans, water is necessary every step of the way.

Most people assume plumbing is pretty simple — and for the most part it is. But technology advancements in recent years now allow better pairings of form and function. Knowledgeable plumbing experts can help a kitchen run more efficiently, reducing the ongoing and long-term costs to run the business.

The Menu

Many requirements stem directly from the menu.

Handling raw fruits and vegetables? You'll need a prep sink.

Doing some baking? It's tough to get dough off your hands at faucets with dramatically restricted water flow.

Analyzing what's being made and how it's being prepared is one of the first steps in evaluating kitchen plumbing.

Consider what you're cooking in your pots and pans. Is it baked on or tough to clean? A stronger-flowing prerinse unit spray valve might be needed more than at a facility that needs only light cleaning.

A kitchen filling up pots for boiling water will expend a lot of unnecessary hours waiting at a 2.2 gpm faucet. Conversely, a hand-wash sink flowing at that same 2.2 gpm could cost thousands of dollars in unnecessary water, energy and sewer expenses.

The goal in selecting plumbing equipment should be a marriage of function and efficiency — getting the job done and with as little cost as necessary.

The Workflow

With menu needs met, operators can turn their eyes to employee function and kitchen workflow.

Well-intentioned general contractors may get some things wrong when it comes to how kitchen employees actually work. Experts in the field, like an experienced foodservice consultant or your plumbing supplier, are the best resources.

I once visited a supermarket cafe area where there was a sink with soap and towel dispensers. Yes, the architect assured me, that one's only for washing hands.

Later that day, I returned to the area to find the water left running in the sink. Going to turn it off, I discovered it was being used to thaw chicken. The designer planned for one thing; the crew found a way to actually get things done.

Observing how employees work will let you know if equipment is being used improperly as a quick fix or if employees are forced into inefficient processes by poorly considered installations.

Bottom line: Whether designing a new kitchen or retrofitting an old one, know what your kitchen team is doing and how they are doing it to ensure a smooth, efficient design. 

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