Among everything in your restaurant, purchasing your dinnerware might be one of the most difficult tasks you face. The shape, size, and style of your dinnerware says a lot about your restaurant and the type of food you serve; in many ways it completes the picture of your brand for your customers. Are you a fast casual eatery or do you want to cultivate a fine dining experience? Do you like simple silhouettes or do you prefer mixing and matching interesting styles? And we haven't even touched upon durability yet!
Lucky for you, most china dinnerware is made with strength and durability in mind. Still, broken plates are prone to happen, and they will happen to you. Certain types of chinaware are designed to be more durable, such as those with a high alumina content, which is a component that helps to stiffen melted glaze and hardens and stabilizes the fire glaze. Other dinnerware might be promoted as being "fully vitrified," which indicates that this ceramic will absorb less than .2% of its own weight and will not absorb odors or moisture—this is key for keeping your plates looking like new!
There are also ways you can maximize the life of your investment. Train your staff to avoid pouring cold beverages into hot and fresh-from-the-washer mugs;the sharp change in temperature may cause a stress fracture that will increase your chance of breakage. You can protect your investment from scratches and other metal markings by limiting its exposure to metal trays, metal utensils, etc. Properly care for your dinnerware by following these practices:
Avoid overloading bus trays
Stacking dishes without drying them first
Using abrasive scouring pads to clean dishes
Allowing dirty dishes to pile up
Additionally, teach your staff to address dishes with care during washing—a chipped plate might as well be a broken plate, because it reflects your brand just as poorly in front of the customer.
Chinaware and Dinnerware Styles and Types
Commercial dinnerware is made from a variety of materials. The most durable (and most expensive) chinaware material is bone china, which achieves its added durability from the amount of bone ash included in its composition. For durability at a lower price point, look to porcelain. The majority of commercial dinnerware is made out of porcelain due to its lightweight composition and strength. Stoneware is great for rustic concepts who prefer natural, "earthy" styles, but keep in mind that the added strength of stoneware comes at a price—weight. Heavier server trays could lead to more accidents, and more costly replacements for you.
But do you know what we're loving right now? Melamine.
Melamine has been around for several decades, but it wasn't until recently that more manufacturers are creating melamine plates and serveware with styles that convincingly pass for wood, stone and even stoneware. Melamine is not only virtually indestructible, but it's also dishwasher safe and extremely lightweight, making it perfect for outdoor patios and catered events.
At Tundra Restaurant Supply, we carry hundreds of dinnerware styles to match the aesthetic of your restaurant. A "rolled edge" style is popular for its classic, durable look which often features a thicker rim; the benefits of a thick rim? Less food to plate, and less cost to you! Conversely, if hearty portions are your calling card, then opt for a plate featuring a "narrow rim" to maximize the surface area of your plate. Ultimately your plates should serve to enhance your dish, not detract from it. Our advice? Plan out your menu first, then figure out plating next. You may find that a "wide rim" plate will highlight your delicate presentation! Or, for added sophistication, an embossed chinaware which includes delicate embellishments on the plate will evoke a touch of class. Whatever you choose, remember this fun fact: square-shaped plates are known to be more prone to breakage due to their sharp corners!