The way we like to eat in restaurants has changed the type of tableware available
here is a new revolution in tableware for the restaurant industry that has the ability to enhance presentation and rationalise stock. The concept of selecting items from different collections— even from different manufacturers—provides a multifunctional approach. A disparate mix of dinnerware, flatware and glassware can give maximum impact with minimum expense; a handle-free espresso cup, for example, can double up as a dessert bowl. With an abundance of fusion food, grazing menus and amuse-bouche on the menu, restaurants can now create unusual presentations by utilising fewer shapes.
To take advantage of this trend, tableware companies are now offering more diverse ranges. “If this had not happened, there would have been an explosion of individual bespoke items which would have been expensive for everyone,” says Tim Harper, global head of hospitality for Wedgwood and Royal Doulton brands. “The influx of continental cuisines has caused restaurateurs and manufacturers alike to seek out and develop more multipurpose items.”
This has become apparent in current tableware ranges, such as the Wedgwood ‘Connaught’; its large-size dish is suitable for pasta, soup, seafood, main meat courses or desserts.
Harper has noticed that this trend appeals to both management and chefs. When his hospitality team begins to spec-out a new restaurant, the chef will “always want a separate canvas” for each dish. New multifunctional tableware now offers equilibrium. “Economics dictate that it is more cost-effective to find items which can do more than one job,” he explains.
This trend encourages restaurateurs to add a personal touch to a restaurant or function, says Kathryn Lombard, associate director of Bates Smart architecture and interior design firm. “Different dinnerware can give an eclectic feel,” she says, noting mismatched wine glasses and different tableware popping up at numerous restaurants. “It even gives owners the opportunity to use family heirlooms—a vintage piece can add character and personality.”
Creative items appeal to both restaurant operators, chefs and customers. The German tableware firm, Schönwald, which is represented in Australia by Crown Commercial, offers pieces such as its sugar bowl with lid, which can also be used for small soups.
“Many of our collections can be mixed and matched among each other, offering a lot of flexibility and room for creativity,” explains Andrea Täuber, international sales director of Schönwald. “It is more convenient, and saves on storage space for the restaurateur, as the same item can be used for several dishes. At the same time, it is surprising for the guests.” Schönwald now offers 15 different shapes, so clients can create their own table setting by combining items of different collections.
“It is more convenient , and saves on cost and storage space for the restaurateur, as the same item can be used for several dishes. At the same time, it is surprising for the guests.” Andrea Täuber, international sales director Schönwald
Versatile ranges from tableware manufacturers have been met with a sigh of relief from many Australian restaurateurs, who were pleading for more diverse ranges since the rise of Mod Oz back in the ’70s. Over the past few years, however, new and exciting chinaware has been a rare commodity due to the global financial crisis. “A lot of manufacturers have elected not to go out there with new cutting-edge products because it’s a massive cost,” notes Alex England, national sales manager of Australian Fine China. “I think that has affected a lot of the market in the past year and a half, where people are basically bunkered down. If you’re a small restaurant that’s not trading very well because of the economic climate, the last thing you are going to do is to go out and spend 15 or 20 grand on chinaware, glassware or cutlery. You’re going to just top up,” explains England.
At Fine Foods Australia in Melbourne last September, as well as recent overseas trade shows, tableware manufacturers had returned with a vengeance. Royal Doulton’s ‘Fusion’ collection is about to launch its ‘Tapas’ range, consisting of three sizes of trays, plus dipper bowls. For Villeroy & Boch, the new ‘Beachcomber’ range was made in Dubai with the latest technology.
“It’s all based on shapes,” says Alex England, who launched the range at the recent Fine Food exhibition. “The concept is basically the ocean, driftwood, and stones that you see on the beach. They have smooth, isometric kind of shapes.”
Citing the rise of new innovative shapes, he says that restaurateurs are “looking for finer shapes, sleek lines, nice weight, fine edges and nice, clean, smooth glaze. I think the point of difference will be that people will start to look for higher quality and finer style of shape.”
Drawing inspiration from nature, elements such as bamboo and wood are still in demand, adding warmth to any space. “I think there is also a trend towards handcrafted, recycled and vintage pieces,” says Kathryn Lombard, whose architecture firm has designed restaurants such as Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Maze. To introduce a strong colour element, resin plates are tactile and perfect for a summer setting, but white has never lost its appeal. “It’s classic and it enhances the appearance of food,” says Lombard, who has also seen a flux of slightly off-white ceramics, such as the dinnerware range by fashion designer Vera Wang for Wedgwood.
Apart from tableware, white is still the popular choice in tablecloths, despite the cost of cleaning. “To cut costs on laundry fees, restaurants are using either paper sheets on top of their current cloths or switching to cotton-coated cloths,” says Kevin Fine, director of Hand Painted by Carmel. Available from his company, these cotton-coated cloths don’t require any laundering and are merely wiped down.
According to Lombard, Bolan napery is a popular choice for contemporary restaurants. “It’s a woven vinyl that’s simply cut and used as placemats,” she explains. “Felt is also being used for placemats, as well as beautifully recycled or handcrafted napery.”
Kevin Fine notes that while traditional white cloths appeal to high-end restaurants, family-type restaurants such as bistros, Italian, Chinese, Lebanese, Mexican, and Mediterranean establishments, prefer a variety of colours in stripes, checks, wash, swirl and plain. “For a personal touch, many restaurateurs like to use their logos on the cloth,” he notes.
Like many elements, tableware can evoke the mood of a restaurant but before selecting ranges, it’s important to collaborate with the chef. As Alex England says, “The plate is the palette for any chef ’s food.”