February 4, 2011 by: Eric Mac Inerney

Part 1:  Essential Things you must Consider

Almost all buildings used for religious assemblies have some sort of a kitchen.  Faith and food seem to go hand in hand, well, hand to mouth.  Church kitchens range from a folding table with crock-pots and chafing dishes for pot luck dinners to full commercial kitchens that make restaurants jealous.  There are two main factors when designing or renovating a kitchen: how you plan to use the kitchen and how the code authorities apply the code to what you are doing. 

Foundation United Methodist Kitchen, Temple, TX

Full Commercial Kitchen.  Note: hand sink is used as accessible sink

Foundation United Methodist Church, Temple TX

Most people think the difference between a commercial and a residential kitchen is whether the appliances are commercial grade.  The appliances do have some bearing on kitchen requirements, but the most important factor is how you use the kitchen.  Church kitchens, historically thought as being like larger home kitchens, have become more akin to restaurant kitchens (especially in the eyes of the code). If you are regularly serving the public (not the just congregation), if you are charging money for the food, or if you are serving an accredited day school or mother’s day out, you most likely have a commercial kitchen.  If you only serve your congregation but still cook full meals, it is a little gray as to whether you are commercial or residential.  If you just have a warming kitchen or a catering kitchen where food is brought in already cooked, you probably have a residential grade kitchen, but you should check with the code officials as this can still be seen as having some commercial requirements.

Different jurisdictions have slightly different codes and varying interpretations of how these codes apply to religious uses.  It is critical that you and your architect/designer contact the code officials during the planning stage to try to understand how the code will apply.  This is not a 100% guarantee, as enforcement in the field can be different than review, but it will get you on your way.  Also, keep in mind there may be multiple people within the jurisdiction that have purview over a kitchen, and don’t expect one to know what the other will or will not accept.  The building official is the most obvious, but often cities and counties have a health department that also regulates commercial kitchens.  You need to be in contact with both groups.


Why is this distinction important?  There are three main reasons.  First, commercial kitchens are likely to be required to have a Type 1 vent hood over the cooking equipment. These hoods and their integral fire suppression start in the range of $20,000-$25,000 (more on this later).  Second, commercial kitchens are going to be required to have a grease trap, which can easily be an additional $3,000-$10,000.  Third, commercial kitchens require regular inspections and may incur requirements and training for the volunteers who work there.

First Church of the Nazarene Kitchen, New Braunfels, TX

Residential Grade Kitchen

First Church of the Nazarene, New Braunfels, TX


Coming soon: Part 2 -- Vent Hoods and Grease Traps:  What are They and Do I need them?

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Church Design & Construction/ Fellowship Hall