The truism about the only constant in the world being change is particularly true for the restaurant industry, where the pace of change has only accelerated over the past two years.
The rise in off-premise dining has driven an increase in ghost kitchens. Labor is tight, food prices are squeezing profits, and real estate is at a premium.
In response to these evolving forces, restaurant space is shrinking or frequently being put to use in novel ways. Virtual eatery brands are being operated out of a spare corner in a full-service restaurant’s kitchen, and some popular restaurants are establishing ghost kitchens across town that are dedicated to fulfilling delivery orders.
With all the changes, the traditional kitchen isn’t as traditional as it used to be. New and emerging arrangements will have unique needs and will need unique solutions to meet them. Here are four ways to ensure your equipment and setup are ready.
1. Use every available prep space
To make the most of the space available, be sure you’re using every bit of it — even areas you don’t currently think of as prep space.
The standard height tabletop is not the only surface available to support prepping. Use every level in a kitchen to accommodate smaller footprint kitchens, including below tabletop, at standard countertop height, over table and even overhead shelving.
Low-profile carts or cold holding equipment can roll under a workstation when not in use, and solutions like Protein Rails from AyrKing mount above the workstation to provide cold holding at easy reach without taking up valuable counter space.
2. Utilize space-saving options for maximum efficiency
Create miniature versions of full kitchens using smaller equipment options. This approach is particularly useful in chain-operated ghost kitchen settings.
An AyrKing BBS Ice with Protein Rail, Ice Bath Cart, a DrumRoll (or even Mini DrumRoll for even more space savings) and a few other prepping tools can be combined to create a mini-workstation. It mirrors the work done in the traditional kitchen but in a space as small as 70 inches.
Consider also how equipment can be put to maximum use with minimal wasted space. For example, a BBS Ice — which combines the popular features of AyrKing’s traditional Breader Blender Sifter with the convenience of a large, built-in ice bath — adds cold storage capacity without increasing the equipment footprint, freeing up valuable floor space in smaller kitchens and supporting efficiency in high-volume operations.
3. Reconfigure processes (and space) to meet changing needs
To assemble takeout orders, create a dedicated workstation to keep those orders from interfering with the main line. Get creative to create a full-service prep process in a smaller space. For example, you can use vertical storage like Protein Rails to hold and dispense cold condiments or toppings as part of meal packaging.
Explore ways to expand menus without consuming extra kitchen space. Equipment options like undercounter ice bath spaces allow restaurants to add menu items — like fan-favorite chicken strips or onion rings — at an existing prep station without taking up valuable counterspace.
4. Choose labor-saving equipment
Labor shortages have been a much-publicized issue for restaurants. In response, many operators are making adjustments, particularly in the back of the house. For this reason, the move to labor-saving equipment and the redesign of workspaces continue to become more and more common.
When making changes, remember that form should follow function. Evaluate every step in your food prep processes, and consider how equipment might be making those steps either easier or harder.
Thoughtful equipment options can reduce labor demands and increase throughput. Having everything needed for food prep within arm’s reach means workers take fewer steps and spend more productive time at their stations.
Some operators, like El Pollo Loco, discuss the importance of “reducing complexity” in equipment.
The BBS Ice from AyrKing is a great option for operations that freshly bread because there’s no fan that can clog from flour pulled in from the air, unlike mechanical refrigerators, reducing maintenance needs and avoiding potential downtime.
Regardless of your needs, be sure to work closely with experts who specialize in food prep equipment, like the industry leaders at AyrKing, to discover the ideal arrangement for your operation.