Last Updated on August 9, 2023 by Shari Mason
Are you in the process of setting up a commercial kitchen and need guidance on the essential requirements?
Look no further. Join us as we uncover the key elements for a compliant and successful commercial kitchen.
From equipment selection to safety protocols and hygiene standards, we’ve got you covered. Create a thriving culinary space by meeting all the necessary requirements. Let’s get started!
General Requirements For Commercial Kitchens
Fire Detectors & Alarms
Commercial kitchens face fire risks due to open flames and thermal conduction due to gas or electric stoves, especially when grease traps, oil, or accelerants are present.
OSHA standard 1910.164 mandates functional automated fire detection and suppression systems connected to the cooking station.
We suggest implementing visual and auditory alerts or designating health inspectors to notify employees of fire detection or gas hookups in line with the building codes.
The 2021 NFPA Life Safety Codes now require sprinkler systems as one of the basic requirements in new restaurant constructions.
Moreover, a Class-K portable fire extinguisher is necessary for the kitchen or any cooking surfaces to ensure fire safety.
“To further enhance fire safety, it is recommended to implement visual and auditory alerts or assign health inspectors to notify employees about fire detection and gas hookups in accordance with building codes.”– Eat Pallet Restaurant & Food Advice
The space requirements of a commercial kitchen help determine if the overall design, layout, and other specific requirements are met.
We suggest double-checking the details of your area. It must be in line with the local codes. Have completely separate areas for the kitchen to meet these general requirements.
Also, you’ll need separate areas for the following:
- Finishing: This area is where you pack or prep the food before it is served.
- Cooking: This area must have access to a clean water supply to avoid any foodborne illness.
- Storage: You must have separate storage for dry food, non-food items, and cold food)
- Food Prep: You must have three separate sinks for preparing meats, dressing, and chopping)
- Cleaning and Washing: Cleaning materials must be stored separately from foodstuffs. Also, you must have three separate sinks for washing/cleaning mops, a hand washing station, and food washing preparation to avoid foodborne illnesses.
There are a lot of things to consider regarding operating a commercial kitchen. Having the proper equipment allows for efficient operation while it passes the inspection.
In general, you’ll need to meet certain requirements following your state regulations, and you need to have the common material or equipment below:
- Smallwares and Dishwashers
- Labels or tapes
- Freezer and refrigerator storage
- Storage containers for foods
- Cooking equipment
- Three sinks (as mentioned earlier)
- Cleaning equipment (for cleaning floor drains)
You may also need to comply with the following, depending on your business needs:
- Mixers and blenders
- Racks and shelving
- Food processors and spice grinders
- Beverage equipment
To prevent injuries to workers, commercial kitchen facilities must take the necessary steps to identify and remove all potential hazards. Some of these include:
- Ergonomic hazards: From repeated or exhausting tasks, like lifting heavy items
- Safety hazards: Involves things that can cause injuries or accidents, like ovens, burners, slicers, knives, wet floors, etc.
- Extra hazards: Refers to kitchen space conditions that can cause injuries to employees, like exposure to chemicals, contamination, or heat.
Although some of the hazards in commercial kitchens are unavoidable, as an owner, you’re responsible for taking the necessary steps to minimize these hazards.
“While it may not be possible to eliminate all hazards, owners are responsible for minimizing risks by implementing measures like isolation, hazard removal, and improved work practices.”– Eat Pallet Restaurant & Food Advice
You can accomplish these health and safety standards through using isolation or hazard removal, as well as through optimizing work practices.
Generally speaking, exit sign requirements must be complied with by all restaurants. Most importantly, the sign must be noticeable. As an owner, we make that the following are met:
- The “Exit” signs are written in letters, 6-inch in size
- Illuminated, very visible, and clear of any markings
- It comes with an arrow pointing toward the actual direction (in case the area isn’t that apparent)
One important note – the exit area must be clear and free from obstructions, with no dangerous materials or furnishings.
Federal Food Codes
The Federal Food Code is updated every four years to address food safety concerns and commercial kitchen requirements.
It aims to reduce the outbreak of several different types of foodborne illnesses, causing hospitalizations and deaths annually.
Restaurants must follow the seven basic HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles for safe food handling and food storage practices, including:
- Determining the crucial control points
- Conducting thorough hazard analysis
- Establishing critical limitations
- Establishing verification processes
- Establishing monitoring systems
- Planning corrective actions
- Establishing documentation processes
State & Local Commercial Kitchen Code Requirements
Aside from following sanitation and food safety regulations of the Federal agency, every commercial kitchen has to follow state and local guidelines.
These can vary relying on your state. In most cases, everyone in a commercial kitchen must acquire the following licenses:
Retail Food Business License
A commercial kitchen must acquire a license to operate as a food business. This process involves carrying out a health inspection.
The inspector will check your facility’s adherence to health and safety requirements. They are likely to inspect the following:
- Food processor or any cooking equipment
- Food prep surfaces and how you serve food
- Kitchen space and cooking surfaces
- Storage of foods available
- Clean water supply to start cooking
- And more…
Tip: Restaurants are subject to random inspection to ensure sanitation and safety requirements are met.
Food Handling License
Note that employees who prepare, serve, or handle foods must pass a food safety certification exam.
This certification involves going through a training program and passing an assessment based on local regulations.
In addition, some states require supervisors to have a food manager certification, which involves an extensive and rigorous training course. Here are two accrediting agencies:
- CFP (Conference for Food Protection)
- ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
You can obtain this license by taking an in-person class or through the CFP or ANSI online program. Also, specialty licenses may be required for certain edibles, such as shellfish.
Certificate Of Occupancy
A commercial kitchen must be allowed to operate within the premises.
An occupancy certificate, similar to a license for food businesses, will be issued once the property has been inspected and the code is in place.
Various departments are issuing this certificate, depending on your state and local guidelines. This may involve:
- Fire Department, for the inspection of the alarm systems, sprinklers, hazards, and exits
- Bureau of sanitation services, for the inspection of grease traps and sewer access
- City planning department, if you wish to modify the building physically (one of the construction requirements)
- Department of Alcoholic Beverage, if you want a liquor license
Appliance & Plumbing Systems
One of the specific requirements is that a commercial restaurant must comply with the Uniform Mechanical Code regulations established by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials.
“The business of feeding people is the most amazing business in the world.”– José Andrés, Chef & Founder of World Central Kitchen
In California, this code covers a range of requirements or regulations, including bathroom sanitation standards, the correct installation of hood, duct, and exhaust systems, and grease trap obligations, which every restaurant must comply with.
You can find out how commercial kitchens and restaurants keep grease traps clean here.
Other Necessary Operational Permits
Depending on your state and local regulations, there may be other permits that you should accomplish, such as:
- Conditional Use Permit
- Local Business License
- Employee Health Permit
- Resale Permit
- Seller’s Permit
National Sanitation Foundation Certification (Optional)
NSF or the National Sanitation Foundation Certification isn’t one of the regulatory requirements, but we suggest getting one for your business.
Having an NSF mark for your commercial kitchen and cooking equipment can help health inspectors confirm that you follow safety rules and commercial kitchen requirements.
The NSF certification is a recognized standard for ensuring the safety and quality of various products, particularly those related to foods, water, and consumer goods, like restaurants.
It is an independent, third-party certification verifying compliance of (let’s say) a restaurant with rigorous standards and protocols.
The NSF certification indicates that a product, equipment, or construction has been thoroughly tested and meets specific criteria for safety, performance, and quality.
NSF certification  is widely recognized and trusted by consumers, businesses, and regulatory agencies to make informed decisions about the food service they use or purchase.
What is the NFPA standard for commercial kitchens?
The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standard for commercial kitchens is NFPA 96 . This standard provides guidelines for designing, installing, operating, inspecting, and maintaining ventilation control and fire protection systems in commercial cooking operations.
What ventilation is required in a commercial kitchen?
The ventilation required in a commercial kitchen includes exhaust hoods with good grease filters, make-up air , and a ventilation system design. Any food service establishment must also have fire impression systems or equipment installed in case of fire hazards.
Do requirements for commercial kitchens vary depending on locations?
Yes, requirements for commercial kitchens can vary depending on locations. Local authorities, such as city or county governments, have the authority to establish their specific regulations, which may cover various aspects, including equipment, ventilation, fire safety, plumbing, electrical systems, food handling, food washing, waste management , and more.
Creating a commercial kitchen space or restaurant requires careful planning, whether you intend to rent or open one yourself.
It’s crucial to understand the complete safety requirements involved. You must ensure you’re aware of state-specific regulations and local inspections that must be accomplished.
We suggest thorough and advanced planning to stay organized and in line with the regulations throughout the process.
Soon enough, you’ll have a thriving commercial kitchen serving delightful food to your community.
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