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Pantry Basics

March 22, 2023

Ninad Tipnis, Principal Designer, JTCPL Designs, who specialises in corporate interior design, gives Kitchen Ideas a lowdown on the latest trends in designing a corporate pantry at the workplace.

Over the years, office interior design has grown multifold with newer systems, materials and amenities, keeping ergonomics, employee comfort and the overall corporate environment in mind. The pantry, cafeteria or the ubiquitous coffee station in today’s offices is a vital requisite. It reflects the company’s concern and care for employees since this area represents the space which facilitates employees’ pick-me-up and rest breaks which are so essential for efficient working. Thus, most forward-looking corporate offices of all hues have a special area marked for this purpose.

Erstwhile, this space has been relatively ignored, which - if at all it is available in an office - is usually a small space comprising the basic supplies. However, with the work culture becoming more employee-friendly and the workplace also doubling as a social hub for employees’ post-work hours, high-end design from the corporate space has also begun to flow into the pantry.

The need for a pantry

Nowadays, most corporate companies are located in specialised buildings that more often than not, have a consolidated canteen facility. Every square inch here is so premium that few companies would prefer having a specialised space for themselves. As a result, if at all a company does have a corporate pantry, it is multipurpose in nature. Just the act of snacking or lunching is a very small activity in the overall scheme of the working day. As a result, this can be a collaborative space for employees to interact, which aids the functioning of the office and has extended usage throughout the day.

Sometimes, the floor plates are so large that time is lost in travelling to and from the common cafeteria. This also encourages employees to use this space instead of the building’s common facility, resulting in saving time and increasing man hours.

A space like a cafeteria provides visual relief to employees to help them unwind in the shortest possible time and reset their minds. Photo Courtesy: JTCPL Designs

Types of corporate pantries

Ideally, there are two types of pantries in any corporate office – dry and wet. Most corporate buildings don’t provide the luxury of a wet pantry with water connections. As a result, the dry pantry is usually where employees gather to either eat their own lunch or that provided by a caterer who preassembles food that is just warmed before service. Then, the pantry usually comprises vending machines, bubble top water dispensers, etc.

A wet pantry comprises the whole gamut of things - from a countertop to a sink and even appliances along with plumbing services. The size of the sink usually depends on the volume of the kitchen and, of course, the employee strength. In terms of materials, the combination of steel and stone (granite/marble) has proven to be the best option for a corporate wet pantry. The idea is to make it dummy-proof and easy to maintain – making it independent of any specialised facility management. Moreover, the materials need to have a lifecycle that outlives the tenancy. Typical appliances in any elaborate corporate kitchen may include bain maries, microwaves, and vending machines for a variety of beverages.

Design decisions

Given that corporate space is quite premium, some offices have a generous shift ratio of 1:2, where the entire population of the office can be divided into two shifts to use the cafeteria at any given time; however, most offices prefer three shifts to optimise the café area.

Within the cafeteria itself, several factors need to be addressed during the design stage. In terms of proximity of the seating area with the kitchen/pantry space, the closer it is the better. A serving counter can act as a transition and buffer between the kitchen activity – if any - and the employee activity. HVAC takes prominence here, where the temperature zones – hot and cold – have to be considered. As a result, the exhaust and ventilation systems must be planned well.

Another important aspect is the traverse time it takes for food to reach a cafeteria if meals are sourced from a remote kitchen. In a dry pantry, a caterer delivers food, sets it in a bain marie and takes it away after service. As a result, the design must include designated circulation spaces that allow for service entry. Moreover, such spaces require an authorised service passage for the caterer and other maintenance personnel (this can also work as an exit for fire safety). This will also influence the orientation of the cafeteria on the basis of the access points on the floor plates.

Most forward-looking corporate offices of all hues have a special area marked for pantry. Photo Courtesy: JTCPL Designs

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Ventilation and waste management

In any cafeteria, ventilation and air circulation is completely different from that in the workspace. HVAC must be planned so that the air from the office space and the pantry space don’t mix. Essentially, one needs to concentrate on the air changes per minute – this allows one to decide how to replenish the air in that volume. CFM units (cu. ft. per minute) are counted to determine how much fresh air is allowed into the space. The idea is to volumetrically create a separate air zone. A separate HVAC system for the cafeteria allows employees to use it post office hours as well. If it is a live kitchen, then you are also addressing exhaust with filters in place. Those are different from the normal filters.

The next essential parameter is water efficiency. This can be maintained by ensuring that faucets of good quality are used in the kitchen, and by being cognizant of the way in which water is drained. Water efficiency in the corporate pantry also depends on how the used plates are maintained. Equally important is waste disposal. Food waste disposers installed in the kitchen sink allow for quicker and more homogenous disposal of leftover food. The design of a corporate pantry also calls for the segregation of waste. Hence, the waste collection area can be segregated into anything between two to five bins – for paper, cardboard, plastic, dry and wet waste. Segregation augments the recycling of waste, and the company can also leverage it to contribute to sustainability.

In any cafeteria, ventilation and air circulation is completely different from that in the workspace. Photo Courtesy: JTCPL Designs