can communicate your restaurant's brand in seconds, so it pays to choose wisely. Angela Frewin shops the trends
Once, durable white porcelain ruled and table decor reflected the traditions of the cuisine on offer, but now, a plethora of new colours, shapes, materials and textures are vying to help operators stand out - both in-store and on Instagram - accentuating why tableware cannot be a design afterthought.
As Rob Blunderfield, marketing manager at equipment supplier Parsley in Time points out: "The first bite is with the eye, so the saying goes. Just as lighting can be used to create an ambiance, tableware too can be used to set the mood."
"Tableware is an important part of your food proposition and should be enshrined in your marketing plan," agrees Gill Head, marketing manager at Artis. "It is important to first of all suit your tableware to the style of cooking that you are serving, and then to recognise that tableware is a fashion business. You need to keep up with the trends."
There will be plenty of trends served up the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) at its annual forum this May, according to Stephen Goodliff, chair of its light equipment and tableware group: "The big trend in colours for tableware has been natural hues, including greys, taupes and whites. Another key trend is the textured finish, on everything from cutlery to crockery, literally bringing that touch of difference. Similarly, lots of metal products are getting a hammered finish.
Cutting edge "For a long time, it seemed that the only way to stand out with tableware was with crockery," says Paula Sherlock, managing director of Signature FSE. Cutlery is catching up, as brands such as Pinti Inox of Italy develop techniques to offer different colours, finishes, textures and patterns with the same high-standard manufacturing processes. Its new Mystique collection is sandblasted for a modern matt finish that does not show fingermarks, while its StoneWashed range suits a more retro look. Treasure offers mirror-polished gold, bronze or titanium colours, while Alchimique combines the stonewashed texture with metallic colour options added as a PVD (physical vapour deposition). Refined laser decorations on the handle adds sophistication to Pinti Inox's stonewashed TxT range. Nisbet's new Olympia cutlery range, which comes in a Cyprium Copper or Etna Black matt finish, offers a quirky accompaniment to both modern or classic crockery and is fingermark- and dishwasher-proof.
The white stuff White has long been the gold standard for the top-tier restaurant experience. "It provides a completely clean, flat backdrop, so the experience is all about the food," explains Klimecki at Steelite. "We're seeing a strong return to traditional styles, with consumers looking for heritage and retro eating out experiences. That means classic white tableware collections like our Willow range are in vogue, and square shapes are being ditched in favour of round." Willow's wide-rimmed gourmet porcelain plates and bowls are decorated with a raised web texture on the rim, meeting demand for elegant yet hardy tableware. Similarly, Nisbets' Royal Porcelain Maxadura Solaria plate - made with aluminium oxide for strength and chip-resistance - offers a delicate raised pattern on its outer edge. elstern's Delight collection of bone-white, wide-rimmed plates, flat coupe plates, coupe bowls and feature pieces - exclusive to Artis in the UK - combine elegance and durability thanks to an innovative new material, Noble China. This thin, hard porcelain is manufactured without lead, cadmium or animal components and fired at 1,400ÂºC to prevent chipping and glaze damage. Crisp, white table linen remains the best way to create an elegant look and will naturally soften noise levels, recommends Beacon supplier Mitre Linen.
Diary datesSpring Fair, NEC, Birmingham, 4-8 February, www.springfair.com](http://www.springfair.com) CESA Light Equipment and Tableware Forum, Whittlebury Hall, Northamptonshire, 22-23 May
SuppliersAlliance National [www.alliancenational.co.uk ](http://www.alliancenational.co.uk) Artis [www.artis-uk.com](http://www.artis-uk.com) Beacon [www.beaconpurchasing.co.uk ](http://www.beaconpurchasing.co.uk) CESA [www.cesa.org.uk ](http://www.cesa.org.uk) Direct Tableware [www.directtableware.com ](http://www.directtableware.com) Dudson [www.dudson.com ](http://www.dudson.com) KitchenLab [www.kitchenlabuk.com ](http://www.kitchenlabuk.com) Mitre Linen [www.mitrelinen.co.uk ](http://www.mitrelinen.co.uk) Nisbets [www.nisbets.co.uk ](http://www.nisbets.co.uk) Parsley in Time [www.parsleyintime.co.uk ](http://www.parsleyintime.co.uk) Royal Crown Derby [www.royalcrownderby.co.uk ](http://www.royalcrownderby.co.uk) Signature FSE [www.signature-fse.com ](http://www.signature-fse.com) Steelite International [www.steelite.com ](http://www.steelite.com) Zodiac Stainless Products Co [www.zodiacspco.co.uk