Architecture and Design: Back of House

Last week, we touched on front-of-house (FOH) design so now it only seems appropriate to move through to back-of-house (BOH) where things get slightly more functional and food-specific. We’ve learnt a lot about BOH design over the years as we’ve watched some set-ups fail to function and others thrive on clever design. It’s one of those things that unless you’ve been in BOH spaces a lot, it’s hard to know what will and won’t work and how to incorporate that into something that also looks great. So, here are four key points we always consider with the design team when thinking about back-of-house design to ensure the space functions well:

1. Movement of goods and waste  

To meet efficiency, architectural considerations must be made in the initial design plans that accommodate both goods coming in and waste going out. Through clever design, processes can be streamlined so that all deliveries can be made quickly and directly to the spaces that can store or distribute them. Going on from this, waste can be efficiently collected and disposed of without it impacting other areas of your precinct or outlet. Our insight into this area has highlighted to us that what looks good does not always function best so it is important to seek advice of those who know and use the spaces to ensure it fills both design and function criteria.

The open kitchen space at Cecconi's – Melbourne CBD

The open kitchen space at Cecconi's – Melbourne CBD

2. Keep the interface between back-of-house and front-of-house defined and clean

With small spaces such as those of quick service restaurants and food precincts comes the need to be architecturally savvy. Front-of-house isn’t always that far away from back-of-house which is why BOH needs to be as well contained and efficiently designed as possible with exposed features being created with the understanding that consumers eyes will be able to see. There is no problem with them having some insight into the BOH operation as long as the space is designed well so the operation is seamless, clean and appealing to look at it.

3. Food theatre opportunities 

Do your consumer’s have full view of your BOH operation or is what you do back there part of the experience? Designing your space so that the theatre of food can be put on show then you should definitely take opportunity and run with it. Din Tai Fung in Emporium, Melbourne shows us how this is done with their kitchens being exposed to patrons to show them how their dumplings are made. With more people seeking the experience of food rather than food as fuel, opening up BOH to FOH can work in your favour. You just need to make sure it’s designed well - seeing dumplings being made is intriguing, seeing dishes being washed is not. 

Food theatre is a major draw card for a number of cuisines, particularly Asian-style cooking where it can be transformed into a show

Food theatre is a major draw card for a number of cuisines, particularly Asian-style cooking where it can be transformed into a show

4. Environmental matters and safety and hygiene standards 

Architectural plans for your BOH should meet all environmental, safety and hygiene standards. There should be planned spaces to separate waste. This means operators and precincts can ensure they are recycling and depositing of waste in the most environmentally sensitive way as possible. Aspects such as cooking ventilation and airflow are also key considerations for us when a precinct is initially planned as they contribute to the environmental impact of a space as well as require certain standards in order to be passed as a usable food space. All materials used in BOH spaces need to be safe and hygienic (i.e. stainless steel bench tops and adequate wash space) and space needs to be adequate to ensure all tasks can be safely managed within it. There are a number of food-specific aspects such as these which we have learnt over the years which are easily incorporated into plans as long as you know what is required. 

Over the series, we will discuss design and architectural planning in relation to back-of-house (BOH) and purchase paths as well as chat to some of our close architectural partners and show you where we seek our inspiration for F&B outlet and precinct design in our hometown of Melbourne. Stay tuned!