Design Ideas for an Efficient School Kitchen

Photo of author

By Marilyn Royce

School food service operations face a unique set of challenges. They need to be efficient and user-friendly for students and staff alike. Having a proper kitchen layout will make this possible. This means properly dividing the food preparation, storage, and cooking areas for better workflow.

Industrial Food Processors

If you’re planning a new school cafeteria or remodeling your existing one, it’s important to plan according to what works best for your students and staff. That includes designing a kitchen fully equipped with the essentials to run efficiently and ensure student satisfaction and safety.

Industrial food processors are a great way to cut down on manual preparation tasks, which can save your school a lot of time. These machines can handle a wide range of chopping, slicing, and shredding activities, including vegetable prep.

It’s important to ensure that the food processor you choose has all the features you need, such as a powerful motor and a large bowl. Also, be sure to understand how clean-up will work for the specific model you’re considering.

Aside from being a great way to cut down on manual prep, food processors are also beneficial for the environment. They can reduce the amount of energy a school kitchen uses, which can help lower your school’s environmental footprint.

The Carbon Trust estimates that a school catering kitchen consumes around 10 percent of its energy bill. This is a major source of energy consumption in a school, so it’s important to be conscious of how much you are using and to minimize your impact.

For example, BSRIA, a research and consultancy company, recommends that schools use ovens with larger viewing windows as this allows chefs to keep an eye on their food without opening the doors. Selecting ovens fitted with sub-meters is also a good idea, which can help you track your energy consumption and identify potential cost savings.

Another important thing to consider is the health and safety of the people who will be operating the equipment. This is especially important for visually impaired people with limited hand-eye coordination.

Fortunately, many manufacturers are working on innovative designs for their industrial food processors, making them more accessible to those with disabilities or limited fine motor skills. These updates include increased writing and larger buttons.

Multiple Serving Stations

Multiple serving stations are a key design idea that can help schools boost student intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. They typically include a fruit and salad station, a main entree station, a vegetable station, and other offerings in a self-serve area that students can grab at their own pace.

This is a concept that is becoming popular in school kitchen design across the country as they seek to provide more healthy and appealing meals to their students. A recent study from the UC Nutrition Policy Institute found that schools that received special USDA grants for kitchen equipment served their students more fresh and nutritious food.

The UC study focused on 19 schools in the states of California, Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii. The grant-funded projects improved kitchen facilities by adding new serving lines, refrigerated storage, blast chillers, and other equipment that improves food presentation and keeps fresh produce at peak quality.

In addition, the UC study suggests that multiple serving stations help staff better manage food inventory and reduce waste by giving them more opportunities to move food around. This translates into fewer trips back and forth from the refrigerator or freezer to the serving line and a more efficient workflow.

According to Andy Simpson, a former chain restaurant design and development executive who now heads up Andy Simpson Design in Austin, Texas, it is important to think about service stations early in the design process. For instance, he notes that front-of-the-house servers need access to replacement forks, salt and pepper shakers, silverware, soda refill stations, water dispensers, and other essential items that can be easily accessed when they are needed.

A CAD (computer-assisted design) program can allow chefs to visualize a server area’s appearance before it’s even built. This can save time and money in the long run.

The most important thing to remember when building a serving line is that it should be safe and secure. That means it must have locking doors, adjustable rails, and an ADA-compliant handle.

It also needs to be durable enough to stand up to the rigors of daily use by students. This is especially true for school kitchens that may have less experienced staff. A high-quality serving line can be a major investment, so finding one designed to offer lifetime value is best.

See-Through Serving Stations

One of the most effective ways to make your school kitchen efficient is to ensure that your chefs and kitchen staff have a smooth workflow from prep to storage to cooking to serving. To help you achieve this, consider purchasing a serving line station, which will save you time and money in the long run by freeing up your staff to do other tasks that require their attention. You can find various serving line solutions for your discerning palate, from microwaves and steam tables to conveyor toasters and draw warmers.

A good school kitchen should also be a hands-on learning experience where students are actively engaged in every phase of the culinary process. The best way to accomplish this is to incorporate the latest food technology into your layout and design plans. For instance, incorporating LED lights into your serving stations, prep tables, and microwaves is the most effective way to illuminate these hard-to-see areas without breaking the bank or your budget. Another great idea is to have a team of culinary experts to answer any questions your students may have about food safety, preparation methods, and ingredients.

Food Containers and Dispensers

Food containers and dispensers are essential to any kitchen, but they are especially important for school kitchens. They help keep foods fresh and ready to use, which can save money in the long run. They also dispense small portions, which can help prevent spills and overflows.

Food containers are available in various styles and sizes so that you can find the right one for your needs. Choose ones that are easily refillable and opt for a style that matches the design of your kitchen.

Dispensers are useful for portioning food, such as condiments and cereal. They dispense small amounts that are easy for students to pick up and eat. They also save space in your kitchen, which can be valuable when you have limited storage space.

A dry food dispenser is an essential piece of equipment for schools that serve breakfast. They are ideal for storing and presenting cereal, granola, snacks, pasta, pet food, and other dry foods.

Moreover, dispensers come in various colors and styles so that you can match them with the rest of your kitchen decor. You can even customize them to your liking with a food label.

When shopping for school kitchen utensils, you should make sure to choose stainless steel. This type of cutlery is highly durable and doesn’t rust or corrode quickly. It also doesn’t need to be washed or replaced often.

Trays are also an important piece of kitchenware in schools. They allow staff to carry food or drinks around without spilling them, and they don’t break easily.

These trays can be made of plastic or metal. Some types have compartments, which can help students carry their lunches to and from the dining room.

While staff and students can use these trays, they are usually preferable for students because they are inexpensive and easy to clean. They are also safe for use by children, as they do not bend or break easily.

The best type of ice is cube ice, which keeps drinks colder and longer than flake ice. Cube ice is also the most cost-efficient option, so it’s a great choice for schools that offer a lot of frozen beverages.