Open kitchens are a striking feature to a restaurant space. Watching the razor-sharp action of a kitchen team in full swing is an exciting, peek into a world previously unseen. And the smells of a commercial kitchen? Enough to get anyone’s appetite sizzling.
But, like any design feature, open kitchens carry risks, too. Allowing your customers full view to the inner workings of your venue is only successful as long as things are working to plan: a smashed dish, burning stove, or sliced finger isn’t a disaster for your team, but could put a customer off your venue.
In this blog, we’ll walk through the pros and cons of open kitchens. From the type of venue you operate to the type of customer you serve, there is plenty to consider before making an open plan kitchen part of your venue’s setup.
PRO: It adds atmosphere
There’s no denying that a restaurant’s kitchen is an exciting place to be. With experienced chefs and a highly talented team, watching them work like clockwork to prepare the food is hugely exciting. The smells of the kitchen drift through the restaurant, and many customers often find themselves lost in a trance as they gaze into the kitchen. Kitchen staff may find themselves behaving a little more in line, too – knowing that they are in full view of the customers!
CON: It adds noise and bustle
Atmosphere, however, can quickly tip over into noise and drama. In less professional spaces, like a small cafe or fast-food restaurant, your team might not be as slick as a high-end restaurant. The banging of pots and pans, swearing chefs, and general clutter over and above the music and noise of the restaurant can add a sense of panic to your diner’s experience. Sometimes, keeping this process private from your venue floor is a good idea.
PRO: You can show off your food
They say we eat first with our eyes, so what better way to whet the appetite of your diners than a delicious view of your food? Watching the prep process really gets stomachs rumbling. At high-end Greek restaurant Gazi, in Melbourne’s CBD, customers have full view of the custom-made roasting rotisserie, with golden chicken and lamb providing a mouth-watering backdrop to chefs tossing golden chips and chopping salads in the foreground. Yum.
CON: They are front row seats to mistakes
Watching your chef prepare an amazing meal is all very well until disaster strikes! As any seasoned hospitality business owner knows, the kitchen is fertile ground for accidents. Boiling liquids, open flames, sharp knives, and slippery surfaces mean that accidents do happen. Whilst your kitchen team are fairly used to quickly solving the problem – maybe with a few profanities thrown in – your customers aren’t going to bounce back so quickly. A bloodied finger or burnt arm could be enough to send them home!
PRO: Your guests feel part of the action
We live in the experience economy, meaning that customers want to see more than just the food on their plate when visiting a venue. They want high end service, excitement, and even entertainment. Having an open-plan kitchen is an easy method to ‘surprise and delight’ your customer without really trying. The action of the kitchen makes your visitors feel like they are part of the process, and really will enjoy their meal that little bit more.
CON: Your guests feel part of the action
Yep, there’s two sides to the coin! Some people don’t want to be part of the action when visiting a restaurant. Many customers want a calm, private experience instead. Think of a parent who spends seven days a week in the kitchen preparing food for the kids, wanting to be treated on a dinner date. Do you think they want to be three feet away from open flames, sweaty cooks, and fry pans? Probably not. Think about the type of dining experience you are promoting, and whether or not an open plan kitchen suits the demographic.
Opting for a bold design feature such as an open-plan kitchen has a duality of extremes – those who love it will really enjoy their experience, whilst those who don’t like it will find it a disruptive part of their dining with you.
If you can, always try and create a small area away from the open plan kitchen to cater for those who might not be so excited by the idea. That way you get the best of both worlds.