Starting your own small commercial kitchen is exciting. You'll be helping fill a niche in your community – everyone has to eat – and you have the potential to become a vital cog in your community.

There's a lot to think about, from commercial kitchen supplies to how to set up a small commercial kitchen.

We're going to cover how to build a small commercial kitchen in just three “quick” steps. It's important to put plans in place and do your due diligence before spending money on setting up your business.

small commercial kitchen menu

1. Create a Mouthwatering Menu

A menu is going to be one of the most exciting and intense parts of the setting up process. You'll need to really dig into your target demographic and learn about their tastes, needs, and desires.

You want to be different – in a good way – from your competitors.

And a great place to start is with the food that you love. Of course, your menu should be designed around a primary theme of food. For example, a Mexican restaurant would have very similar foods.

Some of the many recommendations when coming up with a menu are:

  • Talk to your main chef to generate ideas on items to add to the menu
  • Frequent similar restaurants in your location to see what they’re offering on their menus
  • Prune original menu item ideas to keep the list short and avoid confusing customers

While some restaurants have massive menus, others have shorter menus that allow patrons to select a dish in two minutes or less. Menus that are too extensive and difficult to read end up causing consumer frustration, which is never ideal.

You'll also want to consider the ingredients that you’ll be using to create your dishes.

Using similar ingredients in multiple dishes allows you to reduce waste and spoilage. If only one dish uses a certain ingredient and it’s not a popular option among patrons, it can end up costing you more money in spoilage than anything else.

Part of the small commercial kitchen cost should also include designing the menu.

Rich images of the food or descriptions can help sell the dish to consumers. Make sure to follow menu best practices and keep pages short and concise to help readers better scan the menu for potential items to order.

A lot of time should be put into your menu. While you can spend time creating a business plan and marketing plan, you will need to spend time on the menu. Over the years and as some dishes sell and others don’t, you’ll need to change your menu to stay on top of consumer likes and dislikes.

2. Find a Space

Before you can focus on how to design a small commercial kitchen, you need to find the ideal space and location. Space can be tricky because a small bistro may need less space than a chain restaurant.

Location and population will also have to be considered. If you’re opening in a city with 500 people, you can probably find a small quaint space. Otherwise, if you have too much space, you’ll be paying more in:

  • Rent
  • Heating
  • Utilities
  • Taxes

A thing to consider in your small commercial kitchen design is location. You need to choose a location carefully. Demographic matters because a lot of effort will go into making sure you’re in a location with hungry customers. If you place your hip restaurant next to a retirement town, it may not make as many sales as it would be placed near a college campus.

Check your city for locations that are in high traffic areas for rent or purchase.

And if you can find a space that was once a restaurant, you’re likely to save a lot of money. These spaces are often outfitted with the electrical hookups, design, and commercial kitchen in place. There may even be small commercial kitchen equipment left behind that can save you money.

You'll want to do your research to learn why this former restaurant location is no longer in operation.

If the business failed due to lack of revenue and multiple other restaurants failed in the location, it’s likely not a good choice for you. It's important to reduce your risk as much as possible so that when you do open your doors, you have a higher chance of success.

Additional points to consider are:

  • Kitchen size. Is there enough space to make multiple kitchen zones? There must be zones for various kitchen functions, including places for food prep, dry and cold storage, frying, etc.
  • Waiting area. In front of the building, is there enough room to have a small waiting area for your guests?
  • Bar area. If you plan to have a bar, is there enough room for one? If not, how much will it at to the cost of the small commercial kitchen?

Anyone who doesn’t know how to design a small commercial kitchen can call on the help of someone with experience. It’s better to work with a consultant on the small commercial kitchen plan than make a mistake during this vital step.

how to design a small commercial kitchen

3. Commercial Kitchen Supplies, Equipment, and Permitting

At this point, you’ll need to start setting up a small commercial kitchen with all of the essentials:

  • Storage. Food items need a place to be stored, and this means buying a commercial refrigerator and freezer. You'll want to also purchase an array of storage containers for food prep. Cabinets, shelving, and other storage options should be considered.
  • Cooking. What type of oven and equipment do you need? Will you use a built-in oven or countertop fryer? Pizza deck ovens, sandwich grills, and other options may be required.
  • Sanitation. A dishwasher is your first major purchase for sanitation, but you’ll also want to consider an exhaust hood and fire suppression system. Cleaning supplies, gloves, masks, and sprays are also required to meet the code.

Don't forget that you’ll need cookware and dishware, too. Utensils, cups, and other items should be purchased.

Permits may be needed for serving food, and you may also need a license to run a bar. Spend your time speaking to local officials or business associations to ensure that your business has all of the permits and licenses it needs to operate legally.

It's a good idea to incorporate your business and secure any insurance necessary for your operation. Small details that are overlooked can lead to major financial liabilities, so take your time to speak to an insurance agent in your area about your business and how you can best protect yourself from liability.

When you set up your commercial kitchen, you’ll often find that all three steps outlined above can be done in unison. Small, incremental steps are all that’s needed to go from idea to fruition.