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How to Make the Most of Your Small Commercial Kitchen Space

How to Make the Most of Your Small Commercial Kitchen Space

With strategic design, efficient organization, and compact and multipurpose equipment, small commercial kitchens function as effectively as larger spaces. Commercial kitchens work like a factory with all the equipment, organized environment, and smooth workflow. Kitchen space is one of the leading factors in achieving efficiency and flawless operation. However, not every restaurant has the same footprint, and small commercial kitchens can be challenging. This blog will provide insights and practical tips on maximizing the potential of compact commercial kitchen areas.

What are the Challenges of Small Kitchens?

Kitchen space is one of the biggest factors in streamlining every process from prep to service. Small commercial kitchens face 3 main challenges that affect the business’s profitability, practicality, and success: Small kitchens set a limit to equipment size and number, restrict workflow, and limit storage, restraining efficient inventory management.

Limited Storage Areas And Its Implications

Managing the layout is the most challenging factor of small commercial kitchens. Limited storage and floor space handle limited inventory and only crucial tools and equipment. Limited storage space may require constant buying of ingredients, making it hard to track property. It requires an effective layout and organization to perform as other food service businesses do.

Workflow Restrictions In Tighter Spaces

Smaller kitchens cause more traffic and restrict movements, leading to slower service and delays. Also, limited space in kitchens calls for fewer employees, which gives each staff member an extra workload, which may affect consistency. 

Balancing Equipment Needs with Available Space

Small commercial kitchens have limited space, which can’t fit large floor-sized equipment, and the limited space restricts having various specialty equipment. It affects the food variations you offer and expands the cooking times. Small-sized, versatile, and combination equipment with diverse functions can be considered for small commercial kitchens.

Importance of Design and Layout for Efficiency and Flow in Small Kitchens

The design and layout of the kitchen have a huge impact on efficiency and practicality, resulting in effective and consistent workflow and outcomes. Despite limited space in small commercial kitchens, a proper layout and design boost efficiency and ease the process. Creating prep areas, cooking areas, cold and dry storage areas, and serving areas should be in a commercial small kitchen layout plan. Easy access to equipment and ingredients, free space for easy movement, and an organized environment ensure you maximize your kitchen space. You can benefit from our consulting, design, and layout service for a proper design and layout plan for your business.

2 chefs are preparing meal at a central cook station of a small commercial kitchen.

Why is Creating a Central Workstation Important?

Creating a central workstation is key because the dishes are centered in this layout design, providing practicality, improving staff communication, and facilitating chefs’ and staff members’ movements, which is essential in small commercial kitchens for efficient workflow. Additionally, cleaning will be more simple in an island kitchen layout.

Creating a layout with a central workstation, mostly named an island layout, is where the cooking equipment, such as ovens, fryers, and ranges, are placed at the center of the kitchen, and other non-cooking equipment, such as dishwashers and prep tables and storage units, are placed along the perimeter of the kitchen walls.

  • Food prep station: Food prep stations should include sinks, cutting tables, and mixing spaces with necessary prep equipment such as mixers, blenders, processors, grinders, and food scales. Prep stations can be divided into parts for different products, such as an area for meat prep with grinders and another area for veggies with choppers and mixers. Making the prep station near the storage area, including refrigerators, will make it more efficient and easy for chefs to access fresh ingredients.
  • Cooking station: Creating a central cooking station using ranges, ovens, holding cabinets, fryers, grills, and griddles will make checking, transferring, and serving the dishes easier. For instance, you can easily place the dish from the oven in the holding cabinet to keep it hot until serving. You can divide the cooking section into baking, frying, and grilling areas.
  • Serving station: The service station is where the final product is plated and gets ready for the customer. Allocating an area for serving the dishes next to the cooking station can simplify the process, reducing customer waiting times.
  • Cleaning station: A cleaning station should include dishwashers, sinks, dryer racks, and other sanitation equipment. You can opt for a door type or undercounter dishwasher for a small commercial kitchen. Locating the cleaning station near the storage area and serving station will be practical when placing washed plates and tools in place and using them when plating dishes.
  • Storage: You can create a storage area for dry food, cold storage consisting of freezers and refrigerators, and non-food storage for tools and utensils. It is crucial not to place cleaning chemicals near food ingredients and dishes. You can optimize your small commercial kitchen space with further information about storage below.

Storage: Vertical Space Utilization

Using vertical space means utilizing the walls and ceiling of the kitchen, which is an effective practice for small commercial kitchens, optimizing the use of space in your kitchen. It provides extra storage space while expanding the free working area and transforming blank walls into effective design elements. Here are some practices for utilizing vertical space effectively in small commercial kitchens.

  • Overhead storage racks provide extra storage space and a displaying platform. You can use overhead storage racks for big pots to save cupboard places or seasonal items that you rarely use.
  • Wall-mounted shelving is another usage of vertical space in small commercial kitchens. They provide storage, save kitchen space, and make the kitchen look freer and bigger than cabinets.
  • A hanging pot rack provides easy access to pots and pans, creates an organized environment, reduces clutter, and serves as a decorative design. It saves the storage space that huge pots and pans occupy, which is crucial for small commercial kitchens.

Designing A Menu

A well-designed menu pleases the customer, contributes to profits, and results in the most efficient use of your existing equipment. Instead of trying to fit bulky equipment in your kitchen to provide various kinds of food, designing your menu in a way that will require flexible equipment will remove the need for extra equipment and help maximize your small commercial kitchen. 

Combi or convection ovens, griddles, and ranges with open burners are among the most versatile equipment you can consider. The food you serve is the outcome of your commercial equipment, and your available kitchen space determines your commercial kitchen equipment.

3 chefs are creating menu at a restaurant kitchen

What are the Organization Strategies for Compact Kitchens?

Implementing an efficient inventory system, using clear storage equipment, and having effective storage management are 3 key strategies. When organizing a compact commercial kitchen, you need to ensure the kitchen functions as smoothly as the other commercial kitchens despite its size. Making the most of your kitchen without plenty of free space with a proper layout, effective storage ideas, and organization strategies would be best.

Implementing the “First In, First Out” System

First in, first out (FIFO) is a food storage and inventory management strategy that aims to reduce waste and help establish an organized inventory. In this strategy, the food bought first should be used or sold out first.

Food is organized by expiration or use-by dates, so labeling every ingredient, from dry storage to food in freezers, by their buying and expiration dates is essential. Arranging the food storage by placing ingredients from newest to oldest, leaving the oldest on the front of the shelf, makes it easier and ensures the FIFO method.

Using Clear Storage Containers for Easy Identification

Using clear storage containers is a smart idea that facilitates the staff’s work when finding the ingredients they are looking for and also provides an organized area. You can save storage space by removing the packages of dry goods such as flour, sugar, nuts, and cereals. Placing the goods in clear containers and labeling them by the date and name of the product will keep the environment organized, and staff will be aware of the finished product.

Grouping Similar Tools And Ingredients Together

Effective storage management, such as simply putting the same kind of goods and similar-purpose tools in one place, facilitates the staff’s work when using and stocking them in a small kitchen. It is also easier to keep track of the products so that the packages of the same food are all in one place. Also, when tools like service ware or disposables are all stored in the same drawer or cabinet, you will know where to find one when needed.  

What are the Technology Solutions for Small Commercial Kitchens?

3 initial technological solutions for small commercial kitchens are smart and automatized equipment, developed inventory management systems, and investments for mobile kitchens. Technology helps overcome some common challenges of small commercial kitchens and maximize the available space for flawless operation.

Investing in Compact, High-Efficiency Equipment

Commercial kitchen equipment takes up the biggest space in kitchens, which is the primary concern in a small commercial kitchen. But thanks to the everlasting development of technology, there is suitable equipment for every job and volume. Having to get a small piece of equipment doesn’t mean getting less performance.

With the right commercial kitchen equipment and a smart menu design, you can easily provide a smooth operation and consistent outcomes. For instance, some commercial equipment, such as combi ovens, combine two different pieces of equipment in one unit, removing the need for buying two separate appliances, which is challenging to fit in a small commercial kitchen. Using countertops or undercounter refrigerators is also another space-saving idea.

Implementing Digital Inventory Management Systems

Digital inventory management systems are technological ways of tracking food stock levels, streamlining inventory management, reducing waste, and providing practicality. These systems track the food stock levels and alert when the ingredients are running low, avoiding running out of essential supplies during service. Furthermore, advanced analytic tools provide valuable information about sales data, food expenses, and staffing levels to help decide menu prizes and product purchases.

Exploring Mobile or Foldable Workstations

Mobile and portable workstations and tables work great in small commercial kitchens that provide extra counter space when needed and can be folded up after usage. They can come as a foldable table for placing tools or equipment, an extra countertop space to work on, or trolleys with wheels to use for transfers within the kitchen.

What is the Importance of Staff Training for Optimal Kitchen Operations?

By providing comprehensive training about the tasks, equipment, safety, and workflow, you can ensure each staff knows their roles and responsibilities for optimizing the process. Proper staff training is one of the crucial elements of establishing a flawless operation within the kitchen.

Establishing Clear Communication Protocols

Establishing clear communication between staff members ensures everyone understands their roles and how they can contribute to overall productivity. Defining the roles and responsibilities of each staff member and training them about equipment usage and food preparation will ensure consistent results and prevent headaches in operations.

Implementing Rotation Systems for Peak Hours

After determining the peak hours of the restaurant and how many hands you need on deck, you can plan a rotation system ensuring everyone takes a turn in different tasks such as cooking, prep, or plating to ensure every staff is familiar with every role. Providing breaks and shifting staff hourly will encourage and boost their performance.

Emphasizing Cleanliness and Regular Decluttering

It is easier for small commercial kitchens to get cluttered since space is limited. Emphasizing the importance of decluttering and cleanliness is essential for staff training. Establishing cleaning routines, training about cleaning processes, and providing visual reminders to encourage cleaning habits can emphasize cleanliness and enhance performance in small commercial kitchens.


In conclusion, managing a small commercial kitchen effectively requires strategic planning, smart design, and innovative solutions. While space constraints present unique challenges, they can be overcome with careful layout planning, efficient use of vertical storage, and selection of versatile, high-efficiency equipment.

Emphasizing staff training, clear communication protocols, and implementing systems like FIFO and digital inventory management are also key to maximizing productivity and workflow in compact spaces.

By embracing these strategies, small commercial kitchens can match the efficiency of larger operations and create a dynamic, productive environment that leverages their unique advantages. With these insights and practical tips, small commercial kitchens can transform into highly functional spaces, driving success in the fast-paced culinary world.

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