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Opening the Open Kitchen: How Much Should Really Be Out in the Open

Updated: Dec 8, 2018

Cooking in an open setting to delight customers is nothing new. Benihana was one of the first restaurants to bring this concept to life in 1964 with the opening of its authentic food prepared on steel teppanyaki grills right in front of customers.

Flash forward to 2018 and this idea has given life to the Open Kitchen concept, which has now caught fire among restaurateurs and customers alike. Case in point, the recent opening of Eataly’s Terra in L.A., which now makes it one of 40 Eataly locations worldwide, with the flagship being founded in Turin, Italy in 2007.

With Terra, Eataly CEO Nicola Farinetti has taken the open kitchen concept and turned it up to its ideological limits. A wood and charcoal burning stove dominates the space as soon as you walk in and the stove twice as big as its Terra Boston counterpart, as reported by Food and Wine Magazine.

Why has the Open Kitchen become the next big thing in restaurant design? It turns out that the open kitchen environment is more than just a renewed trend.

According to a recent study featured in Harvard Business Review and led by Harvard Business School researchers, customer satisfaction shot up significantly when cooks could see customers and customers could see the cooks who were preparing their food. The study showed, specifically, that satisfaction rose more than 17 percent and service was more than 13 percent faster. Having that transparency between customers and restaurateurs really does improve service, according to the study.

Clearly, restaurant owners have a lot to gain from the Open Kitchen design. The key to creating and executing an Open Kitchen concept, however, is to first factor the flow of your operations into the equation to make your open kitchen and your restaurant a success.

A lot of equity is created by customers who like to peek behind the curtain. The Open Kitchen concept has even been known to even amplify the reputations of current and future celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay.

There are a lot of positives that come with the Open Kitchen. Still, it brings with it a unique set of trade-offs that restaurant owners will want to address. Here are a few that you’ll want to consider as you embark on creating an Open Kitchen environment.

Sound: While an Open Kitchen Concept can delight the senses, there is a fine line between that and sensory overload – especially when it comes to the sounds of the kitchen. Try placing speakers near the open kitchen to counteract that clattering of dishes and pans.

Some Things Should Stay Unseen: Build a counter high enough to shield the kitchen work area and the floor, but low enough to let guests have some part of the action by being able to see the cooking line, the fire coming up and the big hood. Try to keep things like the dish-washing area hidden.

Open Kitchens Are in Ear-Shot of Your Customers: In a New York Times article discussing the Open Kitchen concept, a chef admits his wife had taken an office colleague out to lunch at lunch at his restaurant. She felt the conversation between chef and staff was a little “tough.” This is a reminder that all things may be heard. So, you might want to try to prep your staff to avoid these situations.

At the end of the day, the Open Kitchen continues to be a great way to engage and draw in customers. By implementing the right design considerations from the get go, you can bank on their popularity and appeal to drive your business success.


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