Starved for space? Look up | Creative ideas for using vertical space in kitchens

Kitchens unavoidably have lots of stuff, including a supply of raw ingredients for food preparation and the various tools and equipment needed to prepare meals.

And these days the size of the kitchen to hold that stuff is gradually shrinking as operators look to save on expensive commercial space and commit more of their available square footage to front-of-the-house.

This reality can quickly lead to cramped quarters in the kitchen, where a lot of that necessary “stuff” ends up being stored, either temporarily or permanently, in and around your staff’s workspace. From the saltshakers to the knives, every little thing takes up valuable inches.

Cramped workspaces can reduce efficiency if workers have to constantly move things out of the way to perform normal tasks. Or if they do not have the space needed to keep up with demand, requiring multiple trips to a storeroom or walk-in cooler for more ingredients.

But lift your eyes to the heavens for a potential solution — the walls.

Vertical space is an often overlooked and frequently underutilized area of many kitchens.

Here are three creative ways to use the vertical space in high-volume kitchens, freeing up valuable floor and tabletop space and helping you get the most from your operation.

1. Get the overflow out of the way

If it’s not actively being sliced, diced, seasoned, prepped or plated, it doesn’t need to be in the way. Use your available vertical space for short- or long-term storage.

Install hooks or shelves on walls — or even ceilings — to store the ingredients and tools that may be needed for the next day part, or even the next day.

Maximize vertical storage space by adjusting shelving to the physical dimensions of the materials being stored. If there’s a foot of free space above a storage bin, it’s space that’s wasted.

Evaluate every aspect of the kitchen and confer with supply partners for potentially creative solutions. Does the pre-rinse unit need to take up quite so much vertical space, for instance, or is there a shorter model that would allow you to install additional shelving over the sink?

2. Turn a wall into a spare tabletop — sort of

Knife racks, cutting boards, spice racks, reach-in bins and other frequently accessed tools are often space hogs, sitting on top of valuable tabletop workspace.

Move them to the wall directly in front of the workstation to keep them out of the way but still within arm’s reach of the worker.

Specialized hooks and racks can make a world of difference in quickly freeing up workspace without reducing efficiency or productivity.

3. Take a cue from manufacturers

Picture an assembly station in nearly any manufacturing plant. Let’s say the company builds widgets.

That widget-assembly station is likely set up for maximum efficiency. Every screw, bolt, fastener and component — and the tools needed to assemble them — is positioned within arm’s reach of the worker. If it took two steps to reach a tool or 100 steps to refill a bin of parts after every 15 widgets, the assembly process would slow down dramatically.

Consider this lesson for your kitchen and introduce easily reachable vertical holding for all the components needed to assemble your menu.

When fresh foods are part of your preparation, new Protein Rails from AyrKing are a convenient option for expanding safe cold holding in high-volume kitchens.

The racks help increase throughput and productivity by bringing lots of storage space within reach — but without increasing equipment footprint. The racks sit easily on the back of a standard prep table or atop AyrKing’s breading stations and do not monopolize usable work space.

These rugged stainless steel racks are designed to hold standard food pans (and can be ordered with CoolCheck pans™ for ready-to-go cold holding) and angled toward the worker for ease of access.

NSF-approved Protein Rails are ideal for retrofitting an operation that’s expanding its menu — like introducing fresh breaded chicken for the first time — and has little room to spare in a kitchen already outfitted for the existing menu.

They can also increase capacity to prepare more food items in the same space, bringing nuggets or tenders to a menu for instance, and giving workers a way to prepare all the options in one workspace.

Learn more about Protein Rails from AyrKing here.

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