Tableware isn’t just a way of getting your fantastic food to your customer, it also says a lot about the kind of business you’re running and can have a huge influence on the impression your diners leave with.
And it can speak volumes about your restaurant or café’s personality—fun and lively, sophisticated and upmarket, innovative and cutting edge.
Keeping up with the latest trends is essential for operators in some parts of the hospitality industry, with chefs and restaurateurs always keeping their eyes out for new designs and ways to present their food that will set them apart from their competitors.
While white plates are the norm in the majority of foodservice business across the country, the trends coming through include dynamic new shapes, and new materials from plain wooden paddles to polished metal. Predictions are too that black for feature plates and bowls, teamed with white base platters, will be a strong trend in the coming year.
And as the small plates and “tapas” style of eating continues to grow manufacturers are continuing to come up with new ideas to present smaller servings of food.
Leading Melbourne chef and restaurateur Teage Ezard says he always tries to stay abreast of new developments to ensure that he is able to stay at the cutting edge and be leading the way in new styles of tableware. “You want to be surprising your customers and being seen as a business that is a bit innovative in the way you do things,” says Ezard, who operates two restaurants, his award-winning fine diner Ezard and his Asian hawker-style restaurant Gingerboy.
“I do it by talking to suppliers, eating out at other restaurants to see what they are doing, travelling, all of those things help you stay aware of the trends. If there is something new out there we want to get our hands on it.”
Ezard’s advice when choosing tableware first and foremost is to buy the best that you can afford for the basic tableware that you are using. “You can get cheaper brands but they won’t last,’ Ezard says. “It also needs to be practical, your wait staff need to be able to carry it safely to the table, and it needs to suit the style of your business.”
While Ezard restaurant features all white tableware the different style of dining at Gingerboy means there is more scope for the use of a greater range of interesting colours and style of tableware, says Ezard.
He sources the tableware from local craftsman Travis Jefferies who runs his business Pot Black. “He does amazing stuff for me. And it looks fantastic. I’d say about two thirds of the crockery at Gingerboy comes from him.
“We have some amazing black soy dishes that we use for other things as well like dressings and relishes.
“It all just suits the kind of restaurant that Gingerboy is while at Ezard we keep it very refined and elegant.”
Ezard’s commitment to white is reflected across the industry, a trend that doesn’t look set to change soon. “Why would you change it?” says Giovanni Pilu, restaurateur and chef at Sydney ‘s Pilu at Freshwater. “Really the food is the star,” says Pilu. “You don't want anything to take away from the food, the focus is always on the food.
“We do use different shapes and sizes of plates for various dishes. We use the classic round as our main plates but for something to be shared in the middle of the table we have a large square platter—that looks better on the table. But I think it is very important too for a table not to be too cluttered.”
Pilu says he is constantly adding to the restaurant’s range of plates and bowls. “We do it to keep it fresh and as we add new dishes we will look at new plates to present them. If we put a new dish on the menu I will speak to our suppliers and tell them about the dish and they will come up with something for me. We will often get a plate expecially to suit it.”
“Or you get ideas from other restaurants. It’s not that you are copying but you just see something you like and is a good idea and you see how you might incorporate that, like you do when you are travelling.”
Interior design trends coming through are pointing to stunning combinations in black and white which are also being reflected in some of the latest tableware and buffet ranges being released, according to distributors.
“In the new Avantgarde range there are innovative new shapes including some stylish black colour-glazed accent pieces and a big range of tiny dishes and bowls ideal for the current tapas stule menus and share platters,” says Gail Leith from Foodservice Equipment International (FEI).
“Black accent pieces are ideal for updating existing tableware withgoing to the expense of replacing all the tableware.”
“Imagine a square black side plate use in combination with similia coupe shaped white dinner plate or three tiny appetiser dishes atop a black chinaware underliner. The look is very contemporary.”
In some restaurants they are doing away with plates for some dishes. At the fashionanle new DOC Pizza and Mozzarella Bar in Melbourne they are using wooden paddles to serve up antipasto and dishes of prosciutto and mozzarella.
As well there is some sleek metal looks coming through that can create a different look for a table or buffet. Brisbane-based supplier Gibpat has just released to the market a range of hammered metal tableware ranging from large brush metal bowls to small tear-shaped dishes. The hammered finishes are designed to compliment both glass and chinaware.
One of the more different-looking ranges coming through as well in china is the new Zingana range from Villeroy & Boch.
It offers a very unique change featuring an elegaant wood-look finish combined with the classic white china of the rest of the pieces.
They range includes everything from a coupe flat plate that is entirely covered with the wood finish to others that just include the wood feature around the edges.