Once a meal has been prepped and cooked it is time to serve it.

This is when the Serving Zone comes into play.

This fourth zone of the 5 essential Kitchen Zones in the Food Flow Theory, revolves around storage.

Having presented the Food Storage Zone, the Prep Zone and the Cooking Zone, next up is the Serving Zone.

Let’s look how to develop the perfect Serving Zone.

The Serving Zone

Serving Zone area with glass door cabinets to the countertop and drawers below.
A designated area for tableware in the Serving Zone

The Serving Zone is primarily where tableware is stored.

In this zone you will find:

  • Dishes
  • Glasses
  • Cutlery
  • Serving Bowls
  • Platters
  • Serving Utensils
  • Placemats
  • Table Cloths
  • Napkins
  • Table Condiments

There is no rule for the ideal placement of the Serving Zone in a Kitchen Design.

There is a design theory that states:

Store at first or last use!

This statement can help you decide on the best area to place your client’s Serving Zone.

If your client’s style is to plate food as it comes out of the Cooking Zone, the Serving Zone should be adjacent to the cooktop or range.

In this case you will need to plan ample countertop space to lay out plates to allow multiple meals to be plated simultaneously.

If your client serves meals “family style” you may want to split the Serving Zone storage into two separate areas.

Serving bowls, platers and utensils could be stored next to the Cooking Zone, while all the tableware could be stored near the dining table.

Designing a Serving Zone adjacent to the dining table makes a lot of sense.

In many households this would allow someone other than the cook to set the table.

This location would keep helpers out to the cooks way.

Another way to approach developing the Serving Zone is to place it at last use, which means designing it near the dishwasher.

This location makes for easy unloading of the dishwasher at the end of the Food Flow process allowing for tableware to be put away efficiently.

Cabinet Storage

There are multiple storage accessories available for organizing items stored in the Serving Zone.

Upper Cabinets

A traditional place to store dishes, cups and glasses is in upper cabinetry.

To maximize the storage capacity and convenience of upper cabinet storage for dishware, look for storage accessories to meet your client’s needs.

I have always liked a 24″ by 24″ upper angled cabinet for dish storage because you can fit a full place setting for 6, consisting of the dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls and mugs all on one shelf.

To make the items more accessible you could specify revolving shelves in that upper corner cabinet.

An interesting accessory for homeowners that hand wash their dishes consists of dish rack styled shelves that are installed above the sink allowing the dishes to drip dry in the cabinet.

A removable pan can be place in the bottom of this cabinet to collect the moisture or the bottom shelf can be eliminated to have the water drain into the sink.

For easier access to dishes stored in upper cabinets a pull down shelf system could be the answer.

I will often specify this accessory installed at the second shelf to bring items stored higher up in the cabinet down to a reachable area.

Base Cabinets

With the popularity of kitchens with fewer upper cabinets, the Kitchen Designer needs to find solutions for storing dishes in base cabinets.

Luckily manufactures are introducing base cabinet storage solutions to meet this need.

A favorite of mine is an adjustable dowel system that fits into a deep drawer.

By adjusting the location of the dowels, dishes can be secured in the drawer avoiding them hitting each other as the drawer is opened and closed.

Another great idea is specialized pullout shelves that resemble the racks found in dishwashers.

This system allows the dishes to be stacked in such a way as to allow individual items to be easily accessed with no items stacking on top of each other.

Corner base cabinets no longer have to be a dead space in the kitchen.

Cabinet accessory manufactures have storage solutions for angled corners, 90 degree corners and blind corners.

Look for an accessory that has an anti slip surface so that when storing dishes on the accessory they do not slip around when pulling it in and out.

Tall Cabinets

If your client has an extensive collection of tableware you may want to consider specifying a tall cabinet accessorized for dish storage in the Serving Zone.

Individual rollout shelves can be positioned at different heights to efficiently store everything from serving dishes, to plates & bowls to glasses.

Another option for a single door tall unit is a full extension pullout system.

This type of accessory will bring all the items stored into view with one motion and many of these shelves can be customized with plate holders and dividers.

Even a blind corner tall unit can be accessoriesd to accommodate a homeowner’s tableware collection.

Again, look for a blind corner accessory that has an anti slip surface to protect dishware from sliding around when in use.

Cutlery Storage

The Serving Zone is also where cutlery will be stored.

Cutlery drawer inserts are available in plastic, metal and wood with an option available for every design and budget.

Look for a solution to meet the needs of your client that works with the cabinetry chosen for the project.

For instance, if the cabinetry has wood interiors choose a wood cutlery insert. A white melamine interior looks best with a matching white plastic insert or contrasting metal one.

Also consider how to maximize the space. In a small kitchen you could specify a two tier cutlery insert.

And don’t forget about the silverware!

If you client has actual silver cutlery, suggest a drawer insert made from a special cloth that helps prevent it from tarnishing.

Linen Storage

Often table linen storage is part of the Serving Zone.

This is storage that the Kitchen Designer needs to get creative with.

First do an inventory of what the homeowner owns and design a solution to best fits the supplies.

A variety of pullout shelves works well for napkins and placemats while a system for hanging table clothes may be the solution.

Your client will really appreciate you bringing unique solutions to the table for their Serving Zone.

Let’s have a look at some Serving Zone Solutions to inspire you!

Serving Zone Solutions

Glass Doors

Specifying glass doors in the Serving Zone will allow a helper unfamiliar with the kitchen to chip in and set the table.

The helper can see where all the items are and easily preform the task.

Upper Cabinets to the Countertop

Upper cabinets brought down to the countertop can define the Serving Zone and give better access.

Consider changing the countertop height in this case to make the area a focal point.

Hutch Cabinets

Built-in Hutch cabinets near the dining area are the ultimate in Serving Zone storage.

These units can be customized for the homeowner accommodating all of their tableware storage in one convenient place.

Storage & Counter Space

Including counter space for plating, buffet service or even informal dining is another great solution in the Serving Zone.

Varying countertop heights can be used to best meet the needs of your clients.

A standard 36″ high counter will always be appropriate but you can experiment with higher or lower counters in the Serving Zone.

The higher counter in the example above provides a counter surface in a unique Serving Zone that also allows the homeowner to pull up a couple of stools for a quick meal.

The lower countertop in the last example is part of a kitchen designed using Universal Design principles.

The Serving Zone is the space in the Kitchen Food Flow Zone Theory with the most flexibility for placement.

In your next kitchen design I encourage you to think about how you can design it and make it perfect for you client.

I would love to here your comments on how you would design the perfect Serving Zone. Please leave your comments below.

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Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

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