Building A Restaurant When You Can’t Afford A Ventilation Hood

Published on: August 16th

Filled Under: Restaurant Equipment, Restaurant Management

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No hoodThere are many expenses opening a new restaurant can incur, and to first-time owners these can sometimes come as a big shock. For instance, one of the largest purchases that new owners aren’t always prepared for is the hood system. In many cases this several-thousand-dollar item can make or break your budget. So what about operating a restaurant kitchen without the hood?

Here’s some more words of wisdom from John Eric Smith, Mr. J.E.S. himself, on how you can still legally operate a restaurant if the expense of  a hood system is just too great for your finances:

Building A Restaurant When You Can’t Afford A Hood

So you want to go into the restaurant business? I am the man you want to talk to. Years of experience in the restaurant equipment field; I sell it, I repair it and I answer questions related to almost anything you need to know about restaurants… except for smallwares, that’s my wife’s field. I learn something new almost every day and I have many, many contacts to find out the answer if I don’t know. Now your impression of me is “he must be full of himself” as us southern folks say. Not really. There have been several mistakes along the 15 year path that I will not forget. One of the hardest things to swallow is, “I really have to pay that much for a hood system?” Yes, you do!!


When people come into my showroom and want to go into the business of serving food to the public my first question is “what’s your menu?” Most of the time it’s short orders: hamburgers, fries, a grilled chicken sandwich, etc. In South Carolina we have DHEC, “Department of Health and Environmental Control,” and they dictate what you may serve without a hood system. At around $800 to $1,000 a running foot the hood can get pricey. So you need a 10′ hood? Ok that will be around $9,000. Now I see you wince because you had no idea you were going to spend $9,000 just to start. The thought is now going through your head “I’m not spending that!” Now I see you’re sincere and have a good idea so my next statement is “Why don’t you think of something you can make that will bring people in, get some cash flow and then look at a hood?”


You can bake without a hood as long as it is baked goods like cakes, cookies, pies and bread. Finding prepackaged foods is easy these days and folks like US Foodservice or Sysco will be more than happy to show you, and even let you sample, some of their products. Frying is out! NO FRYING!!  So lets make a mean sandwich and give the option of putting it in the panini press with some of the best meats around and serve it with the freshest bread that we bake on site. I bet if you search for a different sandwich spread that would make your sandwich stand out above the rest that would get people coming. Salad’s; people love a good salad. How many women would come to your place at lunch if they could get a great salad at a good price? Ok this sounds like a place I would go to for a quick lunch, right? Not so fast. If you could find or make a great muffin, croissant, bear claw or anything else you could bake in your convection oven and throw in a coffee bar you have breakfast. You’ve got breakfast and lunch covered, but what about dinner? I have a friend here in Greenwood that has figured the no hood scenario out better than anyone I know. Howard Corley owns Howard’s On Main and in the evening he sells beer and wine to the office crowd getting off of work. Folks will stop by for a sandwich and a beer or something with a glass of wine. Some states will even let you have a rotisserie for chicken or an Alto Shaam for prime rib without a hood but check first.  There is so much you can do without a hood! it just requires a little thought and alot of work. Welcome to the restaurant business! Want to buy some equipment?           


Breakfastmuffins, croissant, bagel with different cream cheese, Belgium waffle and GREAT COFFEE


Lunchassorted sandwiches hot or cold, potato salad, Cole slaw and some of these sweet potato chips we found, hot dogs, salads


DinnerSalads, ” salad bar”  Rotisserie chicken, Prime rib , baked potato, Sandwiches and Wine and beer after 5pm


*States have different rulings so be sure to check with the health department before setting your menu.

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43 Responses to Building A Restaurant When You Can’t Afford A Ventilation Hood

  1. Daryl Flood says:

    Where the heck have you been all of my life…
    What you shared is really helpful…

    I am in the process of opening up a cupcakery cafe in Baltimore, Maryland…
    I have a Moffat Turbofan M311MS half size electric convection oven. It is UL 197 and 3.1 kw…
    I am sending the specifications to the Baltimore City Health Department Food Review Plan… I’m hoping that they will give me the green light without putting up a hood system… Do you have any thoughts about Baltimore, MD or Maryland in general?

  2. Jarrett says:

    Hi Daryl,

    We would be happy to look over your situation and suggest some items that could help you out. Our number here is 866-323-0176. We can’t get too specific with health code because it can be so regionally specific, but we would be happy to get you on the right path!

  3. Chiara says:

    Hi! I found this article very very interesting! I’m Italian and I’ll open a coffee shop in San Diego. I have a big problem because I don’t understand if for oven I need a hood. the place that I found isn’t a rastaurant but was a retail. If I need a hood I need some work costruction?
    Thanks and sorry for my bad english

  4. Steve Oakley says:

    I trying to start a soul food restaurant. I will be grilling the meat outside on a commercial charlcoal grill but the sides will be cook on a electric range will I still need a hood system

  5. Neccos says:

    Will i need a hood system for a bbq stand? For cooking outside.

  6. Annette says:

    No, but if you really want one, we’ll work with you. (Just joking people…)

  7. Darawan says:

    So you are telling me as long as i am baking only cookie, pie, and bread “including sandwiches that might have chicken or turkey meat in them. I CAN open a Cafe with Out having a HOOD ?

  8. Annette says:

    If the sandwiches are heated, it would need to be done on a Panini grill, or some sort of press. You can’t fry at all without a hood, but you can bake breads and desserts, or offer salads and cold sandwiches. As for rotisseries, or adding an Alto-Shaam for preparing Prime rib, you’ll need to check the specific regulations for your state. The restaurant referenced in this blog is very successful, and it never even occurs to you that they don’t have a hood unless you really pay attention to that sort of thing. The basic suggestion is that there are ways to start out hoodless, and if you want to add fried foods to your menu, you can do that later on, after you’ve built your financial base and adding a hood is no longer a crippling expense.

  9. chef betty says:

    What is needed to cook raw foods in a commercial kitchen. We do not have a range, can you get one without a hood system in south Carolina? we buy mostly cooked food and add sauces. We do have ovens in which I heat the food.

  10. Annette says:

    Honestly, it depends on the raw foods you’re cooking. You can bake without a hood, which require an oven, and some Alto-Shaam products are hoodless. The can be used for Prime Rib and turkey. If you’re frying, or cooking in a way which emits grease-laden air, you’ll need a hood. Sandwiches can be toasted or grilled on something like a Panini grill. You need more specific information than I’m giving, and I’m aware of that. You need a more detailed conversation about what’s required to prepare what’s on your menu, and we’d love to help you. Please go to our we page (“”) and go to the live chat. There, you can explain what you’re actually cooking, and someone can interact with you live to help you determine what you need to go from where you are to where you want to be. Good luck, and congratulations on your restaurant!

  11. Bob says:

    We currently operate a take n bake pizza shop (no cooking) and are thinking about adding slices for lunch. I was hoping to add a small countertop deck oven like you see in pretzel kiosks (ie Bakers Pride) which would allow us to prebake a few pies, slice and then finish when the customer orders a slice. I know that Aunt Annies gets away with no hood and am wondering if we would be able to in this scenario. I know there are Turbo Chef options but am trying to avoid that expense. Thank you.

  12. Jeramy says:

    Hmm… That’s a tough question without knowing your particular layout. I’m going to get one of our design experts to contact you with recommendations.

  13. Malikha says:

    Can you cook eggs without a hood?

  14. Jeramy says:

    If you live in South Carolina, no. If you live in another state, probably not. Every state has its own codes when it comes to Food Safety, but most follow this handbook from the FDA to a tee. In it, the FDA specifies that “Ventilation hood systems and devices shall be sufficient in number and capacity to prevent grease or condensation from collecting on walls and ceilings.” That means eggs.

    As always, we recommend that you check with your local food-service governing agency for details.

  15. rafi says:

    Hi Jarrett
    Wow amazing information… Actually I’m opening a restaurant and the main thing on my menu is whole chicken on the grill, and I need to set up a 10ft hood. How much is the cost to install the hood? The set up, that is.

  16. Jeramy says:

    Now every situation is different, so I can’t give you an exact number yet, Rafi, but I did get one of our representatives to contact you, and he’ll walk you through your specific situation. You should be getting an email soon.

    But to answer your question more generally, for everyone else, the cost of a hood installation really depends on your specific restaurant. The physical hoods themselves usually go for $800 to $1000 per foot, and you can buy them from anyone (even us). The installation, though, must be done by a local technician. We service restaurants in South Carolina, so if you live in South Carolina and you need a hood installed, contact us — we do good, honest work and we charge very little. But if you live outside of South Carolina, you’ll have to find someone else. Just do a quick Google search for “Restaurant Hood Installation in [Your State]” or something like that. You’ll find a business close to you fairly easily, and they’ll be able to take your information and give you a quote..

  17. Dino says:

    Hi good day I’m looking into a hot dog restaurant and I would like to serve french fries, will I need a hood or is there other cooking options? , can I use a convection oven for french fries?

  18. Emad says:

    Can i use open air for commercial kitchen in Maryland? I’m trying to avoid the hood system cost and small space location, so if i have space next to my location that i can use to setup commercial kitchen without hood.

  19. Tim Lavinder says:

    Emad, within in given state they have their regulation and a county can have there own as well. So we are not able to give you any information about your specific question. However, I would suggest you reaching out to your local health department and speaking with on of the people who do the inspections. These are the people who will know the regulation the bast, and the ones who will be checking your establishment.

  20. Lilia says:

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  21. David says:

    I am looking to lease an existing former deli in a strip mall that has no hood – which is too expensive for me to install at this time. All the other equipment is in place (coolers, panini presses, food warmers, etc.) My question is whether or not I can serve (for example) a chicken quesadilla with chicken that is prepared off-site and be kept and served in one of the food warmers (like at a buffet)?

  22. Danielle says:

    I am actually with a fire extinguisher company and I had a lady come in to our store yesterday. We live in Kansas and she opened a Mexican restaurant and she has been told she needs to buy a hood, fire extinguishers and I cant remember what else. We don’t deal in hoods and I don’t know what the rules and regulations are in Kansas on Hood systems. She has a small 4 burner stove and a griddle to cook on. Is a hood required?

  23. Tim Lavinder says:

    Each state has different codes and so does each county. If she lives within city limits, than she might have city regulations as well. Her best bet to know the local regulations is to speak with her local health department. They will know best what is required.

  24. Tim Lavinder says:

    Unfortunately, every state, county and city has different regulations. I wish I could help you. Your best resource will be to contact your local health department and follow their guidance.

  25. Hermelinda says:

    Your mode of explaining thee whole thing in this article is actually pleasant,
    every one be able to simply know it, Thanks a lot.

  26. Eddie says:

    What if the frying is done with a closed lid and not an open fryer (i.e. a pressure cooker/fryer)

  27. I just want to tell you that I’m all new to blogging and certainly liked you’re blog. Probably I’m want to bookmark your site . You certainly have outstanding posts. Thanks for revealing your blog.

  28. Paul says:

    I am opening a tapas in NY using electric appliances. As of now, I have two convection ovens, two electric burners and one electric griddle. I originally planned on cooking ground beef, bacon and shrimp on the griddle, (that was of course before I saw this blog) and pasta in a boiling pot on the burners. Obviously, I am inquiring because I do not have a hood, Would I need one in this situation? There are other ways I can go around it such as purchasing cooked goods but I would prefer doing so in my establishment. My partners believe we do not need or want to spend on a hood, if needed, at this time. You seem to be very knowledgeable in this field. Any advice or recommendations will be extremely helpful.

  29. Tim Lavinder says:

    Paul, thanks for reaching out. I’m sorry I do not have better news for you, but with the food you will be preparing, I do not believe you would be able to move forward without a hood. Please know, we are located in South Carolina, and each state, and some counties and cities, have different regulations when it comes to hoods. But the standard is if there is grease vapor or steam, you need a hood. To get a definite answer you will need to speak with your local health and fire departments. Sorry I do not have a better news. We know hoods are not cheap.

  30. Jaunita says:

    Having read this I thoughht it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to putt this article
    together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading
    and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

  31. Marlene says:


    I was thinking to prepare gyros and empanadas using just comercial oven ; do I need hood system? I am in Florida
    Thanks a lot for any help

  32. Tim Lavinder says:

    It depends on the type of oven that you get. If you are looking at smaller style counter-top oven or an electric model then you may not need a hood for that type of food. If you are going to cook anything that may produce any type of grease inside the oven when it’s cooking, then a hood is always recommended (and may be required). So this really depends on your plans. If you are going to be buying precooked meats from a food service provider, and only using the oven for warming, than you may be ok. If you plan on cooking the meat from the raw state in the oven, then you will, more than likely, need a hood. It is always best that you check with your local fire marshal to make absolutely certain in any situation and they will give you the final decision.

  33. Sheila Collins says:

    Hello. I’m going to share what I would like to have on my menu and would like to see if I would need a hood for the foods I’m going to have. Salads, cold sandwiches, cookies, muffins,soups,chili, hot plates daily like in steam tables or crock pots < if steam tables need hood. Countertop steam tables. Chips and other small items that I know don't require hood. But the above items would I need a hood? I live in Louisiana .

  34. Tim Lavinder says:

    Every state and local government is different, so need to check with your local Health Department for a final answer. However, there is strong chance that you will not need a hood in your situation. Congrats! You may have just saved THOUSANDS of dollars! Thanks for reading, and come back again soon. If you need any supplies check out or give us a call if you need something you do not find on the site.

  35. bern says:

    I have a small electric kitchen in illinois. No hood. I have an autofry, elecric oven, panini grill etc. In this area, I do not need a hood. It takes a lot of creative thinking to make a menu in this type of kitchen. Very successful to date, but now the menu is getting a little stale. I’m running out of ideas to liven it up. Where can I find new ideas.

  36. I am opening a tea room. I will be serving only tea and baked dessert items. I am in LaGrange, Kentucky. So if I am reading this correctly, I will most likely not need a hood system? Is that correct?

    Thanks in advance for your answer.


  37. Tim Lavinder says:

    Rebecca, from reading your description, there is a very strong chance that you will NOT need a hood!. However, every state and local health department has different standards. You need to check with your local health department to make sure, but I believe you are going to have good news when you speak with them.

  38. Jayla LaPlant says:


    I am opening a coffee shop in Seattle. I would like to incorporate a standard ANSI approved range/oven in my space for the purpose of baking cookies and cakes and possibly heating up soups. There would really be no cooking on the stove top aside from heating up soup or possibly boiling noodles for pasta salad, stuff like that. Do you know where I could find the regulations regarding whether or not I would need a hood? Or who I should contact to determine what the exact regulations regarding would be?

    Thanks in advance!!

  39. Tim Lavinder says:

    Jayle, In this situation you will definitely need to speak with your local health department for clarification. If you are in King County, their website is located here

  40. Alex says:

    I am opening a bagel shop in Boston. I’ll be installing a tilt skillet for boiling and a convection oven for baking. The space I am looking at would require ventless hoods so I’m trying to avoid the need for those. I’ve heard Boston has strict vent codes, would I be able to get away without one? I’ll also be making sandwiches and pizza bagels but no meat if that makes a difference.

  41. Tim Lavinder says:

    Alex, unfortunately I do not come to you with good news. With this setup you would need a true hood. Not even a ventless would work. This has less to do with the oven and more to do with the tilt skillet. There is a chance with an electric Oven you could use a direct vent kit. But that would not work at all for a tilting skillet. And with gas being involved in the tilting skillet a ventless hood is out of the question. As always, you will need to check with your local health department, after all, they have the final decision. However, I do not think this setup will work without a venthood.

  42. Walter Youngblood says:

    Tim, thank you so much for your information. I don’t see my situation in the thread and your knowledge would help. I am having trouble finding the answer to my question for NYC codes. I make ice cream bars from custards that I will be producing in-house. No grease, no frying. Custards never come to a boil. I will have a pasteurizer. What do you think? Thank you!

  43. Tim Lavinder says:

    Walter, I am glad I can help! As long as you are using electricity to warm your custard and not gas, there is a slim chance you will need a hood. However, like I have said many times, You will need to verify this with your local health department. Just to add a note, all the health inspectors I know bend over backwards to make sure their local restaurant are informed and doing things correctly. So don’t feel like you are going in at a disadvantage. Build that relationship up front and it will make things go more smoothly down the road.

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