Is it possible to run a restaurant without a vent hood?

Restaurant kitchen
Vent hoods can be an expensive part of opening a restaurant, but technology is improving. | Photo: Shutterstock.


Dear Advice Guy,

Is it possible to run a restaurant without a vent hood? I have an opportunity to put a restaurant into a new space but can’t make the numbers work with a full build-out.

– Owner/Operator


Hood systems are the most expensive part of most kitchen renovations or new builds. There are a number of factors potentially further complicating hood installation including local codes and permits, neighbors within and external to the building, and difficulty of access to the exterior for venting. Ideally, every kitchen would have ample hood space which would allow you and your chef the menu flexibility to do just about anything you want to do. But the reality is that it may not be worth the expense and headache of the hood given the menu concept, your anticipated volume, or the terms of the lease.

The good news is that ventless cooking has come a long way in the past decade or so. There are commercial ventless hoods which, depending on your menu and volume, may get the job done more affordably than a fully vented system. My advice is to prioritize your concept and menu: what are the key food and beverage drivers of the concept that you think will do best in the space, and how can it be executed with as light a mechanical footprint as possible?

JBH Advisory group has mastered the low-footprint kitchen using hoodless technology like ventless rapid cook ovens and relying on high quality sous vide proteins and HPP (high-pressure pasteurized) sauces. "This isn't just a kitchen; it's a culinary revolution," asserts Buddy Gillespie, VP of Culinary Innovation for JBH Advisory Group. Drawing on this model, JBH has developed and operates the SVK Food Hall concept, which can offer up to fifteen unique restaurant brands off a single line. “We've demonstrated that achieving chef-quality, zero-waste, hyper-efficient, low-labor, all-electric, and ventilation-free production is not just a possibility,” says Gillespie.

Once you have established what you can do theoretically from a menu and equipment perspective, be sure to work proactively and collaboratively with your local health department, fire department, equipment reps, and permitting agencies to be sure you are in compliance as local codes vary.