Have we got past the rustic- and industrial-themed phase for casual dining tableware? Is a splash of colour now permissible? Or is it still all white on the night for fine dining?
One industry expert who believes that the days of the slate plate are numbered – if they are not already back on the roof where they belong – is Utopia marketing director Kathryn Oldershaw.
She says: “Recent research has highlighted how everything, from colour to shape, can affect the way we taste food and, as such, it’s not something that should be considered as an afterthought. Current tableware trends have seen intriguing textures and splashes of bold colour or natural hues taking over from tried and tested wood, slate and rustic looks.”
However, that’s not to say that rustic plates and artisan pottery are to be discounted. “Tone and texture are key words when selecting new tableware,” adds Oldershaw. “Flat colour is definitely a thing of the past. Pieces that have a hand-thrown effect, that are produced or shaped by turning on a lathe or wheel, are definitely the order of the day and can add drama and theatre to any service. Utopia’s Allium collection is textured, vitrified porcelain in two colourways – Sea and Sand – a set of which consists of a 10.5in and 8.5in plate, alongside a 7.5in bowl. The production technique means no two pieces are exactly the same.”
Black, once the preserve of 1980s dinner parties, is most definitely back, she adds, referring to Utopia’s Nero collection of porcelain bowls and plates that “give a sophisticated new edge and a handful of all-important texture, incorporating more metallic and speckled finishes to help food really ‘pop’ on the plate”.
Andrew Klimecki, vice-president of design at Steelite International, says: “Personalisation is a huge trend in the eating-out market. It’s dominating menus in the form of build-your-own concepts, menu-hacking and all-day dining. And it’s making its mark on tableware, too. More operators are looking for a bespoke tabletop design that reflects their style and brand. We frequently produce Steelite ranges for restaurants by request in custom colour hues or patterns, including logos.”
Food for thought
Trends in food have also made their mark on tableware, as Ian Bailey, managing director at Fortessa, points out: “Some of our latest launches address the trends noted in the Global Industry Analysts’ report on the global tableware market [February 2016], such as the Food Truck and Centrale ranges, where the concept of the street-food phenomenon has been reproduced for the restaurant environment with durable chinaware designed to imitate paper plates, chip dishes and Chinese takeaway cartons in various sizes. Petrified wood platters, which have quite literally been millions of years in the making, are cut from trees that have been preserved in silt and have turned to stone or petrified over millennia. The platters resemble wood but are actually polished stone that retains a bark-like edge.”
Gill Head, marketing manager at Artis, says: “It is certainly true that white is still dominating the fine-dining market. However, statement plates are a discreet way to add a touch of colour, pattern and texture to an otherwise white tabletop. The Modern Rustic range from Bauscher, for example, has 11 contrasting coloured plates, some very bright, including six colours that are new this year.
“Bauscher and Tafelstern collections, available exclusively from Artis, both now include dedicated statement plates. The very latest trend in this regard is bringing an ‘industrial’ feel to the dining table with the introduction by Tafelstern of ‘concrete’ plates. These reflect the colours of an industrial landscape and can be either porous or fair-faced. With pattern and colour combined, Bauscher’s Compliments statement plates really stand out from the white porcelain in the same collection.”
Dudson’s latest range, Concrete, has been designed in response to customer demand for a tableware product that would easily fit into a more industrial style of interior decor. The soft grey complements a colour palette of neutral and earthy tones. The company says: “The surface of Concrete is reminiscent of polished marble and works with copper and brass – both materials are widely used to bring warmth to functional interiors.”
Available on a selection of plates and bowls, Concrete looks equally at home in a casual or fine-dining setting. The industrial/urban trend in hospitality interiors shows no sign of letting up in 2017, says Dudson.
Staub’s new Ancient ranges bring a softer look and aged aesthetic to the table, according to Michael Robbins, marketing manager at JA Henckels (UK). The chunky crocks are available in a soft grey as well as the brand’s more usual bright primary colours. The French-made product range focuses on cast-iron and ceramic cookware – very much in touch with today’s vogue for rustic ambience – yet they have a sophisticated, well-designed air about them – sort of Bauhaus meets the Stone Age.
Nisbets, meanwhile, has added four ranges to its APS tableware, all in virtually break-proof melamine. Flowerpots is a fun and lightweight design with a durable and glossy porcelain-effect finish that resists scratches and stains, and is safe to put in dishwashers, freezers and microwaves. It is available in white, terracotta or grey. The Crocker range features serving dishes in varying heights in classic cream or rustic brown, with a contrasting border and a matt surface designed to have the look and feel of clay. The unusual leaf-shaped bowls have an easy grip and durable, commercial finish. The Lagoon range is a collection of flat, deep, square and rectangular plates, round and square bowls and cups and saucers in a rustic design with a copper-coloured border. And for those seeking a more rustic look, the Stone Art range serves up irregularly shaped bowls along with flat, deep and square plates and combines a dappled finish and thick brown rim.
Steelite’s Klimecki says: “Consumers are increasingly expecting a unique experience every time they eat out. They don’t want to see their starter being served on the same tableware as the table opposite. So restaurants are also customising their tabletop style by purchasing several tableware ranges to mix up and create an eclectic style unique to their brand.
“Achieving that look is all about putting styles together that are compatible, but operators should still strive for a cohesive overall look. And from a practical point of view, collections that stack together make for a more efficient kitchen, which is why we design some of our collections to be compatible with our other ranges, so it’s easy for operators to add new pieces to their existing stock of tableware.”
Designed for life
Surrey Ceramics has built a reputation interpreting chefs’ ideas – however wild and otherwordly. According to managing director Chris Greenaway, this has led to the development of new production techniques, making the factory the go-to facility for bespoke items for professional chefs such as Cláudio Cardoso at London’s Sushisamba and Robby Jenks at the five-AA-red-star Vineyard in Newbury.
Chain restaurants and middle-market outlets can also benefit. The pottery has attracted clients such as Bella Italia and Wagamama – companies that like to sport not just their logos, but signature shapes and finishes to differentiate their brand. However, there is still plenty of stock to choose from when buying off the shelf, and smaller operators can happily mix and match and know that each piece is individual.
Surrey Ceramics’ shapes and glazes are designed to never absorb water and are eye-catching as well as resilient. They include Apollo, with its combination of a light glaze oversprayed with another, giving a gentle fusion of the two in the firing process. On high-sided items such as bowls, the character of the original, lighter glaze comes through.
Barley, according to Greenaway, is one of a few matt glazes that are increasingly popular. Its natural finish and earthy texture captures the spirit of outdoor dining, yet it still suits sophisticated environments. But he warns: “Steer clear of matt white finishes – cutlery will mark them.”
ADI Trading (Fortessa)
020 8391 5544
JA Henckels (Staub)
0845 262 1731
0845 140 5555