How to design for cold storage

commercial kitchen freezer refrigerator


I am opening a new property. I have been interviewing chefs and showing them the kitchen. A lot of them are saying they would need an additional walk-in refrigerator. My architect assured me everything is industry standard. Is there a usual formula?

– Developer, Panama


Commercial kitchen designer James Feustel of Feustel Foodservice Design says, “You can use roughly one square foot per seat as a rule of thumb....This does not cover lowboys and reach-ins.”

Even if your designer used that math, there are a number of factors that could increase your cold storage needs. To start, how many meal services are you doing per day? And how many turns do you anticipate in each? If you are in a remote location, how often can you expect deliveries from vendors? I once worked in rural Texas where each vendor’s truck only passed through once per week—obviously it made our storage needs greater.

You are in a tropical climate—foods like bread that many would be able to store at room temperature, you may need to store frozen, further increasing your storage needs. Finally, the menu has a lot to do with your needs—if you are a bar and grill going from freezer to fryer or grill, for example, you will need much less refrigeration than a restaurant that does a lot of scratch cooking or cook-chill.

What your chef candidates may be seeing is a compounding of a few of these factors once they hear about your operation, necessitating more walk-in space. In all, I find refrigeration space to be like money—you can always use more. And like meetings—the food expands to the space allotted.

More on restaurant layout here.

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