Rising to operating challenges presented by the pandemic means not only making front-of-house modifications that aim to keep guests safe but also focusing on what can be even tougher territory, the back of house. Driven by the economic need to reduce overall footprints and increase efficiencies, restaurant kitchens have gotten smaller and “smarter,” with many tapping tech-based, connected-kitchen strategies that facilitate operating with less space and fewer employees.

Those strategies can and do provide clear benefits, and are likely to move to the front burner now. But the pandemic-era need to keep back-of-house employees safe and appropriately distanced while working in tight and highly efficient kitchens ups the ante. New and urgent need exists for additional solutions that combine technology, design and a rethinking of menus and operational systems to meet the challenge.

Griz Dwight, principal and founder of GrizForm Design Architects, feels the big area of focus right now for most restaurant kitchens isn’t so much on design, but on procedures.

“It doesn’t functionally make sense to make back-of-house spaces bigger in the sense of social distancing. An extra two steps for a line cook can really harm speed and efficiency,” he says. “The BOH is like a well-oiled machine and if there’s a kink in the chain there are usually major repercussions. It points to the fact that the need to change internal protocols for those working in the back of house will be much greater than the need to change a design.”

Advance Tabco hand sinkAll-in-One Hand Sink

Advance Tabco offers an All-In-One Hand Sink featuring a touchless automatic soap dispenser, hands-free electronic faucet and C-fold-style towel dispenser. The sink protects the surrounding area from contamination with its 7½-inch splashes on both sides. The sink bowl measures 10 inches by 14 inches by 5 inches and includes drain and basket.

Advance Tabco

Franke QSR conveyorQSR Conveyor System

The Franke Transporter, a conveyor system designed for the quick-service restaurant industry, transports food orders from the prep area to one or more points of service, whether an existing or expanded drive-thru booth, auxiliary booth, delivery pick-up point or customer kiosk. The system allows operators to expand business by adding service points and sales capacity without reconstructing sites. It works by accepting an item at one station — usually a production line, but sometimes an order assembly area — and transporting it quickly to another, where it is automatically offloaded for final assembly or customer presentation.

Franke Foodservice Systems

Halton UVGI Return Air Grill 300dpiUVGI Grill Ventilation 

Protect the air over back-of-house staff and restaurant customers with Halton’s return air unit for grill ventilation, the UVGI.RG Return Air unit is a 24-inch-by-24-inch ceiling return grill to replace standard return grills. It uses Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) to inactivate up to 99.99% of airborne viruses and bacteria and works with existing RTU/MUA systems. No rebalance of site is necessary in the majority of installations.

Halton Company

spring ics mobile stationMobile Induction Station

Spring USA’s ICS348-18 Mobile Induction Cooking Station features a stainless-steel cabinet with heavy-duty casters, which make repositioning the unit easier. The 1800-watt, flush-mounted induction ranges provide high-speed heating with air filtering that removes grease-laden vapor and odors. The unit’s three ranges include LED power/temperature display, a downdraft air filter system with easy access to filters, an integrated power source that powers the entire unit and various cabinet door color options.

Spring USA

Ansul RED Display and systemMulti-Zone Fire Suppression

ANSUL Restaurant Electric Detection (RED) Technology provides multi-zone fire protection. The RED Technology offers expandable, reconfigurable solutions and integrates with ANSUL R-102 or PIRANHA suppression systems for complete, scalable, UL-compliant protection from detection to suppression.

Johnson Controls

alto shaam F4 FrontHigh-Volume, Multi-Cook Ovens

Vector F Series Multi-Cook Ovens come with three or four chambers. The ovens feature independent temperature, fan-speed and cook-time controls for each chamber that allows these units to cook each food item at its optimal cook settings. The unit may increase productivity by eliminating the need to watch and rotate pans. The ovens also feature a stackable, waterless design.