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  • Writer's pictureGarin Wong

Take a Spin on a Piano Stool

A Commercial Kitchen Design Method

Imagine you’re a line cook. It’s a busy Saturday night and tickets are coming out of the printer every 30 seconds. How do you keep up and get all those orders out quickly? Unless you’re The Flash or plan to set a Guinness World Record for fastest line cook, the best way to get those orders out quickly is to work methodically. This all starts with designing the cooking line and supporting areas in the most efficient manner possible.

What does it mean to design efficiently? The simple answer I tell clients is to minimize the number of steps around the kitchen.

The way I like to do this is by using the piano stool method. If you were sitting on a piano stool, you’d have everything you could possibly need within reach. Now imagine that same mindset in commercial kitchen design.

In a commercial kitchen, whether you work in a corporate location, restaurant or other site, labor is the biggest expense for any operation. If the cook doesn’t have to take multiple steps to get ingredients, reach for a new pan to start every order, or a plate to finish the order, they will be more efficient.

For example, when designing a griddle, I usually include a refrigerated base with drawers so that proteins are easily accessible. The cook doesn’t need to take a step or even turnaround to grab a product. Another space that can be utilized is above the cook’s station. A shelf above the range can be used to store sauté pans and an extended belly rail for seasoning pans, of seasonings ensuring that the cook takes the minimal number of steps needed to execute a dish. This grants the chef precious seconds to start on a new dish earlier, or tend to multiple dishes at the same time.

Now spin around on that stool. What’s behind the cook? For plating purposes, I think this is an ideal location for a Refrigerated Prep Table for cold condiments and garnishes. This means that the individual only needs to turnaround to finish off a plate and put the dish up on the pass for service. A Refrigerated Prep Table with drawers allows for easier replenishment of hotel pans for condiments and garnishes as well. Without this component, the cook will have to squat down and rummage through the doors of the Reach-in Refrigerator or – worst case – run all the way to the back walk-in to restock. When a chef has to abandon the station, time is lost.

This same principle of design can be used for dishwashing, bartending, or any other foodservice touchpoint to maximize efficiency. Additionally, if you’re working in an existing operation, simply relocating where things are stored, such as plates or glasses, can be an inexpensive start to becoming more efficient.

All of the components mentioned above can be incorporated into a 3 foot reach radius just like when you’re sitting on that piano stool. Minimizing the distance needed to reach something in order to complete the task means maximizing efficiency and labor productivity.

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