Setting up a brand new commercial kitchen can be an exciting but complex challenge, as well as expensive. We give you an overview of what to expect.
Kitchen rules and regulations
Setting up a brand new commercial kitchen can be an exciting but complex challenge, as well as expensive. It is nothing like simply making a bigger and better-equipped home kitchen. While there are local government regulations and general building requirements that cover what you can and cannot do at home, these are much less demanding than those that apply if you plan to go into the catering or restaurant business.
Rule number one, then, is check out all the legal aspects. Start with a visit to your local council.
Do your research
Many people establishing a commercial kitchen are first-timers. Understanding this, most of the businesses that specialise in supplying equipment are also happy to give lots of advice. Their thinking is that if they do a good job in this, you are more likely to use their operation as a one-stop shop. But how do you work out which companies employ the people who will best be able to advise you? The internet comes into its own again. Be prepared to spend an hour or two studying what is on offer. Some specialists print testimonials from happy customers.
Make a list of commercial kitchen essentials
Before you approach any of these firms, develop a preliminary list. If you are opening a fast food outlet your requirements will be different from someone who wants to run a large Chinese restaurant. A pizzeria is different again. But a wood-fired oven could come in handy for more than just making pizzas. How many cooking stations will you need? How much deep frying will you do? How large a freezer will you require? Do you need a convection oven? Or a salamander? Will you go all-electric, all-gas, or a combination? (All-gas is generally preferred because the heat comes in and goes out almost instantly - but advantages of electricity include lower levels of secondary heat and no carbon dioxide emissions.) Don't forget extras like microwaves and mixers. You may not need to buy everything before you start but make sure you don't omit the important items such as a heavy duty dishwasher and adequate bench space.
Try to speak to someone who has experience in their own catering business. Perhaps you have a favourite local restaurant - or maybe one a bit further from home. Ask, ask, ask. As in every other field, experts often differ.
Before you choose any new equipment, you will need to have a strong sense of how you will use the available space. A crowded kitchen at peak cooking times can cause all manner of problems if people are getting in each other's way.
Talk to an electrician because a commercial kitchen demands a generous, reliable supply of power. You will also need a plumber. Some of your new machines will require professional installation. Don't forget to include these extras in your budget.
Staying within your budget
Avoid the temptation to buy the biggest, best and most expensive of everything. Check the warranty conditions of all items. Energy consumption is increasingly important and those labels are not there for nothing. Even refrigerators can vary surprisingly. It is rare to find anyone who has unlimited money to spend. As with any other business, it is vital to balance the need for good equipment with how much it costs. Some items may be available used. It may make sense to lease the more expensive equipment. Talk to your accountant before you make major decisions about buying outright or borrowing.
As well as appliances, you will also need flooring, lighting, a ventilation system (more elaborate if you are using gas), a sprinkler system and fixtures such as benches, counters (stainless steel is best, if you can afford it) and storage areas. It is a common mistake to go for lighting that favours elegance over illumination - not a good idea. Interior paintwork should be durable and easy to clean.
Importantly, work out your budget before you commit yourself to any expenditure. Keep some money in reserve so that cash flow will not be a major issue in the first few months of operation.