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Designing the ideal coldroom

walk-in freezer

Question:

What is the capacity of a regular standard coldroom for 300 people for a commercial kitchen?

– David Adegoke, Senior Mechanical Engineer, Dean and Partners, Lagos, Nigeria

Answer:

This is a great question because it underscores the need for kitchen designers, architects and engineers to work collaboratively with chefs and operations people so that when new spaces are designed, they work at or above expectations. Your question is a perfect engineer’s question—what is the standard for walk-in refrigeration space? It can only be answered with more questions and a good discussion. What type of operation? What volume? 300 seats or 300 daily covers? How many dayparts per week will you be open for service? Are you serving mostly scratch cooked food or heat and serve? Are you doing any batch cooking, cook-chill or advance prep, or is the menu mostly a la minute? How often do you receive deliveries? Do you have any special menu or operational features like in-house butchery, off-site catering or scratch baking that would require extra cold storage? A good kitchen designer will have those conversations before specifying cold storage requirements.

Still, there are some general guidelines. James Feustel, commercial kitchen designer with the Singer Equipment Co. based in Mount Laurel, N.J., says, “If we're talking about a restaurant that serves three meals a day, I'd estimate between 1 and 1½  usable cubic feet per guest. If we're talking about a 300-seat restaurant that does lunch and/or dinner, I'd estimate around 3 cubic feet per seat per meal period.”

Keep in mind, Feustel’s numbers are for total refrigeration (including reach-ins and low-boys), and that the key word is usable space. Walk-ins should not be packed tightly—you need to allow room for air to circulate, leave space near the door and fans, and allow employees to move about safely. So Feustel puts some numbers on it: “300 seats for a dinner-only restaurant would require about 900 cubic feet of refrigeration.  Of this, 540 cubic feet (60%) should be walk-in refrigeration. On the conservative side, walk-ins have about 40% to 45% usable space for food storage. To get 540 cubic feet of walk-in storage, one might need about 1,200 cubic feet of total walk-in. A standard walk-in height is 7’6”, so the area for a 1,200 cubic foot walk-in would be around 160 square feet (or 20’x8’). This is a very broad rule of thumb to ballpark sizes, and fine tuning this really depends on the application. The split between refrigerator and freezer also depends on the food program—how much prepared/convenience product needs to be stored frozen?”

As a final note, keep your business expansion plans in mind. It is always easier to design and live with storage slightly beyond your needs than to add it later or struggle with cramped space.

More on restaurant refrigeration here

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