5 Tips For Designing A Small Restaurant Kitchen

Designing A Small Restaurant Kitchen

So, you’re opening a restaurant, but the building you’re considering is… small. Well then, you’re in good company. Small restaurants are the most popular trends in the hospitality industry in 2018. Which only makes sense. With rising construction costs and already tight profit margins, saving money on rent can go a long way toward profitability.

But, designing a fully functional restaurant with limited space poses a number of challenges. Not the least of which is how to create a safe and efficient kitchen. Where are you going to put all of the equipment?

We’ve already discussed the pre-design process in an earlier blog (check it out here.) But, to quickly summarize that post, there are a couple of steps you should finish before you start designing and shopping for equipment.

1.) Concept: You must have a strong concept for your restaurant. You should be able to describe your concept in one sentence. Once you have a concept, then you can decide you menu.

2.) Menu: Your menu will be at the center of all decisions you make. Nowhere is your menu more important than when you shop for equipment. Knowing what you want to make in your kitchen dictates what you do (and do not) need to buy.

That being said, we assume you already have a strong concept and have selected your menu. So, without any further ado, here are 5 tips for you to consider while designing a kitchen with limited space.

Prep Surfaces

Make the most of all surfaces. The key to this is to think “deep” instead of wide. When purchasing a prep table, moving from a 24” deep table to a 36” deep table will improve efficiency. It may also eliminate the need for a second table, thereby reducing your footprint.

Also, you may consider two-sided aisles. This will allow work to happen on both sides of the table, effectively doubling your work space without adding another table.


Think vertical. Since your floor space is limited, you’ll have to make room by going up. If you can find a space for a 9’ high walk-in cooler, that’s a huge advantage.

Many refrigerator manufacturers offer a “slim” or “thin” variation of their standard width refrigerators. These “slim” models are identical to the standard refrigerator, only skinnier, taller, and usually have more shelves to maximize capacity.


Everybody loves gas cooking equipment. However, in a smaller space, you may not have access to it. It’s time to embrace the power of electricity. Electrical cooking appliances have come a long way in the past few years. Many electrical appliances have the advantage of being both stackable and multi-functional.  Take a Rational Combi Oven. Depending on the model, it can replace several of your old machines, can be stacked, and can even be programmed (which will also reduce the cost of training new employees.) It’s an ideal piece of equipment for a small kitchen.

A Rational Combi Oven can replace many of your appliances, and it is stackable.


Be creative. Storage is normally the last thing food service professionals consider when designing their restaurant. However, it should not be overlooked, as poor storage can be costly, tedious, and time consuming. The building you’re moving into may have opportunities for storage you’ve never considered. Can you go vertical? Can you convert an area? What are you doing with the area under the stairs?  Think outside the box.


Ventilation is always tricky and we HIGHLY suggest talking to a professional before purchasing any equipment. In general, though, many smaller spaces do not have the vent system necessary for a Class 1 hood. If you are in this situation, you will probably need to purchase equipment that works with a Class 2 hood (which vents out the side of the building). The advantage of this is that Class 2 hoods are less expensive and take up less space.

As the trend toward small kitchens continues, more equipment options are coming available that cater to Class 2 Hoods. You will almost certainly be able to find something that fits your needs.


The key to great design is function, efficiency, and flow. With some effort and forethought, you can achieve all of these in a small kitchen. Questions? SRE’s designers are here for you. We have 40 years of experience designing commercial kitchens. We would love to meet with you for a free initial consultation. We’ll help you sharpen your concept, present options, and make sure your kitchen is up to code and completed on time. We are your partner in success.

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