Kitchen Circulation: Reflections of a Foodservice Designer

When I was in 6th grade I was assigned the greatest project ever – to design and draw my dream home! What could be better? As I start to think about this dream home of mine, I know that it’ll be nothing like my parent’s house. . . it’s so tiny and doesn’t even have a pool! My house is gonna be HUGE! And it’ll have a movie theatre, a mini golf course, a roller rink, a trampoline room and of course, a swimming pool.

I sit down and start to draw my dream home, and it looks a little something like this. . .(only not nearly as nice because I was using colored pencils and a giant piece of poster board).

Dream House

Well, then I grew up, became a foodservice designer and realized that I would never live in said dream house. Looking back, I have to laugh at my design skills at the age of 12, because I included absolutely zero corridors or hallways! Just a room connected to a room connected to a room connected to the POOL!

It’s funny because today when I start to lay out a kitchen, I begin by thinking about traffic patterns and corridors. In the world of hospital foodservice design, there are four main traffic patterns.

  1. Deliveries entering the kitchen
  2. Tray carts to patient floors
  3. Soiled tray carts to the dishroom, and
  4. Staff/visitors to the retail serving area

These traffic patterns have a major impact on the overall foodservice layout, as well as the inter-department corridors.

If you think about all of the activity that’s happening in a kitchen, it’s a lot. People are not only working within their assigned work zones, but they are traveling to storage areas or walk-in boxes to gather ingredients/supplies and collecting soiled pans/utensils and dropping them in the dishroom. They need a way to travel about the department without disrupting the work of others. They need circulation . . . they need corridors!

That said, we do aim to utilize space in an efficient manner by dedicating as much as we can to the actual functions of the kitchen. Even still, we typically figure a 30% circulation factor on our kitchen designs. That means that just about 1/3 of your kitchen will be dedicated to circulation. The reason being is that we want to make sure that we create a distinction between “traffic aisles” and “work aisles”.

A traffic aisle is utilized for just that – traffic. It should not be an area where people are working. From a safety perspective, it’s dangerous to work in a traffic aisle, which is why we also include work aisles. Work aisles are used for working – slicing, dicing, assembling, cooking, baking, brewing, etc., not for pushing or parking carts.

Bottom line here is that, when designing a kitchen, it’s important to consider the corridors – the circulation required for employees to move around to complete their work. In addition, it must include both traffic aisles and work aisles to promote employee safety and efficiency. Unlike my dream home, a kitchen cannot be laid out as a room connected to a room connected to a room.

~Rochelle

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