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Designing a professional kitchen: Tips on how to plan for water demand and filtration

By Justin Thompson

Justin Thompson is the CEO of a food service equipment supplier that serves the upper Midwest. He works with commercial kitchen consultants to plan for their equipment needs. He served for more than 20 years on the Minnesota Water Quality Association and has held a range of Certified Water Specialist designations.

What is your top concern when you design the layout for a professional kitchen? Space? Efficiency? Planning for trends? To make the most of your space and have an efficient layout, you should plan early for water usage. Consider which pieces of equipment will utilize water, what kind of water filtration system you will use and how they will connect.

Kitchens for commercial facilities – whether a hospital cafeteria, a school lunch kitchen or a casino – use equipment requiring water and that water should be treated. Minerals and chemicals in water can have a big impact on equipment like combi ovens, steam tables, ware washing machines, coffee makers and ice machines.

Minerals and chloramines in your water can affect kitchen equipment performance

Minerals such as calcium and magnesium can cause scale build up, and chemicals like chlorine and chloramines that are added to the water can do even more damage to equipment. Chloramines – a combination of chlorine and ammonia – is being added to water by more municipalities each year to remove pathogens. While chloramines do a great job of disinfecting drinking water, it impacts the taste of your beverages, and it impacts the longevity of your expensive combi ovens, steamers and ice machines. Not every city uses chloramines, but you should set up your filtration systems with the assumption that your municipality might start adding it to the water at any time.

Equipment like combi ovens and steamers come with water filtration parameters from the manufacturer. They may specify that you need to filter out chloramines, chlorine or other chemicals. These specifications can be hard to understand, so it helps to work with a reliable filtration partner who can help interpret the specifications.

How do we meet the needs for water demand?

When I work with a commercial kitchen specifier, we look at demand and flow rate. Needs for a casino – which probably operates its equipment 24 hours per day with fluctuating demand – are different from a school cafeteria – which operates with very high demand for a few hours per day. For a school, you may want a reverse osmosis machine that holds 40 gallons because you need a lot of water within a short period of time and have 20 hours between meals to fill the tank back up. For a casino, you may be able to use a smaller tank with reverse osmosis (RO) that can exceed the hourly capacity of the equipment. We want to make sure we know peak demand and actual volume so we can provide the right filtration for those needs. That’s something you should plan for up front.

We also look at a plumbing schematic and the pieces of equipment that use the plumbing. We see whether it makes sense to put a centralized treatment system in one place. It may help cut down on cost to locate them together and it makes servicing them easier. An espresso machine, for example, may require different filtration so you can have it by itself. I group the equipment based on the Recipe Quality Water requirements of the equipment. That can keep costs down and help operations run more smoothly by having fewer filters and less plumbing.


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    Justin Thompson, Food Service Equipment Supplier CEO


    What’s trending in the world of commercial kitchens?

    Coffee and remote pop-up kitchens sprinkled throughout facilities like hospitals and workplaces are a growing trend. It gives a hospital flexibility to set up a kiosk that can provide hotter meals closer to the patients. In industry and office settings, there’s a trend to have specialized coffee shops that are available onsite so you don’t have to leave campus to stay caffeinated. That means having equipment sprinkled through out buildings rather than in one centralized location.

    Trends like coffee and unique dining experiences will continue to change, but commercial kitchens – whether in a hospital, a school or a workplace – have very similar needs. The layout and a flow might be slightly different, but they never seem to have enough space. That’s why it’s important to plan out your equipment needs carefully and don’t forget the water filtration.



Four key considerations in planning your space

  1. Specification. Determining the Recipe Quality Water needed is both easy and difficult. The equipment manufacturers may be very clear about what they need for their equipment. Others are not so clear and having an experienced partner can assist in ensuring the water is of the quality needed for the client.
  2. Demand. Demand is a harder number to come by. It is not typically provided in the specification sheets from the equipment manufacturers. Many times, we need to make a phone call to the manufacturer to get this information.
  3. Location. Typically, we get called in after the design is complete and we need to look at the plumbing schematic along with information from the specification for demand and Recipe Quality Water. We can determine what pieces are in need of common water quality and what flow rate and volume is required to take advantage of a centralized system.
  4. Space. Depending on the water treatment type, we can find minimal space or what may seem like a dedicated closet. Also, if we are using reverse-osmosis and a pressurized tank there are limits to how far we can effectively push that water from the tank and maintain pressure minimums required by the equipment. No matter what we use for treatment, it’s vital that there is easy access to it for maintenance.


  • Let the water knowledge flow.

    Let the water knowledge flow.

    Even in large foodservice builds, your clients trust you to be an expert on every microscopic detail—including the longevity and sustainability of their equipment. That's why it's critical to specify the right water filtration solution for every project. From coffee makers to combi-ovens, ice machines and more, a 3M Water Filtration specialist can extend your capabilities, helping you design a solution that makes your next sports arena, school or hospital deliver consistent quality water to all of their kitchen equipment.

    Tap into the quality of 3M™ Water Filtration Products today.


    Learn more about 3M water filtration solutions

    Download Restaurant Facilities Guide PDF
    A Facility Guide of water filtration solutions for applications in the full-service restaurant.
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