Equipping the back of house has always present major challenges which involve considering not only the physical layout but also the kind of meals that will be prepared in that area on a daily basis. FBA’s Millette Manalo-Burgos reports.
There are different kitchen concepts which differ in their needs. A restaurant, for example, has other requirements than a professional kitchen in a hotel or a hospital,” says Paul Micallef, vice-president, International Sales APAC and South Asia of kitchen equipment supplier MKN Asia.
MKN specialises in both front of the house cooking via its one-piece cooking islands, as well as the back of the house equipment such as combi steamers, bulk cooking equipment, modular cooking equipment as well as one-piece cooking islands.
Its customers in the Asia-Pacific region include five-star hotel chains such as the Hyatt, Hilton, Shangri-La, Starwood and the Mandarin Oriental Hotels. MKN equipment can be found in various kitchen installations, including government hospitals and universities, in Japan, Singapore, China, Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia. Numerous commercial kitchen equipment have also been supplied to the army camps and the Sports Hub in Singapore.
From MKN’s experience, says Micallef, the first step the operator needs to consider are challenges his kitchen staff will face in a specific kitchen environment: the space available, the number of meals to be produced per day, and the condition of the kitchen at peak times. “For example,” he says, “at hotels with big banquets, what kind of food will be prepared? Will special concepts such as cook and chill be used? Are there special local requirements? What is the budget? What is the workflow?”
Micallef says the head chef should know everything about the process of preparation, and should also know best where and how to deploy people from his/her team for maximum efficiency.
Aside from chefs, professional kitchen designers can be hired so the restaurant or professional kitchen operator will not overlook any crucial area that needs to be included in the final layout. The big challenge for the designer is then to fulfil all the requirements and create the most functional kitchen possible.
As a supplier of professional kitchen equipment, Micallef says MKN is working constantly on innovations which make the daily routine in professional kitchens easier. “Multifunctional equipment such as the MKN combi steamers and the multifunctional FlexChef are among MKN’s latest innovations and have been rewarded prizes for their energy saving and innovative impact,” he reveals.
Based on the company’s experience with equipping professional kitchens and working closely with designers, Micallef says a restaurant kitchen is well designed if it has the following characteristics:
Ergonomics kitchen design
The ergonomic design minimises movement of kitchen staff while they work in the kitchen. This is one of the most important factors as it saves cooking time and reduces the risks associated with accidents in the kitchen. Also, unwanted food spilling is minimised. For an ergonomically designed kitchen, Micallef recommends the MKN combi steamer FlexiCombi, a crosswise equipment that allows easy handling, safety and convenience when cooking large amounts of food.
Kitchen design directly affects the energy consumption. This is another crucial factor that operators need to consider when planning a commercial restaurant kitchen. For example, placing the cookers in one location reduces energy costs for range hoods. Micallef says cooking equipment such as the FlexiChef has an intelligent heating system which applies energy only where it is needed.
The appropriate size of the commercial kitchen
The size of the restaurant kitchen should be proportional to the size of the restaurant or, better, the number of seats in the restaurant. Of course, different types of restaurants have different needs, but there is a ratio of the size and capacity of the restaurant kitchen. The general rule is that for every seat in the restaurant, it is necessary to provide at least 5sqf of kitchen space. This means that in a restaurant with 60 seats, the kitchen should take an area of 300sqf. Aside from the design layout, the equipment for commercial kitchens need to meet all standard guidelines of health and safety.
Working in the kitchen is not possible without a very good ventilation, says Micallef. “The presence of steam and smoke in the restaurant kitchen is unacceptable, if not dangerous and unhealthy, for your employees. Also, you do not want your guests to ‘smell’ like the food they ate after they leave your restaurant.”
Easy to maintain
Easy maintenance of the entire kitchen depends on the material that the kitchen is made from, the arrangement of elements and the way the cookware in the kitchen has been stored. For example, shelves are a good choice because of the readily available dishes during food preparation and serving, but a cabinet with doors is much easier for maintaining.
Micallef says that most mid- to high-end commercial kitchens in Asia are conceptualised by expert kitchen designers. Such kitchen designers work hand-in-hand with the client’s executive team, the chef, interior designer, corporate hotel offices and specialist manufacturers, among others, to make sure that all requirements that will enable the kitchen to function efficiently are met.
“We have a special department that supports all the consultants in Asia-Pacific with design and technical specifications, which the professional kitchen consultants then integrate into their designs,” explains Micallef.
“In general, manufacturers do not provide consulting services to clients as this is left in the hands of the specialist commercial kitchen designers.”
However, when choosing electrical appliances, one needs to pay special attention to energy consumption for each of them. “The high costs of electric appliances with low-energy consumption are cost-effective in the long term,” says Micallef. With MKN’s advanced technology, the company can offer highly efficient and cost-effective equipment that is also reliable, solid, heavy-duty and, most importantly, can help to save water and electricity consumption while complying with the HACCP standards of kitchen equipment, he concludes.