Any type of plumbing project can be difficult and time-consuming from the planning process to completion. Restaurant plumbing is no different and is more complicated than plumbing for houses, churches, and many other types of buildings.
Restaurants have different codes, and requirements and plumbers sometimes need special licensing to undertake restaurant plumbing projects.
In this article, I will break down what the plumbing for a restaurant looks like from start to finish. You must know what you’re getting yourself into when undertaking a restaurant plumbing job, from the kitchen to the bathrooms and everything in between.
If you’re opening a restaurant or are considering remodeling the bathrooms or kitchen in your current restaurant, hopefully, this article is helpful to you as well. Let’s get started!
Making a Plan
The first step to any successful plumbing project is to make a plan with clear stipulations and end goals in mind. You’ll need to lay out your vision for your architect and contractor to understand, as well as set clear boundaries for budgetary restrictions.
I’ve worked on hundreds of construction sites in my life and with dozens of different contractors and builders. Never once has a project gone exactly as planned from start to finish, so keep that in mind when making your plans.
Designing the restaurant is very much up to you as the owner, but there are occasional code restrictions that your contractor will notify you about.
For this reason, it’s essential to be flexible during the planning process and always have a Plan B and a Plan C ready if needed. It’s a good idea to have a clear plan about what you want the end product to look like for your restaurant.
Have a Set But Flexible Budget
The number one thing that impacts most restaurant projects, namely the plumbing, is the budget. Most restauranteurs have big dreams of fancy plumbing fixtures and appliances until they realize the price they’ll have to pay.
It’s essential before you get started to have a set budget for every aspect of your building, including the plumbing supplies. The plumbing will include faucets, fixtures, pipes, and many other things that I’ll go into more detail about.
Problems always seem to occur at some point during the construction process. Having a set budget is a great idea, but you should always leave some leeway for emergencies to be safe.
Pipes or fixtures may get damaged in the process, or things might take longer to finish than initially thought. The amount of things that can happen to bust your budget is seemingly endless, so have the extra money in your budget for emergencies and unforeseen expenses.
Hire the Right Contractor
One of the most important pieces to having a smooth construction project is hiring the right contractor. A good contractor will have good communication skills, construction experience, and excellent subcontractors at their disposal.
A contractor is responsible for moving smoothly and on schedule, but the subcontractors do the actual work. For restaurants especially, hiring someone who has good plumbers working for them is crucial.
Plumbing is important enough that there are even times when you should hire a contractor precisely because of the plumbers they have working for them.
The functionality of your kitchen relies on the proper plumbing and having the right fixtures and appliances in the right places. The machines and fixtures in your kitchen are also more demanding than in houses, so it’s essential to have a plumber experienced with restaurants in particular.
Maintain a Clear Plan and Line of Communication
As I said before, things hardly ever go according to plan for construction and plumbing projects. Having an open line of communication with your contractor and plumber is essential to a smooth project.
There are times when you might want to change or add something, and there will also be times when the plumber needs to notify you about a problem or obstacle. Either way, being able to get ahold of one another is extremely important.
Kitchen Plumbing Guide
Once you have your plan, budget, and contractor lined up. It’s time to start plumbing your restaurant. The plumbing for most restaurants will focus mainly on the kitchen or kitchens and the bathrooms. Depending on how upscale your restaurant is, you might have water features inside or outside your building for decoration purposes.
For the sake of sticking strictly to what a restaurant plumbing guide typically entails, I’m not going to go into much detail about decorative options. A skilled plumber will have no trouble incorporating plumbing pipes to accommodate those needs, at any rate.
We will break the restaurant plumbing guide down into several main sections and focus on the kitchen and bathrooms. These are the main components and staples of most restaurants, and these areas are also where nearly all of your plumbing budget will get spent.
Faucets and Sinks
When choosing the correct faucets and sinks for your restaurant kitchen, you have two main options to target: looks and efficiency. It’s challenging to find sinks and faucets that are heavy-duty enough to fulfill the demands of a restaurant and still be aesthetically pleasing.
If you have an exposed kitchen, you must have fixtures that aren’t ugly. If you have a hidden kitchen, you have more options regarding plumbing fixtures because you’re only going for efficiency at that point.
Because of how often the faucets and sinks will get used, you must get heavy-duty equipment that can withstand frequent and rough use.
Your workers are constantly rushing around in the kitchen, and they need equipment that isn’t going to slow them down while trying to keep your customers fed. Here are the three most common types of sinks found in most restaurants.
Nowadays, many restaurants have an accompanying bar to accommodate extra seating and casual drinking. Bar sinks should be multifunctional in that they act as handwashing stations and dishwashing stations simultaneously.
For this reason, it’s essential to have at least two or three compartments to keep the hygiene and dishwashing separate. It would help to wash dishes at the bar sink because your bartenders won’t always have time to run to the kitchen to get new glasses.
When things are busy and people are waiting for their drinks, their main job is to keep the beverages flowing. Keeping things flowing and moving will require them to wash glasses and jugs at the bar sink to save time.
Personal Hygiene Sink
You want to have handwashing sinks separate from food prep sinks and dishwashing sinks in the kitchen itself. When you think about it, washing your hands at the same place where you wash your vegetables, fruits, and dishes is disgusting.
Kitchen workers, chefs, and sous chefs are some of the hardest working people in the restaurant industry, and they have to get their hands dirty from time to time. Having several handwashing stations scattered throughout your kitchen is an excellent way to keep the rest of your kitchen clean and running smoothly.
Your kitchen sink is the most essential sink in your restaurant. You want to go for functionality and efficiency when it comes to your kitchen sink.
The HAACP requires that you have at least one three-compartment sink in your kitchen, but it’s a good idea to have more if necessary. You can purchase kitchen sinks in up to four or five compartments, ideal for when multiple people need access to your sinks.
Outside of your stoves and grills, the kitchen sink is one of the busiest and most necessary components of a restaurant kitchen. You’ll wash pots, pans, and dishes that aren’t dishwasher safe in your sink, and you’ll also clean your veggies and fruits there.
As many as three or four people can need access to your sink at the same time so having plenty of them scattered around your kitchen is crucial to a smooth operation.
Your faucets are equally as crucial as your sinks in the kitchen and bar area. Choosing the suitable faucets and faucet outlets to serve your purposes is vital to ensuring that your kitchen staff can do everything they need to do.
You’ll want to choose functional kitchen faucets and complete whatever job you need to do. The faucet outlet is the part of the faucet that determines the speed and pattern of water coming out of the tap. It’s equally as important to choose the proper outlet as it is to choose the right faucet.
Here are some of the different faucets and outlets you’ll want to keep in mind for your kitchen.
Rinsing and Pre-Rinsing Faucets
This type of faucet is detachable and high-powered and is what you’ll use to rinse dishes before sending them into the dishwasher. A rinsing faucet is strong enough to remove stubborn food particles quickly and efficiently.
A swing faucet comes in many designs with different handles and features, but its purpose and implementation are the same. A swing faucet is meant for use with a double sink where you want to do different things on either side of the sink. They’re ideal for dishwashing or food preparation sinks.
Pot Filler Faucets
There’s nothing mysterious or cryptic about this faucet’s purpose. As the name would detail, the purpose of a pot filler faucet is to fill pots quickly and easily.
They’re specifically designed with the intent of having a solid stream of water and with the flexibility to place and remove pots and pans from beneath them easily. Pot filler faucets also provide a dedicated area for filling pots and pans, which will help to keep your kitchen organized and spread out.
Workboard or Gooseneck Faucets
These types of faucets have a long, curving faucet head that loops up and then down, forming an upside-down U. Workboard and gooseneck faucets provide extra clearance for handwashing stations and bar sinks where you don’t want the fixture to come straight out towards you.
Garden Hose Outlets
If you have a mop sink or a janitorial sink, they’ll likely want a faucet with a garden hose attachment. These are easy to install and are extremely handy for cleaning purposes.
An aerator attachment gets used at handwashing stations and other areas where you don’t want an overpowering stream of water. Its job is to restrict water flow by mixing air in with the water, which softens its flow.
Laminar Flow Devices
Laminar flow devices do the opposite of aerators. Their job is to provide a solid and steady stream of water. These devices are perfect for dishwashing sinks and food prep sinks where you need a strong flow of water.
When choosing sinks, faucets, and faucet outlets, the main thing to keep in mind is to keep things spread out but never be short of sink space. Having the different types of sinks and faucets for different jobs is a great way to keep things spread out and the flow moving.
As a restaurant owner, you never want to see workers standing around, waiting for their turn to use a sink. It’s much better to have more sinks than you need than to have not enough.
Most restaurants don’t rely on handwashing for anything outside of pots, pans, cups, and plates that aren’t dishwasher safe. The other reason for handwashing is when you need to quickly reuse the item you’re washing.
Having the right dishwashers for your restaurant is essential to maintaining a smooth operation. Having them in the right places is also crucial.
Dishwashers should be easily accessible, but not in the way. They will often have staff dedicated solely to working with and around them, but who will need access to the entire kitchen to put the dishes, utensils, and cooking equipment where they need to go.
Food/Garbage Disposal System
Having a heavy-duty food or garbage disposal system is a must for any restaurant kitchen. No matter how good the food and beverages at your restaurant are, there will always be times when you need to dispose of leftovers.
You must have a disposal system for every sink and dishwasher that doesn’t break down easily and can handle large items.
The water heater in your restaurant is the appliance that is solely responsible for keeping your kitchen and bathroom with a steady flow of hot water.
The last thing you want is to run out of hot water when you need it most. For this reason, you have two basic options for water heaters: multiple tanked water heaters or tankless water heaters.
Tanked Water Heaters
A tanked water heater works by heating a limited supply of hot water and storing it in a holding tank. This type of water heater comes in various sizes, up to 120 gallons in size in most cases. That means you’ll have a maximum of 120 gallons of hot water at once unless you have multiple water heaters.
You can have as many water heaters as you want as long as your water supply is strong enough to feed all of them.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters are quickly becoming the preferred water-heating option for restaurants, salons, and other businesses that go through tons of hot water at a time.
A tankless water heater has an unlimited supply of hot water. This means that when you’re using hot water in multiple locations simultaneously or if someone forgets to turn the water off, you’ll never run out.
Soft water is essential for getting rid of minerals and elements in your water that have the potential to discolor it and damage your kitchen equipment.
Water softeners have the sole responsibility of keeping your water clean and usable for every need in your kitchen. Having one or two that are large enough to service the handwashing, dishwashing, and food prep sinks in your kitchen is a must.
Something that often gets overlooked in the plumbing process is the gas lines. There’s a chance that your plumber might not install the gas line themselves but that the HVAC team will do it. Either way, however, gas lines should be accounted for in your plumbing expenses.
Your stoves, grills, and many other appliances in your kitchen will operate with gas. It’s crucial that you provide a gas supply where you need it and that the supply is large enough to meet the requirements of each appliance. A good contractor or plumber will ensure that everything gets fed with the gas required for operation. They will also ensure that the gas line is ample enough in size to provide any appliances you add later.
According to all building codes, restaurants have to have a sprinkler system to comply with fire and safety requirements.
Depending on the plumber you hire, they might outsource the job to a company that deals exclusively with sprinkler systems. However, as with the gas line, you should still account for this job with the rest of the plumbing because it utilizes the water system.
As all commercial plumbers know, grease traps are essential safety components for a restaurant kitchen. As the name implies, grease traps serve the sole purpose of keeping grease, oil, fat, and food particles out of your drainage and sewage system.
They get installed to not impede the flow of drain water but catch grease and other food particles.
Grease traps should get installed underneath every sink that gets used for dishwashing or food washing and disposal. It would help if you also had a grease trap to accompany every dishwasher in your kitchen. Anywhere that food is involved, a grease trap should accompany it.
It’s illegal to discharge grease, oil, fat, and other particles into the central drainage system because city sewer systems aren’t designed to accommodate them. If you want to stay on OSHA’s good side, then you’ll install grease traps in your restaurant.
Beer or Soda Taps
If you have a bar, serve beer at your restaurant, or serve soda, you’ll need to account for beer and soda taps. These plumbing systems require unique installation and maintenance but are essential to your restaurants’ plumbing.
Most of your sinks, toilets, dishwashers, and other plumbing fixtures inside your kitchen will have a 1/2″ or 3/4″ cold and hot water line running to them. Your plumber should know what size pipe is required for every different appliance and plumbing fixture. For most of your handwashing, dishwashing, and food washing faucets, you’ll also want a soft water line running to them.
Outside of sinks, dishwashers, and handwashing stations, you’ll also need water lines running your freezers for their ice-makers. Depending on the type of kitchen you have, there may be other places requiring water lines. The important thing is to make sure your plumber knows the exact locations and types of water lines that you want to install.
Something that most people don’t think about when it comes to plumbing is the air, gas, and odors inside your plumbing pipes.
Plumbing vents get implemented to take care of these gases and odors that build up inside your plumbing pipes and need a place to exit the plumbing system. Vents also help regulate the air pressure inside your plumbing system and keep your pipes from getting damaged.
You’ll need plumbing vents in both your kitchen and your bathroom. They will need to travel vertically and exit your building through the roof to ensure the safety of your restaurant’s inhabitants.
Your restaurant’s plumbing system is only as good as the drainage and sewage system. There are strict code requirements and regulations for vent, drainage, and sewage systems, and you must have a plumber who knows them intimately.
Improper installation of your drainage and sewage system will quickly eat up your budget with repair bills. Severe problems can even force you to close your restaurant for a time to repair the issues. The job of your drainage system is to carry wastewater from your sinks, dishwashers, and anywhere else that you use water.
The drainage system and sewage systems are tied together into the same system of pipes, which means that it’s also responsible for carrying sewage and wastewater from your toilets, bathroom sinks, and showers if you have them.
A skilled plumber can install your sewage system quickly, but always by paying close attention to detail. Your pipes must have a certain amount of downward slope and have to meet certain sizing requirements that your plumber will know.
Their ultimate job is to rid your restaurant of sewage and wastewater and to remain concealed and quiet while doing it. Exposed or noisy drain pipes are an eyesore and a distraction from the atmosphere that your restaurant is hoping to have.
Bathroom Plumbing Guide
Outside of the plumbing in your restaurants’ kitchen, the plumbing in your bathroom or bathrooms is next in line of importance. Just like your kitchen, your bathroom has code and building requirements that might impact how you want to design them.
Ultimately, however, with the help of an interior designer and your contractor, you shouldn’t have any difficulty designing bathrooms that are functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Sinks and Faucets
Unlike your kitchen sinks and faucets, your bathroom sink serves only one purpose – to wash and clean your hands or those of your patrons or employees. When choosing your sinks and faucets for your bathroom, you have much more freedom to be creative and innovative.
It’s not uncommon for restaurants to use repurposed objects and turn them into faucets and sinks. The sky’s the limit when it comes to unleashing your creative side with your bathroom fixtures. A skilled plumber should have the ability to do anything you desire as long as it meets code requirements.
The more important thing to keep in mind when preparing the plumbing in your bathroom is to make sure there will never be a shortage of hot or soft water. For this reason, you’ll want to run a water line from your softener to every sink in your bathroom.
You’ll also want to make sure that your bathrooms have their own water heater or are close to one so that hot water is available instantly. People want to wash their hands and return to their meal, not stand in front of a sink and wait for the water to heat up.
Much like your sinks, your toilets have very strict code requirements in regards to the venting and sewage pipes. They will also have a cold water line running to them to supply fresh water every time someone needs to flush.
Something that often gets overlooked with toilets in restaurants is the necessity to have them handicap accessible. Most building codes have strict rules in regards to this and will require you to install hand bars and have at least one toilet specifically for handicapped individuals.
It’s entirely up to you in regards to whether or not you want to install urinals in your bathroom. Many smaller or newer restaurants often go without urinals and simply have toilets in their restrooms and assign them as unisex.
However, if you decide to have urinals, your plumber will know the code and plumbing requirements to keep them operating correctly.
The sprinkler system in your bathroom will be connected to the same system that your kitchen and the rest of your restaurant are connected to. Whoever installs the rest of your sprinkler system will also install the pipes and sprinkler heads in your bathroom.
Your sprinkler system should run above every part of your restaurant, including the bathrooms, kitchens, offices, and dining area.
Question: How Much Does The Plumbing For A Restaurant Cost?
Answer: The total cost of your restaurants’ plumbing is largely dependent on how large your kitchen and bathrooms are. The bigger your kitchen and bathrooms, the more fixtures, bells, and whistles you’ll need to have. You should plan to spend at least $15,000 to $20,000 on your kitchen and bathroom combined on the low end. On the high end, it’s not unusual for larger restaurants to spend upwards of $100,000 for their restaurants plumbing.
Question: Are Grease Traps Required In Restaurants?
Answer: Grease traps are always required in restaurants. Different building codes will require different sizes and amounts of grease traps and what food items can be routed to them.
Question: Are Plumbing Codes Universal?
Answer: Unfortunately, plumbing codes are not universal, and you should always check your local building code before starting a plumbing project. There are certain things that are universal, but every part of the country will have at least a few things that are unique.
Question: What Are The Most Common Issues That Restaurant Plumbing Systems Have?
The most common problems that restaurant plumbing systems have are related to blockages in the drain system. Whether the clog is the result of food, grease, or from the cleaning staff dumping dirty water down the wrong drain, clogs are a hazard to watch out for at all restaurants.
As you can see, restaurants are extremely demanding when it comes to the plumbing system. There are a ton of different things to keep in mind as you’re designing it and choosing your sinks and fixtures. Having an experienced team of contractors and subcontractors at your side is essential to a smooth project.
Whether you’re upgrading the existing plumbing or building a new restaurant with a new system, make sure that you know your local building codes before beginning. Every area has different rules and regulations, and it’s important that you know your requirements and limitations.