Your crockery, cutlery and glassware are key elements in the overall look of your restaurant, but the experts agree it's important not to forget functional issues when deciding what to buy. Diane Lane reports.
When it comes to buying tableware it's not all about aesthetics, and the market you're targeting will be a key factor in influencing your choice.
"In the medium- to top-end establishments it is all a perception of quality, while the lower end of the market is looking for price and function," says Francois Bonnefoy, area sales manager for central London at WMF. "Take a five-star hotel, for example. In the brasserie, it's more about practicality and durability before visual appeal, while in the fine-dining restaurant the most important aspect is the design - how it fits with the chef's menu, how it sits on the table and how it best promotes the food that it bears."
John Artis, managing director at John Artis, agrees that the considerations for a fine-dining restaurant will be quite different from those in less formal situations. "At the top end, chefs will be looking for innovatively shaped pieces to show off their dishes - in particular, where there is a tasting menu on offer," he says. "Whereas the crockery in an establishment such as a gastropub tends to make a statement with its size and presence - maybe an underliner or charger plate could be used. A coupe plate is widely used in this market for both starters and mains."
At Oneida, head of food service sales Simon Kitto has noticed that with the advent of the recession some customers were looking to trade down from their standard 18/10 cutlery to an 18/0 product. He says: "8/10 cutlery is recognised as the best quality and includes 18% chrome and 10% nickel, which make the cutlery more resistant to acid erosion and rusting. 18/0 cutlery contains no nickel, so will not keep its shine for as long but is less expensive."
Moving on to stemware, he says: "If you are charging £5.99 for a main course, it doesn't make sense to buy fine hand-blown crystal glasses. Your customer doesn't expect it, and your operation will probably be based on high volume sales, so a more robust product may be required. Likewise for banqueting, where speed of service and high volume are the norm you need a shorter-stem glass which is less likely to tip and is easier to store. In fine-dining restaurants customers expect a taller, finer and more elegant glass."
Nick Green, national sales manager at Villeroy & Boch's hotel and restaurant division, prefers not to pigeonhole certain products for certain operations or markets. "Yes, the usual rules apply, and factors such as durability, cost, style and complementing the decor should be taken into account. However, the operator must sometimes make the difficult choice between practicality and aesthetics," he says. "As long as staff are trained in handling the tableware and investment has been made back of house - for instance, in dishwashers - the operator's choice of tableware should easily meet their expectations for their particular market."
Of course, you also need to decide whether or not you'll have some form of table covering. David Hill, sales and marketing director of Johnsons Stalbridge Linen Services, says: "We've recently seen a move towards the more contemporary shades of buttermilk, black and biscuit. Many restaurants now focus on beautifully presented coloured table napkins and placemats for the lunchtime trade, but revert to crisp white linen for the evenings."
If you need crockery items for hot and cold counter food displays, Heather Brooks, sales director at Primeware Ceramics, points out some particular considerations. "Consider the space you have available and how it will look at quiet times and periods of high throughput," she says. "Very often a multi-portion dish range which is flexible and modular is preferable to cater for all sizes. Also, you need to consider what your temperature range and heat source are - for instance, whether you will be displaying on Ceran or Hot Tiles."
THE INFORMAL RESTAURANT: URBAN REEF
Mark Cribb, proprietor of Urban Reef in Boscombe, Dorset, faced quite a challenge when it came to getting the balance right for his 100-seat informal British restaurant and 100-seat beachside deck café.
"A beachside café by day and a more upmarket restaurant by night has been an almost impossible challenge," he says. "The Churchill Classic vitrified white crockery really is very robust but still looks pretty classy.
"The cutlery needs to look good but be cheap enough to replace on a pretty continuous basis. We use the magnetic lids to help catch stray cutlery in an exceptionally busy environment, so the metal content to ensure that the cutlery actually sticks to the lid is also important. The Viners Professional Perfection line from Oneida has done a good job at getting the balance right.
"Our Endessa hi-ball and Perception wine glasses have rolled edges rather than laser finish, but they are large and look impressive, despite not being as refined as we would perhaps like for the evening restaurant. Again it's about effective compromise."
THE FIVE-STAR HOTEL: CHESTER GROSVENOR
Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor is a 40-seat Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant within a five-star 80-bedroom hotel. The hotel also has a brasserie and event space which is regularly used for weddings and private dining and can seat up to 252 guests in one room.
"We use the same suppliers in both our restaurants and private dining areas. This ensures that we have the same standards throughout," says hotel manager Ross Grieve. "Key requirements for all tableware are durability, functionality and design, consistency of quality and value for money.
"Our crockery suppliers are Villeroy & Boch, from the Marchesi, Hotwave, Sedona, Stella and Nubo Glass ranges; and Rosenthal - various items from the Studio-line and Classic ranges.
"A wider variety of ranges and items from these ranges are used in Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor, whereas in the private dining suites we primarily use the classic ranges from each supplier.
"Riedel glassware is used throughout the hotel. In the events areas we use the Restaurant range, which is an excellent standard, and in our fine-dining restaurant we use the Vinum and Sommeliers ranges. Riedel were the first glassware company to produce grape-specific stemware. We use the Vinum range for its superior quality and variety of grape-specific glasses. We also use Riedel decanters - Black Tie Sommelier decanters in Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor and Cornetos for private dining functions.
"We use Arthur Price EPNS A1 cutlery in different styles in each area: Grecian for private dining and events; and, rather fittingly, Chester in Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor."
THE CONTRACT CATERER: CATERING ACADEMY
Formed in 2004, Catering Academy has contracts comprising a varied selection of businesses, from commercial conference centres, wedding venues and B&I to education and healthcare. They include Cheshire Police HQ, the University of Bolton, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Procter & Gamble.
"The tableware is hugely varied depending on the type of contract we are buying for, and the key is to ensure that the choices are fit for purpose and create the correct image we are trying to present," says director Louise Wymer.
"In each location the requirements are very specific. For instance, in conference and commercial business we look for something that is durable but on-trend to enhance presentation of food. Here, the crockery has to be white to match all other crockery items and offer great presentation for hot and cold counter food display. Alchemy Counterwave from Churchill China fits the bill, consisting of fine white curved pieces designed to slot together and sit within gastronorm chilled counters or to be used free-form on hot decks."
http://www.wmf.uk.com" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Churchill China ](ftp://www.churchillchina.co.uk)01782 524356
020 8391 5544
[Johnsons Stalbridge Linen Services ](http://www.stalbridge-linen.com)01747 857609
[Oneida International ](http://www.oneidafoodservice.co.uk)020 8208 7385
020 8995 1119
[Villeroy & Boch ](http://www.villeroy-boch.com)020 8871 0011