Food Safety Starts with Smart Restaurant Kitchen Design


Designing restaurant kitchens can be very complicated. There are many factors to be considered when planning where to put equipment and what materials to use. Health departments require detailed documents showing the site plan, floor plan, equipment layout and plumbing/mechanical/finish schedules even before any construction begins. These plans should be developed with food safety in mind. The information in this post can be used as a general guide to help new restaurateurs understand health regulations when designing their kitchens.

Site Plan

A site plan should show the facility and surrounding areas such as parking, storm drains and garbage areas. Most operators want the option to spray out their garbage areas to keep them clean, but this can’t be done if a storm drain is nearby. Position and slope a garbage container area to prevent any runoff entering open outdoor drains.

Floor Plan

This is the most important part of the planning. Where to put equipment sets the flow of all restaurant operations. A good floor plan can increase efficiency for kitchen staff and servers and improve food safety. A bad floor plan can cause confusion and contribute to cross-contamination. The floor plan should show all areas of food service, storage, warewashing, server prep, restrooms and janitor areas.

Sink Requirements

Hand wash sinks should be convenient and easily accessible to all areas of the kitchen. To achieve this, multiple sinks may be needed. Employees should have access to hand wash sinks on the line, in prep areas and in the warewash room.

At least 1 mop sink should be available to fill up and dispose of mop water.

A 3-compartment sink must be available to show that equipment can be washed using the wash, rinse and sanitize method. The sinks should be large enough to submerge the largest piece of equipment. A 3-compartment sink is needed even if a mechanical dishwasher is in use.

Separate areas for warewashing and food prep. To prevent cross-contamination, the warewash area should have a separate entrance for staff to deliver dirty dishes without walking through any prep areas.


Equipment on the line should be positioned to improve the execution of the menu efficiently as well as prevent raw meats from mixing with ready-to-eat foods. This can be tricky, but putting the salad prep station on the opposite end from where raw meat is handled will keep foods from contaminating each other from storage and handling.

All equipment must be commercial grade. This is verified by showing equipment is either NSF or ANSI certified. It’s important to provide manufacturer and model number information to help prove the equipment is compliant. I highly recommend using stainless steel for all shelves and counters. To facilitate cleaning, all stationary equipment should be sealed to the wall or spaced for cleaning.

Finish Schedules

A finish schedule should show the materials used for all floors, walls and ceilings. It’s important to understand finishes in the kitchen will be different than in the restrooms or seating areas. As a general rule, all finishes in food prep areas should be smooth, easily cleanable and non-absorbent. Some health districts also require that light colors be used so it’s easier to see if areas are clean. Typical kitchen finishes are tile floor, FRP (fiber-reinforced plastic) walls and smooth vinyl ceiling tiles.


The plumbing schedule needs to show all prep sinks indirectly drained to the sewer as well as proper backflow assemblies. Sinks can be indirectly drained through either an air gap or air break. This is needed to prevent sink contamination when a sewer backup occurs. Backflow assemblies are needed to protect the water supply from cross-connections that could contaminate the water.

Plan Early to Save Time and Money

As you can see, a lot goes into planning a restaurant kitchen. Oftentimes, new operators don’t understand that decisions made in the beginning can greatly impact flow. This can lead to longer wait times, unhappy customers, cross-contamination and increased risk of illness—all of which can have a negative impact on sales. Start planning early with an emphasis on efficiency and food safety.

Each health district has different plan review requirements. Submit plans early and don’t start construction until those plans are approved. The health department will have comments and concerns regarding the plans, and adjustments may need to be made. It could be costly if the work has already started without these changes on the final plans. Please consult your local health district for more information.

This guide is general and should be treated as a starting point. Please visit these sites for more detailed information:

Respro works with many owners who are planning to open new restaurants, from the plan development stage to the grand opening. Please contact us for more information or assistance with getting any restaurant concept open and operating:

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