Your tableware speaks volumes about your restaurant, so make sure you're on-trend when it comes to tempting diners, says Kathy Bowry
So, what's out there? Nostalgia is still playing a major role, although enamel pieces aren't quite as 'new' as they were a year ago and slate is getting a bit passé as it becomes more mainstream. Pots and pans are shrinking and being used to present foodstuffs on the table - and chrome and copper abound. Rustic is still popular and there aren't many suppliers who don't have a roughly hewn organic shape or two to farm out to clients.
Tableware is key to the design and branding of a venue. The style of tableware not only influences the guest but also the chefs, as it gives them the tools to present food in-keeping with the style of the restaurant. Some restaurants offer a much wider variety of food than others - and they also vary dramatically in size - so there is no single solution that fits them all.
Technology also has its part to play in spreading the message about how on-trend your establishment is. There are currently more than 180 million posts on Instagram tagged with 'food', so with this in mind it has never been more important to have an appealing tableware offering, says Liz Snowball, consumables buyer at Beacon.
"With trends in the hospitality industry constantly changing and evolving, it can be difficult and costly for operators to keep up. We work closely with our leading suppliers, Lockhart Catering Equipment and Alliance, to identify trends and offer businesses methods of implementing a tableware range that is attractive, as well as cost-effective," she says.
Gill Head, marketing manager at tableware supplier Artis, believes it is fair to say that the relaxed styles of tableware more commonly found in casual-dining establishments are infiltrating more formal spaces. "The re-emergence of colour and the continuance of a somewhat rustic theme are key trends for 2016. This can be seen in the new Ombré collection of tableware from Tafelstern. Ombré offers a modern twist on the rustic theme with vibrant colours. The brightly coloured rims fade towards the centre of each piece, creating a look that is easy on the eye."
The Artis collection is offered in coral, violet and brown and comprises plates in three different sizes, including coupe plates, small dishes and large, deep coupe plates perfect for serving pasta and Ottolenghi-style salads.
Head also says the trend towards sharing platters and tapas-style small plates is now firmly established in the casual-dining sector, and elements of this are now being seen in more formal venues.
Quirky ways to serve terrines, pÁ¢tés, dips have been developed by Luigi Bormioli in its new Lock Eat solution. The collection is a new range of transparent glass jars and carafes especially designed to enable chefs to more easily can, preserve and serve food.
Dudson's rustic-themed Harvest range is now available in all-white. The range has proved popular globally for the company with its rustic imperfections. Dan Goodall, design director at Dudson, says: "You can create your own style by mixing Harvest White, Classic, Flair, Curve, Style and Geometrix pieces - there's a range of items perfect for a sharing menu or street and bowl food and Harvest is bang on trend for today's dining styles. There is an increasing demand for less formal ways of presenting, especially for sharing platters and dip bowls that can be used with them."
Jars Plume coloured
For those who want to experience the real hand-thrown article, Sytch Farm Studios, run by husband and wife team Jon and Gill Thompson can oblige. Michelin-starred Tom Kerridge became an early customer, first buying plates for use at home and later placing an order for his restaurant the Hand & Flowers. He continues to be a brand ambassador and Sytch now supplies a number of high-profile restaurants. Gill Thomson says: "My qualifications in ceramics are fantastic, of course, but Tom Kerridge saying I make a nice pot meant so much more to me."
Heather Brooks, sales director at Primeware Ceramics, says: "For us, the main growth area is tableware for finger foods, either in porcelain or melamine. This would appear to be a direct consequence of the growing trend towards 'grab and go' and street food. These trends have led to consumers becoming far more comfortable with eating with their hands and this relaxed attitude is now finding its way into formal dining environments."
She says colours remain a strong influence, along with demand for interesting shapes. "In line with this, and the trend for traditional pottery with a contemporary twist, we have just launched some amazing shapes and colours as part of our new hand-painted porcelain series."
Jamie Wright, UK and Ireland communications manager at SCA Hygiene Products, Tork, explains about a recent in-house 'BrainTracking' experiment conducted on diners, which showed that they reacted to colour.
Green had a positive effect on their wellbeing while yellow, although it can induce feelings of fun, can also induce stress. White, meanwhile, was said to be good for business meetings.
"To be able to match different coloured tableware to different hospitality environments is a real game-changer, and it means we are able to advise operators of exactly the right tableware to suit their operations. To support the research, we have created a complete new range of table-top products, such as napkins, tableware, dispenser napkins and custom-print solutions - available in a colour palette of 20 colours. The colours have been selected based on customers' most popular choices."
Metal presentation from Beacon
Best Western Monkbar Hotel recently implemented a new range of tableware for its recently opened restaurant concept, Yorkshire Bar and Grill.
General manager Graham Usher says: "When selecting the crockery we worked closely with Beacon and Lockhart Catering Equipment to ensure that our tableware complemented our decor and the whole thing worked together to offer a quality experience for our diners.
"We opted for a core range of white crockery, so that we can add to it or change it around as much as we liked with minimal interference in the running of the business."
Luigi Bormioli's Lock Eat range
CESA on a plate
According to Stephen Goodliff, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association's (CESA) Light Equipment and Tableware Group, which recently held a distributors training day complete with new products and ideas from its supplier members, breakfast is a big growth area and afternoon tea is still on the rise.
He also points to 'chameleon bars' which may well be breakfast cafés in the morning, business lunch venues from noon, tea rooms in the afternoon, then cocktail bars, brasseries and even clubs as the evening wears on.
Miniature versions of cooking pans in copper, cast iron, chromed and heavy aluminium abounded for quirky table service and food presentation, and the rustic and industrial themes we have seen develop over the past few years also figured large. For example, T&G Woodware has developed the Tuscany range of lacquered acacia wood platters that can hold a variety of different shaped plates. The company also fielded attractive mini wooden crates designed for salt and pepper mills.
Artis tasting bowl
Contacto had some quirky ring pull-cans for presentation akin to sardine tins as well as a range of new cutlery and plenty of chromed and copper-skinned utensils. Grunwerg presented several ranges of cutlery, including Yin and Yang in stainless steel with 'ivory' black or white handles made of hard-wearing resin.
Meanwhile, Neville targets the casual-dining sector, responding to demand for different materials and flashes of colour for table tops. New products include ellipse plates, "Old English" cutlery and art deco-style glassware. Elsewhere, delicate crystal balloon stemmed glasses (Elia) vied for space with jam jars and chunky "gothic" glasses in any colour you can think of - and black (DRH).
David Everitt-Matthias, chef-proprietor of Le Champignon Sauvage, recently used CCS-sourced tableware to frame his signature dishes in a photoshoot. Here, his creation lies cradled in Gifre's beautifully crafted terracotta 'Nest' bowl.
"Once you've got the flavours and textures right, you can play with presentation," Everitt-Matthias says. "For example, a small plate makes the ingredients look bigger and a larger one makes them look smaller. Does the plate echo the ingredients? Does it help with the textures of the dish? All of these things need to be taken into consideration."
Lockhart Catering Eqipment
Cookplay Yayoi, four-piece set