Commercial Kitchen Design News & what is a ‘commercial kitchen designer’

Finally found a moment to catch up on the Blog and newsletter, we did promise these would not flood your inbox! Ten issues a year is realistic target, so this one is lengthy to make up for the void.

We have been busy over the past half year or so, about complete design number twelve which is a Bar renovation/transformation, which is looking amazing! During the last half a year we have done everything from portable mining camp kitchen for a RSL , small cafes, childcare centre kitchens and major kitchen/bistro renovations.

In between projects my inbox is flooded with reading from sources all over the food, hospitality, design and equipment sectors both here and overseas, the overseas material providing the most inspiration by far. The reason for this is simple, volume. The Australian hospitality/food and associated industry is tiny in comparison to international markets, we simply do not have the population to drive anywhere near the same size industry, be it operating hospitality/food and or associated service industries we are (some industry quotes) less than 1% of the international market place!

So for inspiration on trends/equipment/design/industry it always pays to look overseas, and then see how those ideas can translate back here in the Australasian market, it’s not always the case of because they do it X way overseas it should be the way it’s done here. In many examples here in Australia we generally pick the best of a massive marketplace overseas and implement that here locally, I’d say we do that pretty well. We also have unique situation in this country where most parts of the continent are scarcely populated meaning that local service support can be very limited, so keeping things very simple is often the best way.

In May is one of the world’s biggest hospitality/foodservice trade shows in Chicago, we will be there this year looking new trends/products and success stories that have been happening in the USA.

The states provide such a wide range of ideas as the food service industry in America is huge, there is the obvious massive fast food industry, industrial/Institutional catering sector, think universities/hospitals/aged care/prisons and the massive empire of the US defence force, it is a massive sector where you can learn a lot about large scale catering.

Growing each year in the USA is a modern and cosmopolitan food scene boasting amazing Restaurants/Bars/Hotels all boasting amazing produce innovative menu’s and quality and service of the highest standard…often very health and low food miles are the features, its not all burgers and chips state side!

So for this blog edition I have selected a few good articles that provide good general information and considerations, quick reads reinforce important messages.


  • New equipment technology that actually delivers more than the sales pitch, here is a real equipment game changer  


  • Food safety, too often an afterthought, one of the key early preventative measures is temperature control  


What’s been a constant question and discussion point always is what is does a Commercial Kitchen Designer do, and what are their background and or trade and qualifications.

Well the name does suggest what we do, but it also covers a wider scope than kitchen’s alone. Bar’s, servery area’s are our domain also, and occasionally designing bespoke equipment solutions where there is no off the shelf solution available.

In some projects you need to have creative menu planning skills also, as you may be designing a project where there is actually no user/tenant client in place yet, so you are making assumptions on the type/style of food/ being a chef helps here!

We cross into interior designing some of our work, where colours, finishes and the look are critical, typically open kitchens, bars and buffet service areas. In some cases we are required to prepare seating plans and full dining interior designing of the facility.

We marginally touch building drafting and architecture, we may require to add new internal walls, or discuss with building engineers the reasons for certain building items to be located where they are, or understanding how and why those decisions were made. We don’t ever touch any of the building or structural design at all but we need to understand and work with Architects and engineers to find the best solution that accommodates all key stake holder needs.

Plumbing /Hydraulics/Electrical/Mechanical Air and Ventilation/Refrigeration/Lighting/Flooring are all other speciality trades and disciplines that we need to understand the key factors associated in the food service design. Commercial appliances normally require serious service planning just to make sure the right services are in place to operate the kitchen.

Stainless steel and cabinet making trades, and custom equipment manufacturer, whilst we don’t need to know how to operate a break press or CAD laser cutting machine we do need to understand what this does, what is realistically achievable in a sensible commercial budget by these trades. How it all goes together, what information and plans they may require and a keen eye to attention to detail of the finished product to ensure best quality is achieved for the client.

Then there are the Builders, that put all this together we have to understand what their key needs are, this includes clear, accurate documentation and actually understanding how they are going to go about completing the project, it certainly helps if you have been on the project management completion end of a fair few projects, as experience is the only way you can truly understand what happens at the end .

A good commercial kitchen designer is also wearing a health inspector/environmental health officer’s (EHO) hat on during the process also. Our plans are checked and signed off by these Authorities so we are always keeping one eye on the Australian standards to ensure our plans meet and or exceed guidelines, and they always get approved!

In some cases we often provide an independent kitchen report/inspection service to clients, basically covering the same as what an EHO may do, but generally we will find more issues, as we have more time to spend on the inspection. In many locations the workload of the EHO means that it’s not possible to get to all registered food premises, and even if they do, the opportunity to follow up is severely limited, we can get to a client quicker and let them know their issues much quicker before it becomes too late!

During the design process we are always looking to ensure HACCP and food safety guidelines can be met through good design, in smaller projects this is not always possible but we are always looking at ways to ensure our clients can deliver food service safely.

Design operational, it makes a MASSIVE difference if you have been there and done it, it cannot be said any clearer than that. If you haven’t worked in a busy hotel kitchen, don’t tell me you know how a hotel kitchen operates! Likewise that crammed up little cafe that somehow you managed pump out 100 covers in an area the size of your bathroom at home! Far from ideal, but when you get your menu and equipment selection right it can be done. Likewise, if you have had the keys handed over to you in the middle of nowhere to mining camp feeding hundreds of meals a day to bunch of blokes that have been sweating it out in 40degree heat all day and this is their ONLY highlight of the day is what you are about to cook them from a limited product range, don’t tell me you know how a mining camp kitchen operates, oh and by the way…the next stores are in 14 days good luck!

Then somehow you need to get your head around the dozens of importers of commercial foodservice and refrigeration equipment, the hundreds, more likely thousands of products available and then know what’s the good gear, what actually easy to obtain, offers good value for money, is energy efficient and most importantly which ones have good back support locally! If you have had many years selling both retail and wholesale equipment from various brands and manufacturers you build up a pretty hand arsenal of knowledge based on experience, experience of dealing in millions of dollars of equipment, understanding the customer’s needs, the process of order/import/logistics/installation/operation/training the inevitable breakdown’s.

Lastly but by no means least is the ability to design/draft/document to scale designs, initially mark ups often start on paper the old fashioned way with drawing pencil and a scale ruler before making their way to 2D and or 3D CAD drawings. These days the CAD side of things is not simple either, the days of only 2D schematic drawings is becoming a thing of the past, you are often required to be able to document ‘conceptual’ presentations, this may include programs such as REVIT, ARCI CAD , AUTO CAD, SKETCH UP to name a few, some programs get along with the other programs well, others will not! Whilst all of these programs are similar in nature they are all quite different in actual operation, you may find yourself needing to work with 2 or 3 different CAD draft persons to finish a project.

The latest trend moving forward is BIM documentation, (Building Information Management) this means EVERYTHING that is on the plan as a schedule of DATA attached to it, no matter what the item is, a wall, floor, light, oven etc. When the project is complete any item of that project can be opened up, zoomed in and full information of the item in question, great for accurate concise documentation.

And there is the ‘renderers’!’ the modern version of Rembrandt! The right person the right program can bring your design into such a lifelike view that you would be forgiven that it was real photo of the project, in some cases they can even walk/fly through the building opening doors and taking you deep inside the building, much like some modern computer games! This is another level of skill and serious computer hardware altogether.

The licensing fees on some of these programs above run into many thousands of dollars, so when considering your plans for your business you need to consider what sort of detail is required, the more pretty and lifelike you want your plans the more investment$$ is required!

If I have counted correctly there about 18-20 specialist professions/trades covered in the above, so the next time I get asked, I may just reply ‘design commercial kitchens’!

Classic design mistake I often get is ‘my chef can design our kitchen!’ I’d say in most cases not very well! Most chefs are lucky if the have ever been involved with 1-2 designs in their career, mostly the kitchen is in place when they arrive and they have to make do with what is there. Kitchen design at trade school is almost nonexistent, so don’t think it’s covered there!

The better approach is I’d like our chef to have lots of input into the design, this is the perfect approach, especially if the chef has been at that position for a while, I will normally extract all the key needs they require to put together a great design. The foot note here though is unless your Chef is financially a shareholder of the operation tread cautiously with any specific favourite wants or needs that others may find not so helpful, as the reality is the Chef will most likely not be with you in 6-12 months time. I always believe that no plan is perfect, the opportunity for perfect doesn’t seem to come up, there are always, space, time, budget limitations that mean we will do as ‘perfect as possible’!

Recently in the UK a university degree program has commenced for the discipline of ‘food service designer/consultant’, it’s hard to see it happening in Australia in the short term, until then we will learn what we can from our international professionals whilst maintaining and building on our local experience and skills.

If you got this far on this article and your heads not spinning well done, hopefully you have an understanding of what we do, and all the different skill sets, knowledge and experience that goes into your plans.