Tip-top tabletops with dinnerware that reflects current trends are guaranteed to increase the feel-good factor for diners, which means profits for operators. Kathy Bowry reports on what's hot
The UK is a great follower of North American trends, and Julian Williams, managing director of EveryWare, provider of tabletop solutions across the pond, has identified four trends he believes will migrate over here: ‘experience' dining, interesting textures and finishes on crocks, multiple use of tableware, and a fascination with retro items reminiscent of the 20th century.
"With less money to go around, consumers are now craving a true dining experience on the occasions when they do eat out-of-home. Quality table and glassware and savvy settings can help to create the right ambience. EveryWare is the largest supplier of dinnerware to North America and supplies Oneida, as well as the Sant' Andrea cutlery range and glassware by Anchor Hocking.
"As a canvas, white presents the food beautifully, yet textures, finishes and colours, inspired by the rise of Scandinavian tableware and restaurant concepts like Noma, are increasingly finding favour, and this is where Sant' Andrea Trapeze dinnerware will add a real point of difference.
Created by the English design team of David Queensberry and Martin Hunt, Trapeze incorporates delicate embossing and crisp lines. Every round item in the Trapeze range also comes with a limited five-year no-chip warranty."
Retro and vintage design, Williams says, is especially for younger consumers who enjoy reaching back into the 20th century for inspiration.
"With the 2013 Horizons QuickBite survey revealing that it is 18 to 35-year-olds driving the eating out market, this is one trend we can't ignore. We are seeing a real fashion for heavy, baroque ornaments, silver-plating and even gold detailing entering the cutlery market. This is much more about vintage identity than formality, though."
Over at Dudson, design director Dan Goodall agrees with Williams on multi-use pieces. Goodall says his company's latest addition to its range of tableware, Modus, can be used for any course on the menu.
"It fits effortlessly into any establishment at any level of dining and its uses are limitless - tapas, tasters, bar menus, functions, parties, buffets, sharing, or any course on the menu. Chefs love it because of this flexibility. The different sizes of serving area and mix and match options mean that they can change menus or serving styles but still use Modus.
"With the introduction of Deep Modus, the options have been expanded with the potential to serve sauces and create height in serving; it's a style favoured by many of today's chefs."
Nick Green, national sales and marketing manager of Villeroy & Boch, says V&B's Affinity product is equally flexible with unusual articles, such as the compartment platters with cloches and the versatile tiered server designed to be used for luxury afternoon teas, lounge snacks with club sandwiches and chips or Asian gourmet menus.
Antony Ward, marketing manager at CCS, Bunzl Speciality Businesses, says: "If establishments are looking for quirkier products that really make diners perform a double-take, we have two new brands that may be of some interest. Crucial Detail and MealPlak from CCS really do ring the changes in cutting-edge tableware."
Chef Ben Spalding, director and co-founder of Creative Belly, says: "Not only was Crucial Detail created by one of the few chefs I find truly inspiring - Grant Acahtz of Alinea Restaurant in Chicago - but it also sets me the challenge of incorporating my food into the range, putting my own spin on the food and the equipment. I'm always trying to find new ways of doing things and the Crucial Detail range allows me to do just this."
Ian Parsons, Lockhart's regional sales director for the South, says: "In the past couple of years end-users have sought differentiation, which has helped British manufacturers to gain back ground previously lost to cheaper imports with innovation to meet the growing needs for casual dining and street food with rustic finishes and distressed looks. The 2012 London Olympics allowed our own manufacturers to shine, with Dudson producing a special square plate for Sodexo featuring the Thames.
"Right now we are seeing a demand for operators to show a real homely and almost nostalgic feel with tableware which has a white-enamel tin effect with the blue edging, which harks back to the 1940s. Churchill and Steelite are both producing crockery with this effect that doesn't chip."
Henry Stephenson, managing director at specialist supplier Stephensons, says: "Falcon's enamelware oven-to-tableware is experiencing something of a retro revival. The 1970s-inspired pie dishes are ideal for serving sharing foods; for a quirky addition, the tin mug can double up as a novelty chip mug."
Like Parsons, Stephenson is a fan of Churchill's Retro Blue range: "It embraces the simplicity of Falcon's enamelware on a super-vitrified body, mixing retro and modern tableware choices."
Over at Steelite a survey by the company reveals that restaurants, cafés and hotels risk losing out on profits and repeat business by ignoring table presentation, which plays a vital role with 81% of respondents in choosing where to dine out.
A new elephant grey colour has been added to Steelite's Craft range, specifically developed to make dishes more appealing by enhancing the colour and tone of food. Each rustic-looking Craft item is hand-decorated, so no two pieces are the same, and the range is covered by a lifetime edge-chip warranty.
Kathy Birch, marketing manager at Artis, has observed a noticeable shift towards accent pieces with subtly coloured matt glazes, Japanese-inspired glazes and tactile finishes. She explains: "We are seeing a strong trend towards the use of natural materials, including bamboo and slate used as a serving platter, with porcelain pieces for presentation with a more handcrafted feel, in particular for sharing dishes like sushi, tapas and antipasti."
Nick Oryino, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), offers his tableware advice.
"The choice of tableware varieties is vast, from porcelain, bone or fine china through earthenware and ironstone to glass and even plastics. It's all down to budget, style and usage.
"Tableware is often called 'china'. Technically, china refers to vitrified porcelain ware. Most china intended for foodservice use goes by the term 'hotelware' - a fully vitrified, hard, glossy finish with very low porosity (less than 5%) and high-impact resistance.
"Earthenware and ironstone are semi-vitrified products that are fired at relatively low temperatures. They have a porosity of 5-15% and are easily chipped. Relatively cheap to buy, they are mostly found in the retail sector but do find their way into commercial settings.
"Several manufacturers make tableware out of glass that is strengthened and coloured to look like china. It has a low porosity, good resistance to chipping and breakage and is becoming popular throughout the restaurant sector.
"In recent years plastics have made major inroads into the commercial foodservice industry. Plastic has very low porosity, high resistance to breakage
and chipping, comes in a large variety of colours, is lightweight and its relatively low price makes it ideal for establishments looking for economical and functional tableware.
"Natural slate platters are oiled so they are waterproof and stain-resistant, and some have rubber feet for stability. Bamboo boards, for cutting or serving,
are gaining in popularity as they are environmentally friendly and food-safe, even if scored."
Vollrath Beehive serving bowls from Foodservice equipment marketing
These Beehive bowls are ideal for both hot and cold foods. The double-wall air-filled construction of the heavy 18-8 gauge stainless steel bowls provides insulation to help maintain food temperatures.
MealPlak from CCS
MealPlak from CCS is a combination of cast resins that have an ultra-thin underside casting, allowing the base colour to diffuse through the plate. This provides an effect
that is both frosted and matt, and is smooth and soft to the touch. Small scratches can be repaired - humidify the Plak and pass an abrasive pad over it. They can be manually polished using a non-woven suede or felt cloth and a light vegetable oil.
Collateral for caterers
John Symonds, a member of the Catering Equipment Distributors Association (CEDA) and managing director of Worcestershire-based Acorn Catering Equipment, provides a distributor's view of the scene.
"While we have had a steady demand for wooden items such as presentation boards and charger plates, the demand for slate display trays has been virtually non-existent. This is probably because a high percentage of our customers are either local authority establishments, such as schools or nursing and residential homes, where such items would not normally be used.
"The main change I have noticed over recent years is the much reduced demand for patterned crockery. These days we find that most customers opt for plain white. In the past we would source this from the likes of Churchill or Steelite. Unfortunately, most people choose lower-priced imported crockery as opposed to better-quality British-made ranges.
"As for cutlery, most customers opt either for bog-standard cheap and cheerful plain cutlery or the more well-known traditional so-called parish patterns. Customers may hesitate to buy a more unusual (and probably more expensive) pattern in case, a few years down the line, it is no longer available to match up to their existing cutlery.
"Sales of menu covers and place mats, often badged for the customer, have fallen off quite significantly. I suspect these days caterers are more likely to print and laminate their own menus rather than use the old-fashioned PVC or leather covers with inserts. I have also noticed that many pubs don't use place mats at all. Perhaps their tables are more heat and stain-resistant."
Artis 020 8391 5544 www.artis-uk.com
CCS 0808 1001 777 www.chefs.net
Churchill 01782 577566 www.churchill1795.com
Dudson 01782 819337 www.dudson.com
EveryWare 020 8450 8900 Foodservice@EveryWare.co.uk
FEM 01355 244111 www.fem.co.uk
Lockhart 03701 678 678 www.lockhartcatering.co.uk
Nisbets 0845 1405555 www.nisbets.co.uk
Steelite 01782 821000 www.steelite.com
Stephensons 0161 483 6256 www.stephensons.com
Villeroy & Bochwww.villeroy-boch.com/en/gb/professionals.html