Design for dining spaces is typically contained to the space that the resident engages with—for example, the dining room. Much time and effort are expended detailing the wall finishes, flooring, lighting, furniture and artwork and some thought is usually given to the drink station for the staff as it is unsightly and usually needs to be obscured. The kitchen design is typically left to the kitchen equipment provider or equipment planner. But a gap is created by this process when “operationalizing” the design or the who, what, how, where, when, and will with food service is not connected to the interior design. These questions need to be answered in order for the design to support the execution of food service and hospitality.
Dining should be considered an event or even a sort of theatre, where the audience is obscured from seeing the back of house functions such as food prep and transfer, trash removal, and hand washing. In order to pull this off we need to properly develop the back stage to support the performance.
Below are questions to consider prior to designing a kitchen and dining space in order to make the space not only beautiful but functional as well:
Who has access to what food and when do they have access to it? Is there a buffet or salad bar? Are drinks self serve, served by staff, or both? What needs to be kept from the resident and what can be available to the resident at anytime?
What type of food is being offered and at what times? Are the meals pre-plated, menu style, made to order, grill, salad bar and/or buffet?
How does the food arrive to the dining location and then to the resident? Are food carts required? If so do the carts require electric outlets for heating the food? Are steam wells being used and, if so, are they in a country kitchen dining experience or in a secured area?
Where does the used dishware go after it is used? Are they held in carts and then transferred to the main kitchen and, if so, where can they be placed so they are accessible yet out of the line of site of the residents to maintain the ambiance of the dining room?
When are meals offered and at what times? Does the menu change depending on time? Will this create the need for double seating’s based upon the space restraints or resident needs?
How will the environment change through lighting, table dressing, etc., between breakfast and dinner?
Note: Studies have shown that minimizing drops in food temperature from the time the food is plated until it is served to the resident is critical in avoiding resident dissatisfaction. Typically, this is due to the distance or method of delivery from where the food is being prepared in relation to where it is ultimately served. Some meals travel multiple floors or even out outside!