Whether you run a casual restaurant, fine dining establishment or a food truck, there’s one thing that your establishment will need: dinnerware. It may not seem like something important, but the right dinnerware will add to the customer’s dining experience and give them something to talk about.
Restaurant dinnerware should be chosen carefully. In addition to aesthetics, you want to make sure that your dishware meets customer expectations while staying in your budget.
Here are some tips to help you find the best restaurant dishes for your establishment.
Figure Out Your Budget
Before you even start looking at commercial dinnerware, you need to figure out your budget. Restaurant plateware is more expensive than personal dishware, but there are still options in virtually every price range.
Buying dishes in bulk will typically save you money.
Durability is another important factor. Unlike the home dishes, restaurant dishware gets used multiple times per day, every day. It’s common for commercial dishes to break, become damaged or wear out quickly.
The most durable dinnerware will reduce your replacement costs, but you have to keep your guests’ expectations in mind. For example, if you run a casual restaurant, your guests probably won’t mind if their food is served on durable dishes made of melamine or a similar material. But if you run a fine dining restaurant, your guests will expect fine dining dinnerware with high end dinner plates.
Durability is important because it will affect your costs. It’s important to find a balance between cost and durability that meets the expectations of customers.
Choose a Type of Dinnerware
There are many different types of plates for restaurants. We talked about durability, and the material you choose will likely depend on your preferred level of durability.
Some of the most common types of commercial dinner plates include:
Porcelain and China
Many restaurants choose porcelain or china for their dinner plates. Both types are made of fine-particle clay, fired at a high temperature. The resulting dishware is non-porous and durable with a fine, polished look.
Porcelain tends to have a more upscale look, making it a great option for formal restaurants.
Typically, even the finest china is microwave-safe, oven-safe and dishwasher-safe. The only exception would be china with gold, silver or platinum accents. These are not microwave-safe, and citrus-based dishwasher detergents can damage metal accents over time.
Bone china is also an option for restaurants. It’s lighter in weight and is the most durable ceramic dinnerware. But these advantages come at a price. While bone china is more expensive, it adds beauty to a table.
Vitrified glass dinnerware is typically opaque, highly durable and non-porous. Corelle is the best-known brand of vitrified glass, and their dinnerware products are virtually indestructible. It won’t break or chip even when dropped onto hard flooring. By far, these are the most durable dishes you can buy.
Vitrified glass is dishwasher-safe and microwave-safe. Because of its ultra-high durability, it’s a popular choice for family-friendly restaurants where children may be handling plates.
Like vitrified glass, melamine dinnerware is highly durable. If you’re constantly replacing broken or shattered china, this plastic dinnerware may be a good option for your restaurant. The material is shatter-resistant and suitable for serving both hot and cold foods.
The FDA says melamine is safe for use, and their study concluded that the chemicals in the dishware won’t transfer to foods as long as the food is not heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This means that melamine is not suitable for ovens or microwaves, and should never be heated with food on it.
Commercial melamine is designed to be plastic dinnerware that looks like china. You'll find a variety of colors and patterns to match your restaurant’s theme. This type tableware comes in a variety of price ranges, too, and is highly affordable.
Polycarbonate (i.e. Plastic)
Affordable, durable and lightweight, plastic is becoming a popular choice for restaurant dinner plates. Polycarbonate dishware is especially suitable for high-volume casual restaurants. They come in a variety of colors and designs, and they often mimic the look of china and other ceramic dinnerware.
Plastic dishware is dishwasher-safe and typically microwave-safe.
Earthenware and Stoneware
Earthenware is a more affordable type of ceramic tableware that offers a more heavy, thick and rustic feel. It’s not as durable as other types of ceramic and is prone to chipping, but it offers a handmade look.
Glazed earthenware is usually dishwasher safe, but it’s a porous material that is prone to staining.
Stoneware is a little more durable because glass is added to the clay to strengthen the material. Generally, stoneware is thicker and can be finished with a variety of glaze textures, including satin, shiny and matte.
Both materials are microwave-safe, oven-safe, freezer-safe and dishwasher-safe.
Wooden dinnerware creates a warm and friendly atmosphere, but it’s also another durable option for casual restaurants.
These dishes are made with woven wood that has been sealed with lacquer. They’re safe for use in the dishwasher, non-absorbent and shatter-resistant. Plus, you can serve both hot and cold foods on them.
If you run a food truck, paper may be your only real option if you want to stay in business. Your customers will expect to be served with disposable dishware so that they can eat and leave at their own pace.
If you’re going the paper plate route, consider going with a compostable material. Environmentally-conscious diners will appreciate your effort, and you’ll be doing your part to help minimize your restaurant’s impact on the environment.
Design is Important, Too
Do you want your tableware to make a statement, or be an afterthought?
If you run a tapas restaurant, for example, you’ll be serving many different types of dishes on small plates. In this case, dishware is even more important than with regular dining. Fun and interesting plates will make the table more colorful and guests more satisfied with their experience.
If you prefer to keep things simple, you can’t go wrong with plain white china.
Care and Maintenance
Finally, you want to consider the care and maintenance of your dishware. If your dishes are expensive and time-consuming to maintain, they may not be worth the effort. Depending on the type of restaurant your run, it may not be practical to serve your food on dishes that must be hand-washed.
Even fine china and porcelain can be dishwasher-safe.
When comparing your options, find a balance between presentation, easy care and affordability.