5 big themes for tomorrow’s kitchens

Several overriding themes are influencing contemporary restaurant kitchen design and will continue to have an impact in the near future. A number of these themes are on display in the What’s Hot! What’s Cool! trend galleries at this month’s North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers Show in Anaheim, Calif. Here’s what NAFEM and other industry insiders pinpoint as the top five.

1. Food prep gets automated

More pieces of kitchen equipment are coming with embedded control systems programmed to perform a specific task, such as roasting a chicken or proofing dough, thus saving time and labor. Digital panels on these ovens, holding cabinets, ice machines and other pieces often display graphic instructions, making operation by non-English-speaking staff easier. 

2. Footprints shrink

Economics dictate that less square footage be allocated to kitchens in a restaurant space; profits are made up front, through higher customer counts and frequent table turnover. That means making the most of every inch with flexible, modular components and multitasking equipment. 

3. Sustainablity grows

As part of the push to “go green” over the past few years, Energy Star-rated equipment has become the industry standard in restaurant kitchens. Newer initiatives are going even further. The Environmental Protection Agency began crafting a Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) in 2014, with the goal to decrease the use of hydroflurocarbon refrigerants. And the Department of Energy issued proposed standards for refrigerators shipped after 2017 that will cut energy costs and carbon pollution.

4. Customization drives design

Some kitchen functions and equipment are moving out of the back of the house, especially in the fast-casual segment where guests are customizing their meals. Make-your-own pizzas, burritos and stir-fry require pizza ovens, flat tops and woks to be out front. This frees up space in the back to expand takeout and catering functions. 

5. Cooking as entertainment

Open kitchens engage customers in the restaurant experience and meet their demand for transparency. With staff and culinary activities on display, good-looking equipment that minimizes clutter and maximizes food safety is essential. 

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