Since F&B is an important revenue driver in the hospitality business, investing in efficient kitchens can make or break the deal for hoteliers and restaurateurs
The kitchen is where the real action is in a hospitality establishment. It is the place that is almost always functional, especially in a hotel â preparing buffets for breakfast, lunches, dinner, in-room dining food, meal-to-go, etc. And these menus have to be dynamic, the food has to be served quickly to ensure guest satisfaction and the highest hygiene standards have to be adhered to at all times.
In short, the kitchen can be termed as the nucleus of any hospitality institution and its design plays a critical role in ensuring that this nub is kept humming continuously. And hotels and restaurants are more than happy to invest in sophisticated equipment and cutting edge products to ensure that their kitchens are designed to be effective and efficient, to enhance the competence of the people working therein.
Innovation in hotel kitchens works hand in hand with increasing the efficiency of the space and manpower provided. âThis also translates into the âKitchen Work Triangleâ, which states that distance between the cooking range, sink and refrigerator should be minimal so as to increase the efficiency of the person working in that area,â said Chef Sahil Arora, executive chef of Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel and Marriott Executive Apartments.
In many hotels and upscale restaurants, kitchens are no longer hidden in the back of the house. Instead, now they are a core a part of the restaurant dÃ©cor, sometimes commanding place of pride as a show kitchen. This adds to the theatrical value of the outlet as people enjoy seeing their food being flamed, tossed and smoked. But these show kitchens need to be planned even more judiciously to maintain efficiency, since they are in the public eye.
âOur restaurant kitchen design is more focused on efficient working giving equal and balance space between different kitchen sections. We emphasise more on space and efficiency to dish out high quality food for almost 100 covers in one go. More importantly, rather than use expensive equipments or materials, we use cost-effective equipments, which are easier to work with for all our kitchen chefs. Besides, we have different sections for all our primary cuisines, which makes it more efficient for all chefs to dish out high quality food in a short span of time,â said Aditya Sawant, founder and director of Vedge, a popular vegetarian restaurant in Mumbai.
Straight from the source
Planning plays an important role in kitchen design. Placements of various zones like the wet area and cooking area are done keeping in mind provision of fresh air supply and exhaust. And architects and interior designers make it a point to involve the hotelâs F&B team as are part of this discussion during the planning stage itself. âMeetings and discussions with the hotel staff is arranged in such a way that all their issues are noted when we have our brainstorming sessions. Then the common points are narrowed down and priority to practicality in design is given first preference. Based on the given suggestions, solutions are derived keeping in mind the viability during operations,â said Nishant Desai of Umesh Desai and Associates, a Mumbai-based interior designing outfit.
Involving the people who will ultimately work in the space that is being designed for them has many benefits. Firstly, they can give many practical ideas on how to make the most of the space available. Often, architects stated, the best recommendations came from line cooks responsible for prepping ingredients and assembling dishes in confined areas, because through experience they have understood how some design elements can help increase their productivity at ground zero. In fact, there are times, when an executive chef might not be able to gauge the ideal layout of certain kitchen equipment but a line cook would have a lot to say about where a particular equipment ought to be placed so as to increase the output of the individual who is most likely to use is regularly.
Once the kitchen layout is designed based on these suggestions, the same is discussed with chefs working in that area. There would be instances when some great ideas would continue to come in and would be incorporated in the design. âA very interesting suggestion came from one of the associates that the griller and salamander, which is generally part of the kitchenâs pantry section, should be moved to the hot kitchen. The reason was that heat emitted from these equipment made the pantry section warm, which is generally a cold sector,â explained Arora.
SAVING ON COST
An industry study reveals that majority of hotel spaces lack well-installed control systems, have excessive chilling or heating capacity, and an inability to obtain the data needed to let the decision makers understand how a space is truly performing. When it comes to kitchen design, architects and sometimes interior designers try using strategies and solutions that will reduce overall cost.
One way of doing this is by harnessing natural elements, for instance daylight. This plays a major role in a hotel kitchen where it can be used to light the space and bring down the electricity cost. âAnother key thing to keep in mind while designing the kitchen is that in case natural gas is available then most of the equipment installed should be compatible with it and not with electricity as its more expensive than gas,â averred Arora.
In a hotel, it also helps to have all the kitchens on the same floor. âOther strategies like locating the kitchen adjacent to the banquet hall help us in keeping the cost of operation in check. We save on set up cost and benefit from easy cross functionality of the equipments. While designing cost-effective kitchens, we conduct thorough R&D about the latest products available in the market and devise our strategies accordingly,â explained Sonica Malhotra, joint MD, MBD Group.
Having the kitchen in the same floor not only saves space but having common walk-in chillers or double door walk-in chillers increases efficiency and reduces cost. âWhen there was a space concern for the commissary and Indian kitchen walk-in, we had common walk-in chiller between both the kitchens and had doors on both the sides while keeping maintaining the size of single walk-in chiller. It helped in saving lot on costs and in managing operations efficiency. We also had a hot food counter top (OHS) with under-the-counter chiller along with a wash unit, which was utilised for the all three operations â cold storing, keeping food hot after prepared and cleaning utensil,â added Mahesh Padala, executive chef, Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield.
THE BALANCING ACT
While cost efficiency is important while designing kitchens, no hotel would like to compromise of its quality standards. This is best ensured by working with the right supplier or vendor who can understand the companyâs vision for the design process and who does not compromise on the quality while retaining the right overall quality.
The criteria for choosing vendors are on the basis of the equipment required, who specialise in making it and the nature of after-sale services provided. Talking about how they go about selecting the right supplier for their needs, Sawant said, âWe do our in-depth research regarding the material (SS Steel 304 / 204) that will be used to design our kitchen and where it will be used and where it will be procured from. Lastly, we also do reference checks of the supplier with their previous clients or visit some of the projects,â
Amit Roy, partner of Thinktanc, which provides F&B consultancy to hospitality companies said that they sometimes provide customised solutions in terms of designs and planning and even go the extra mile in customising the equipment as per the property’s requirement. âThe client and the architect is briefed about its aesthetics and functionality. We do trials and re-trials for both until its perfect in expectation and in execution bringing the most important aspect of delivery time to the table,â he said.
With increased awareness of environmental-friendly practices, many hospitality companies are moving towards sustainability and the usage of products that reduce carbon footprint and minimise wastages. âOne of the best practices is segregating the garbage and collecting the wet garbage area at or below 5Â°C. Also, we do not use plastic and avoid using too many high pressure gas ranges to save LPG, which is a fossil fuel,â said Padala.
Chefs claim the best option for kitchens is a gas stove as it has electric ignition rather than a pilot light that reduces energy use up to 40%. It is also efficient in terms of heat distribution to food. âWe have used steam generated equipments wherever possible to save electricity consumption,â added Desai.
Every inch of space in the F&B division can be monetised; hence, a lot of premium is placed on the space demarcated for food preparation and storage. Gone are the days when hotel kitchens were glorified pantries with little room for the staff to manoeuvre. While this unit might not be directly responsible for driving revenue for the establishment, it is the nucleus for the F&B division; which in turn is one of the biggest revenue garner for the property. Is it any surprise then, that a kitchenâs design is now given top priority?