Layout and design

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Foodservice facilities are unique in that the design of the ‘factory’ is part of the product. Guests enjoy the physical elements of their dining experience as well as the food and service they receive, while the part of the design that they don’t see is integral to the successful execution of their requests. For this reason, special care must be taken in creating the foodservice environment so that it balances the aesthetic experience with efficiency and efficacy.

Foodservice operations are almost all divided into two distinct physical components: the front of the house, or those areas that a guest or customer sees; and the back of the house, or those areas that are limited to employees. The design challenge for each component is to create a functional setting while at the same time expressing the unique personality of the operation. Because of significant differences in the design requirements of each component, two distinct groups of professionals are typically retained to create a single foodservice environment. Trained interior designers are often hired to create plans for front of the house areas, while a professional foodservice consultant or food equipment dealer can assist the operator in laying out the most effective kitchen related areas.

In the front of the house, the main environ mental concerns are that the placement of the furniture and fixtures the layout is functional for service, and that the dining room’s colors, materials, textures, lighting, and sound the design is effective for creating the desired experience for the guest. A good front of the house design will capitalize on the strengths of the building and its site, emphasizing scenic views or using existing columns or walls to create distinct dining environments within the space. It will also serve as a guide to guests, helping them understand what they might expect from the meal experience to come.

When determining the size of the front of the house, it is common practice to allocate a fixed amount of space per seat, which varies depending on the type of experience desired. For fast food restaurants, it is not uncommon to allocate about 1 m2 (10 ft2) per seat to front of house areas, whereas a fine dining restaurant might allow as much as 2.5 m2 (25 ft2) per seat. This allocation is often adjusted to accommodate additional features such as a bar, a retail area, or demonstration cooking stations.

One of the main layout decisions in the front of the house relates to the type and placement of seating. Freestanding tables give the operator the greatest degree of flexibility, but patrons may prefer booths, which allow them to regulate their privacy more effectively, increasing their comfort. To be profitable, an operation needs as many seats as possible in the available space. The challenge is that some seats are less desirable than others because of their proximity to kitchen or restroom entrances or other idiosyncrasies of the interior environment. In general, a good layout includes a mix of seating types that situates preferred table styles such as booths in higher traffic areas.

When planning the back of the house, functionality and flexibility are the most important factors, allowing staff to produce a wide range of items with maximum efficiency during both busy and slow times. Selecting multi-purpose pieces of equipment, positioning equipment to minimize reach or steps, and even creating mobile elements that allow easy reconfiguration of the cooking line are all strategies that can enhance a foodservice facility’s ability to respond to changing conditions.

Kitchen areas are generally divided into functional areas: storage, food preparation, cooking or production, serving, and sanitation (dish and pot washing). Good back of the house design follows the principle of forward flow, which holds that goods should move through the kitchen in a continuous, forward moving line without back tracking. The layout of each functional area will be dictated by how much preparation food items require, the volume of meals served, the complexity of the service, and the complexity of the menu.

In general, the higher the degree of preparation or service required by the operation, the more space will be required in the back of house. Back of the house areas make up anywhere from 35 50% of the total foodservice area, although very simple or very sophisticated operations may vary outside this range. Foodservice operations that must store a wide range of goods or that receive infrequent deliveries will require substantially more back of the house space than is typical.


Baraban, R. S., & Durocher, J. F. (2001). Successful Restaurant Design. Hoboken, (NJ): John Wiley & Sons.

Birchfield, J. C., & Sparrowe, R. T. (2003). Design and Layout of Foodservice Facilities. Hoboken, (NJ): John Wiley & Sons.

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