Sustainable Restaurant Practices Outside the Kitchen

Our recent post, Environmental Sustainability Inside the Kitchen, outlined tried and true techniques for reducing your carbon footprint inside the fast-paced commercial kitchen environment. This post seeks to further elaborate on practices restaurants can readily embrace to continue sustainable efforts outside of the kitchen.

Sustainable practices are not only necessary for the well-being of the planet, but they’re also in demand. Nielsen reports that 75% of the millennial generation, and more than 50% of Baby Boomers, are willing to pay more for products and services that make a positive impact on the environment. From the dining room to the restroom and beyond, these options are easy to incorporate into day-to-day operations.

Sustainability in the Dining Room

Here are just a few ways your foodservice can enhance its environmental preservation efforts in the dining room.

Use recyclable or reusable cutlery and utensils.

Say no to single-use products such as plastic dinnerware, flatware or to-go containers. If your restaurant currently relies on single-use items, switch to products that can be recycled or composted. Most plastics won’t decompose in a landfill. Fortunately, some manufacturers, like Packnwood, have started making eco-friendly single-use items that are biodegradable.

Phase out straws.

It’s estimated that every day in America, consumers plow through more than 500 million straws! Most plastic straws are not heavy enough to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter, and too many end up polluting the ocean and harming marine life. Instead of offering every customer a straw, implement a new policy that only grants straws upon request. You may be surprised by how fewer straws you hand out.

PackNWood 210CHP19 Eco Straws

PackNWood Eco Straws, Central Model #18M-441, are made out of paper instead of plastic and are biodegradable and compostable!

Opt for cloth over paper.

Paper napkins are another popular single-use item that can be avoided, especially in sit-down establishments. Cloth napkins are washable and can be reused for years!

Replace old incandescent lights with more efficient ones.

Incandescent lights are not energy efficient by any stretch of the imagination. They operate based on heat, a piece of wire shielded by a glass enclosure that passes along an electrical current that gets so hot that light radiates. What does this mean in terms of energy efficiency? Less than 5% of the energy used is converted into visible light.LED light

LED lights (an acronym for Light Emitting Diodes), on the other hand, are a much better, sustainability-promoting solution. Instead of operating on heat, LED bulbs use diodes, a semiconductor device, to pass on the electrical current to produce the same lumens as incandescent bulbs while using a mere 10-20% of the energy. A lot of science talk, we know. Bottom line, they save energy, lowering utility costs and are a much more sustainable alternative. Another pro – they can last for years without needing to be replaced!

Print menus on recycled paper.

This is a very simple, yet effective way to make use of what would otherwise be trash while showcasing your commitment to helping the planet.

Sustainability in the Restrooms

In addition to the dining room setting, restrooms are another common area in restaurants where efficiencies can be implemented to reduce your carbon footprint.

Replace paper towels with energy efficient hand dryers.

It’s estimated that we use 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year in the United States alone! Replacing paper towels with an energy efficient hand dryer is a sure-fire way to enhance sustainability. Many hand dryer manufacturers – such as Excel Dryer, manufacturer of the popular Excel Xlerator dryers – make both a standard and eco-friendly line of dryers, so it’s in your best interest to do a little research on each model’s energy consumption first. For more information on hand dryers, check out our buying guide here.

This video illustrates the difference between standard and eco-friendly hand dryers:

Offer hand towels.

If you’re looking for another alternative besides installing hand dryers, change out the trash can for a laundry hamper and replace disposable paper towels with hand towels.

Install motion-sensors for lights and fans.

This will ensure energy is only being used when people are in the restroom. Lights and fans left on all day substantially increase energy consumption and utility costs.

Additional Sustainable Enhancements

Add some plants!

Not only do they add some extra aesthetic appeal, but plants absorb carbon dioxide, keeping the air clean. Certain plants are better for indoor spaces, such as the areca plant, snake plant (also referred to as mother-in-law’s tongue) or money plant. Whether you decide to add some in the corner of your restaurant or as a centerpiece on the table, they will purify the air and detoxify the space.

Upcycling

This relatively new term implies the reuse of a product for a different purpose. Some creative examples include:

  • Repurposing empty bottles to make tabletop vases or decor
  • Creating pet toys out of branded items – like old employee t-shirts – to donate to shelters instead of just throwing away

Company Car

If your business caters and uses a company vehicle to do so, invest in an eco-friendly car! Look for features like a lightweight design, high gas mileage, hybrid or electric mode, efficient air filtration systems, etc.

When it comes to implementing environmental sustainability within your restaurant, there are no limits. The more creative you allow yourself to be, the more options you’ll find. Don’t forget to share your efforts with your community to let your valued guests know you’re committed to reducing your carbon footprint! Change doesn’t happen overnight, but with increased awareness and continual small changes, we can all make a difference!

Sustainable Kitchen Practices

Environmental Sustainability Inside the Kitchen

Decisions made by commercial businesses can have a huge impact on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 11% of total U.S. emissions are contributed by the commercial and residential sectors.

With increases in the millennial generation’s spending share, there is also an observable demand for sustainable offerings. Nielsen reports approximately 75% of millennials are willing to pay more for products and services that make an effort to positively impact and preserve the environment. Likewise, more than half of the Baby Boomer generation are also willing to support companies in this endeavor.

There are quick and easy changes that can readily be made to drastically impact the environment for the better. All it takes is a bit of knowledge, planning and implementation.

Sustainability Inside the Kitchen

Restaurants can immediately start incorporating environmentally friendly efforts inside their commercial kitchen space. As a quick example, no piece of commercial equipment is immortal. Sooner or later it’ll become outdated or will no longer provide the performance necessary to run an efficient business. There are options for ensuring the replacement process is as waste-free as possible.

When getting rid of an old piece of equipment, first consider selling it to a company specializing in the reuse, refurbishment or recycling of commercial products. Finding such a company is as simple as a quick Google search. Here are just a few:

Energy StarTaking a proactive approach when shopping for new equipment can also have a strong impact, not only on your business’s environmental footprint, but also on the bottom line. Implementing certain keywords, like Energy Star, into your search is a tried and true strategy. Products that are Energy Star rated have been purposefully designed to optimize resources so that less is consumed each time the equipment is used. Many Energy Star certified commercial dishwashers, for instance, use less water consumption per rack than their traditional counterparts, and are up to 40% more energy efficient. This not only assists in sustainability efforts, but lowers long term utility costs associated with the product. Depending on the state you reside, there may also be certain Energy Star rebates applicable to your purchase.

In addition for searching for that Energy Star label, there are several other factors to consider.

1. Water Consumption

When analyzing dishwashers and other high water-consuming equipment, look at how much water is used per rack. Energy Star depicts efficient water consumption at 0.89 gallons per rack, which means any amount up to that point is extremely efficient.

2. Natural vs. LP Gas

When perusing the options for commercial cooking equipment, you’re likely to see options for Natural Gas or LP (liquid propane). Though both offer their unique sets of benefits, LP gas actually provides up to two-and-a-half times more energy output than natural gas, meaning less is needed to produce the same amount. LP gas has also garnered the reputation of “green fuel” because of its nonexistent toxicity to the environment. Natural gas, on the other hand, is considered a greenhouse gas – a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation. In other words, not an ideal solution for enhanced sustainability.

3. Conventional vs. Convection

Conventional ovens cook food by radiating direct heat from the top and bottom of the oven box to the food. Convection ovens heat by circulating forced hot air around the food. This more quickly and evenly cooks the product, making convection ovens the more efficient and sustainable option. Since foods can be heated quicker, the temperature can be set lower – typically by 25°F – thus consuming less energy.

4. Refrigerant Type

The type of refrigerant a piece of equipment uses is often an overlooked factor when searching for environmentally friendly products. Many products use refrigerants made of CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons) which expel pollutants that can have a negative impact on the ozone. Instead, look for equipment that use less damaging HFC (hydrofluorocarbons) refrigerants. True is one major refrigeration brand that has embraced this change.

5. Cookware Size

The size of the commercial cookware used in preparing meals serves as another important energy-saving aspect. When utilizing an electric stove-top, be cognizant of the size of the pots and pans. If you’re using a smaller pan on a larger burner, you’re wasting heat. The US Department of Energy has found that so much as a 2-inch difference between pan and burner size could waste as much as 40% of heat.

Remember the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Perhaps one of the simplest ways your restaurant can be eco-friendly is by enforcing good recycling habits. Keep recycling bins accessible in your kitchen and be sure to recycle plastic and paper scraps, and anything else your local recycling center accepts. If the center requires recyclables to be separated, simply add another bin and mark it for such.

Rubbermaid 3 Stream Recycling Bin

Rubbermaid 3-Stream Recycling Bin; Central Model #972-5C3

When implementing new recycling bins, post signs that inform what types of items can be recycled to better ensure non-recyclables stay out. It is extremely important that your staff is careful about what they put in. If they throw in a material not listed, like certain plastics or food, the recycling plant may not be able to process the bin and your recycling efforts could be wasted.

Composting

The National Restaurant Association reports that restaurants throw away 10% of the food they buy. This translates to 15% (or roughly 20 billion pounds!) of all food waste in landfills. Composting is a simple and beneficial way to reduce food waste and avoid environmental harm. Benefits of composting include:

  • Returns valuable nutrients back to the soil, enhancing plant growth
  • Provides a natural fertilizer that won’t burn plants like some chemical fertilizers
  • Improves air circulation in the soil
  • Retains soil moisture, reducing the need to water as frequently

Food scraps in any restaurant are inevitable, but composting offers a way to rid of them while making a positive contribution. If your restaurant grows its own food, composting on site is a perfect opportunity to promote a better ecosystem. If your restaurant doesn’t have the need or desire to compost on site, find an organics collection service or other composting facility nearby to take in your food waste and properly compost it.

This hotel uses composting to process food waste as a way to reuse food scraps to enhance their restaurant quality:

Tidy Planet ROCKET Food Waste Composter from Tidy Planet on Vimeo.

It is as important as ever to promote sustainability in business practices, and restaurants have several unique opportunities to do so. By recycling the old and purchasing energy efficient equipment, your restaurant can significantly reduce its carbon footprint. Simply by instilling everyday habits like using the right size cookware or composting scraps and food waste can result in a substantial impact.

If you enjoyed this post on sustainable techniques inside the kitchen environment, you may also like our post on readily implementable efforts outside the kitchen, including eco-friendly enhancements to the dining room and restroom.

10 Reasons to Buy an Arctic Industries Walk-In Cooler

Arctic Industries

Since 1981, Arctic Industries has been among the premier walk-in cooler manufacturers in the U.S. They offer quality walk-ins at an outstanding value.

Here are 10 reasons to purchase an Arctic Industries walk-in cooler.

Arctic Blue Line Walk-Ins

At Central Restaurant Products, we carry Arctic’s Blue Line series of walk-ins which have been designed to provide quick delivery at a low cost.

Blue Line walk-ins feature NSF listed panels with Acrylume finish, which minimizes fingerprints and oxidation. An inside safety release is included to prevent lock-ins. Doors include 24″H diamond tread kick-plates. All self-contained units include hot gas condensate, which means no plumbing connection is required!

Arctic at Central

Shop Arctic’s Blue Line at Central today. Don’t forget, all units ship free within the contiguous United States! If you have any questions, our Product Consultants are here to help. Call 800-215-9293 for more information.

Induction Cooking

Induction Cooking: How Can It Help Your Restaurant?

The basic methods of cooking have remained the same throughout history – apply heat to food. Most cooking methods today are done in an oven or on a cook top, with the classic cook top being either gas or electric. However, a third option for cook top cooking is quickly growing in popularity: induction cooking.

Induction Cooking is the process of heating a cooking vessel (the pot or pan holding the food) through magnetic induction rather than from a flame or an electrical heating element.

Induction Cooking

Induction cooking was first introduced in the early 1900s, but struggled to grow in popularity due to high price tags and foreign technologies. Advances in technology and manufacturing in the last few decades have highlighted the advantages of induction cooking, and price tags have become more reasonable as competition increases.

The main difference between induction cooking and tradition cooking is how the food is heated. Traditional cooking requires heat – a flame or electrical heating element. A pan is set on this heat source, which heats the pan, and then heats the food inside. With induction cooking, the element itself does not warm. Instead, electromagnetic properties in the element interact with induction specific pans, which heats the pan, and then heats the food inside.

Induction: Pan Warms when in Contact with Element –> Cooks food

Traditional: Element warms –> Warms pan –> Cooks food

Induction cook tops are great solutions for many operations, but it is important to understand the good and the bad new equipment, and how they compare to that of traditional cooking options.

Induction Advantages

  • Speed
    • Induction cook tops boil water almost twice as fast as a gas range. How? Induction captures about 90% of the heat generated in the pan compared to 40% and 70% with a gas and electric cook top.
  • Safety
    • With no flame, there’s no grease fires. No combustion. No gas leaks. In a similar fashion, electric stove top elements get extremely hot and can easily burn operators.
    • Induction cook tops only get warm because the pan is hot – just as any surface would that a hot pan is on.
  • Cleanliness
    • Smooth, ceramic-glass plate is easy to wipe down. Element stays relatively cool through the cooking process so food does not “burn” onto the element.
  • Energy Saving
    • Induction cooking requires specific cookware where the magnetic energy heats the pan, then heats the food. Traditional cook tops heat the element, which heats the pans, which heats the food. Less energy usage means lower utility bills.
  • Precision
    • Gas cooking is often sought after because of the ability to easily control the heat to the food. Induction offers even more precise cooking than gas – no m ore burn spots!

Induction Disadvantages

  • Price
    • Because the technology is relatively new, induction cook tops are more expensive than traditional cook tops. However as the demand increases, more competition will increase efficiencies and drive the price down.
  • Cookware
    • Induction cook tops require specific cookware that contains iron that will react with the magnetic field.
  • Sound
    • At high settings, the cook top can make a hum or buzz sound from either the vibration from the magnetic field or a warped bottom of a pan.
  • Scratches
    • The glass top of induction cook tops is fragile just like an electric cook top. Carefully set down heavy cookware and avoid sliding around cookware with a rough bottom.
  • Repairs
    • Because the technology is relatively new, repairs will be more expensive when necessary.

Induction Cooking

The needs of every operator are different and each type of cook top has advantages and disadvantages. Still not sure if induction is the right choice for you? Speak with one of our helpful product consultants at 800.215.9293 and browse all induction products from top vendors with Central!

Turbo Air: Creating Energy-Efficient Commercial Refrigeration

Turbo Air

If you’re In the market for new commercial refrigeration and are looking to save money on energy use, look no further than Turbo Air. Turbo Air strives for less energy consumption and better performance throughout their line of commercial refrigerators and freezers, while keeping the size of the compressor the same.

Central Restaurant Products has Turbo Air’s full line of refrigeration products to help you find the solutions you need at competitive prices. Oh, and free shipping too!

Why Choose Turbo Air?

Turbo Air equipment includes several energy efficient technologies that save you money on utilities and prolong the life of your equipment. In fact, they have over 80 products qualified under the latest Energy Star guidelines. By purchasing Energy Star rated equipment, you could qualify for rebates from your utility company.

Other benefits include:

Self-Cleaning Condenser System

Turbo Air units are known for their self-cleaning condensers. When you have a high traffic area that produces a lot of dust, the ability of the condenser from properly reducing heat becomes compromised. This results in lessened efficiency. The self-cleaning condenser system cleans the condenser using a rotating brush that moves up and down 2-3 times per day. This prevents any dust build-up, which keeps your unit running efficiently.

Energy Saving Fan Controller

Every refrigerator has a fan motor, which runs continuously throughout the day to circulate cold air. The fan generates a lot of heat when in use. When the compressor is not running, that means the fan can start circulating warm air instead of cold.

To combat this, each Turbo Air refrigerator has a fan controller, which is used to strategically stop the fan motor from running once an increase in temperature is detected within the unit. This can translate into 15% to 25% in overall energy savings, as well as an increase in the lifespan of the compressor.

Larger Condensers

For higher efficiency, Turbo Air uses condensers sized 10% to 20% larger than the industry standard more efficiently draw heat from your condenser coils.

LED Interior Lighting

Turbo Air units use LED interior lighting, which not only are more energy efficient, but also use optimal light angles for enhancing your display effects.

Shop Central

Ready to purchase Turbo Air? Central has their full selection on our website!

If you are in need of assistance, our Product Consultants are here to help answer any of your questions. Give them a call at 800-215-9293 or chat with them live now.

To request a free catalog, speak to your Product Consultant or request your free copy.

Everpure Logo

Everpure Keeps Restaurant Water Clean: Vendor Spotlight

Everpure believes that the health of the world depends on reliable access to clean water. As an industry leader of water filters, Everpure provides solutions for beverages taste, equipment protection and operational cost savings. A customer’s first impression of the dining experience in a restaurant is the water – make it exceptional water. 

Everpure Filtration
Improve Beverage Taste

A customer sits down excited for a great meal. They are greeted by their waiter with a glass of water, but there’s a problem…. their water is cloudy and has a strange taste. If the water is not clean, then how can the couple trust the quality of the food? The couple looks at each other and decides to find a different place to eat with clean water.

Everpure helps operators deliver clean, crisp and refreshing water that customers will love to drink. This fresh water is what makes the coffee, tea, and fountain drinks also taste delicious. Consistently great tasting drinks will keep customers coming back for more. So, how do Everpure filters clean the water?

  • Reduces chlorine, chloramines and unwanted chemicals
  • Decreases harmful contaminants
  • Minimize particulates that cause cloudy water

Protect Equipment

Steam cooking equipment has grown in popularity in recent years due to being user-friendly, the ability to cook large batches at a time, and the delicate results of food produced. However, the issue with steam cooking is the maintenance of the equipment. Regardless of whether the equipment is boiler-less or boiler-based, contaminants are left behind when water is converted to steam. These contaminants can cause scale and corrosion, which can lead to abrasion, clogging and corrosion.

Utilizing clean water to run the steam equipment is essential for efficient performance and a long life for the equipment. Everpure offers a range of systems to ensure clean water for this equipment. These systems:

  • Remove chlorine and minerals that cause damage
  • Improve efficiency and reduce breakdown
  • Allow for fewer delimings
  • Lower energy and maintenance costs
  • Extend the life of your equipment investment

To find the right filter for any piece of equipment, utilize Everpure’s sizing guide here!

Everpure Filter

Make The Move

Browse online for all filters offered by Everpure and talk with one of our helpful product consultants at 800.215.9293 for personalized assistance!

 

Lakeside Foodservice Food Cart

Vendor Spotlight: Lakeside

With over 70 years of experience, Lakeside’s focus has remained centered on helping operators tackle tomorrow’s challenges. A diverse range of product lines helps operators transport, store, heat, cool, serve, dispense, organize, display and merchandise with the option for custom designs that fit your unique set up. Lakeside is dedicated to bringing innovative, sustainable and efficient equipment to the foodservice industry. Simply put, Lakeside is here to simplify your operations.

Utility and Bussing CartsLakeside Utility Cart

Lakeside offers utility carts in every size, style, and construction type that your operation needs. These carts are ideal for transporting heavy ingredients, dirty dishes during catering events, or every day service set up. Lakeside offers construction of durable stainless steel or plastic. Also, add on’s of silverware boxes and waste containers are also available to allow operators to customize their utility cart. Cart designs are thoughtfully made to ensure easy maneuvering. Many carts include features such as bumpers to protect walls, non-marking wheels, and ergonomic handles. The perfect utility carts!

Do you know what weight capacity your operation needs?

Carts Weight Capacity

 

Food Bars & Portable Bars

Lakeside Foodservice Food Carts

Portable food carts and bars from Lakeside give operators the ability to serve breakfast, snacks, drinks, and more from anywhere! Most carts feature durable welded stainless steel construction with stainless steel serving tops and insulated ice bins. The carts are easy to move with heavy-duty casters and easy-grip handles. Additionally, bumpers are featured on many carts to protect walls and furniture when maneuvering. Carts are customizable with various laminate finishes and graphic front panels. Because of all these fantastic features, the carts are perfect for breakfast at elementary schools, snack cart in a hospital, or anything else your operation may need!

Pan Racks

Lakeside Pan Racks

Pan racks are durable and efficient storage systems that are perfect for every kind of operation. The pan racks hold and transport sheet pans and trays safely on a variety of available casters including 4″ economical and 5″ heavy duty. Also, most models are made of welded stainless steel construction to withstand continual use.

 

Time to Shop!

Safely transport and store food with the plethora of Lakeside products available. Browse their full product offering online or call one of our helpful product consultants at 800.215.9293 for one on one help!

 

 

Dinnerware Material: China vs. Plastic

Deciding which type of dinnerware to feature in your food service operation can be daunting. There’s just so many options to choose from and several questions to ask. Will it coordinate with the current setup? Can it enhance the dining room ambiance? Will it withstand heavy use, or will it need replaced frequently?

At Central Restaurant Products, we offer hundreds of different types, styles, designs, and patterns from some of the most popular manufacturers of commercial dinnerware in the world. When shopping for dinnerware, you’re likely to come across the construction material in the features, but what does this really mean?

Not all plates, platters or bowls are created equal. Even though ceramic and plasticware are the two primary umbrella categories, not all plastic dinnerware will guarantee the same degree of durability. How will the construction of your dinnerware impact your overall bottom line? What’s the benefit of opting for a melamine collection, say, than traditional china? What’s the difference between all the different types of plastic materials? Shopping for new dinnerware can be loads of fun, but it can also be stressful if you’re not fully aware of the quality you may be receiving. Here, we seek to shed some light.

Ceramic and Fine Chinaware

Traditional chinaware is made of a durable ceramic material that is biscuit-fired at high temperatures and then glazed fired at a lower temperature. There are two common types of china dinnerware that you’re likely to come across in your search.

Porcelain china is constructed out of combination of rock minerals and clay including feldspar, quartz, and kaolin. Porcelain chinaware is usually the less expensive china solution and has a noticeably heavier weight than bone china; however, the brittle composition usually results in more frequent chipping, thus needing replaced more often.

Porcelain China Dinnerware

Central Model #474-483

Bone china dinnerware is constructed out of a more finely grated composition, still including the same minerals as porcelain china, but with added ox bone ash which enhances its durability. Fine bone china is often considered to create a more upscale, fine dining appearance. It’s thinner and lighter than its porcelain sibling, but runs at a higher price point. However, with its stronger durability, it will need replaced far less frequently. A classic case of you get what you pay for.

Fine Bone China Dinner Plate

Central Model #60K-806

A good test to see if your existing chinaware is porcelain or bone is to hold it up to a light fixture. If there is no trace of light shining through, you are most likely holding a piece of everyday porcelain ceramic dinnerware. Chinaware with the added ox bone ash element will allow some light to shine through.

High end chinaware is often ideal for upscale, fine dining establishments. Nice china can set the mood of the dining room, enhancing the theme, presentation, and creating personality. It holds many benefits for the front and back of the house, acting as a canvas ready for the chef’s masterpiece.

China that’s 100% vitrified works to prevent crazing and cracking that lead to bacterial growth over time, thus enhancing sanitation and food safety efforts. Fully vitrified china means that the dinnerware was fired at a lower temperature, coming out stronger and thinner than non-vitrified china. Vitrified dinnerware does not absorb water so there’s less risk of expanding and contracting, working to prevent accidental breakage and ensuring longevity of the product life.

Earthenware and Stoneware are two other types of porcelain dinnerware in the same family as china. Stoneware is durable and often trendier, featuring a stone exterior. Its unique, trendier presentation makes it ideal for restaurants serving Asian cuisine, bistros, farm to table, etc. It’s either semi or fully vitrified and safe for microwave or dishwasher use. Earthenware, on the other hand, is much less durable, a result of a quick and simple firing process. It is made of non-vitrified clay and less expensive than stoneware. It also offers excellent heat induction while adding a rustic feel to the ambiance. It is recommended to be handwashed only.

Tuxton Earthenware Soup Crock

Central Model #479-279

As we’ve discussed, some china is more durable than others. When shopping for your next china pattern, pay attention to whether or not the china can be used in the microwave or oven. A good determinant on the durability is whether it comes with a manufacturer warranty. Many top brands offer a one year no-chip warranty. International Tableware offers a Five-Year no-chip warranty exclusively at Central! A manufacturer warranty is typically a good determinant of durability, as it can be read that the manufacturer themselves have strong faith in their work.

Our top chinaware manufacturers include:

It’s important to note, however, that no piece of china is break-resistant. Most, but not all, chinaware is dishwasher safe. This is something you will want to verify in your research. Some china feature with glazed patterns that are not recommended for use in a dishwasher. Read on to learn more about dinnerware solutions that are virtually unbreakable.

Melamine Dinnerware

Melamine dinnerware rose in popularity in the 1940s for use during dinner parties. Melamine is a chemical that is used to make hard plastics and is therefore extremely durable and typically offered at a much lower price point than traditional chinaware. Some high-end melamine dinnerware even replicates the look and feel of chinaware, thus offering the best of both worlds. Given its notable durability, many melamine manufacturers will boast that their products are “virtually unbreakable!”

GET Urban Mill Melamine

G.E.T. Enterprises Trendy Urban Mill Pattern Melamine

Melamine is a great solution in many different types of commercial foodservice operations. Because it can withstand the rigors of day to day use, commercial melamine dinnerware is often seen in school cafeterias, hospitals, or other types of institutions with hectic, fast-paced rushes. Like china, melamine dinnerware also comes in quite the array of styles and patterns, with top brands working around the clock to define new trends.

Though melamine is difficult to break, instances of chipping have occurred if not properly cared for or maintained. However, melamine dinnerware won’t shatter if accidentally dropped, like most types of china. Most melamine will also be able to withstand high heat, many types up to 212°F. It’s an insulator, not a conductor, meaning it can maintain temperatures longer than other types of plastic dinnerware. It also stays cool to the touch when serving hot foods.

Generally speaking, melamine dinnerware is dishwasher safe and dries quickly, so users won’t wait long before they’re able to re-enter the dinnerware back into the food serving assembly. In addition to their durable “break-resistant” advertisements, melamine is also considered to be scratch and stain resistant.

Though dishwasher safe, melamine is not recommended for use in the microwave or oven, as opposed to some of their ceramic counterparts. Even though it’s capable of withstanding high heats, it should never be heated while in contact with food. Proper cleaning and care of melamine dinnerware ensures longevity. This video from our friends at G.E.T. Enterprises offers tried and true techniques for proper melamine maintenance.

Our top melamine dinnerware brands include:

It’s easy to talk in general terms, but like all types of dinnerware, not all melamine is the same. It’s best to fully research all the features of a specific style before committing. At Central, you can request a free sample of many of our dinnerware selections to see for yourself prior to purchasing.

But wait… is plastic safe?

A common concern with melamine and other plasticware are the chemicals used to create hard, durable plastic. These chemicals are extensively researched and tested to assure their fit and safe for dining. BPA is one of the most common chemicals used in plastic construction.

  • What is BPA?

A concern many have when it comes to melamine products is the amount of BPA they may contain. BPA, which is an acronym for Bisphenol A, is a chemical that manufacturers started using to construct certain plastics and resins starting in the 1950s. In the 1990s, consumers began questioning whether BPA was safe with many studies trying to link it to health problems. The FDA has since concluded that low levels are not harmful to humans. However, many products containing BPA, such as baby bottles, have been banned in the United States. Some melamine products on the market do still contain small traces of BPA in their construction, while others proudly exclaim they are 100% BPA free.

  • NSF Certification

If BPA is a concern for you, you can check to see if the piece of dinnerware is NSF certified. NSF is a stamp of approval given from NSF International, an independent public health and safety organization that develop standards for public health regulation. NSF approved dinnerware is always recommended over dinnerware that isn’t, and this isn’t something exclusive to dinnerware.

NSF Approved Logo

NSF Approved Logo

All sorts of commercial food service equipment and supplies are NSF listed. NSF International reviews construction material and the manufacturing process to confirm that all their standards are met. Therefore, opting for an NSF approved product gives peace of mind that the brand is complying with national regulations and safety standards. Many NSF listed items also feature added sanitary protections. The benefits of choosing products that have NSF International’s seal of approval reduce the risk of foodborne illness, are often easier to clean, and may help boost overall health inspection scores.

Other Plastic Dinnerware Constructions

Ceramic and melamine are arguably the two most popular types of commercial dinnerware constructions on the market. However, throughout your shopping adventures, you’re likely to see a few other types of plastic materials. Here’s a brief breakdown of what they mean.

Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate is a lightweight plastic material that, like melamine, is commonly considered to be shatter resistant. Unlike melamine, traditional polycarbonate dinnerware is also heat resistant and safe for microwave use. A lot of polycarbonate dinnerware can withstand temperatures between -40°F through 212°F. This makes the dinnerware ideal for use in both freezers and high temperature environments.

Cambro Polycarbonate Three-Compartment Plate

Central Model #250-564

BPA (see above) is a common chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics. BPA is one of the most extensively tested chemicals today, and, again, the FDA has concluded that small traces are not harmful for humans.

Polycarbonate dinnerware is typically inexpensive, which can be a big plus. However, though it’s thought to be break-resistant, some polycarbonate dinnerware may scratch and stain easily.

Our top polycarbonate dinnerware brands include Carlisle and Cambro.

Polypropylene and Polyethylene

Both polypropylene and polyethylene are similar, and many pieces of dinnerware are made using a blend of the two. Though a more affordable alternative to other types of dinnerware, by and large, dinnerware constructed out of polypropylene and polyethylene plastics are considered to have moderate scratch and break-resistance, not holding up quite to the same standards of melamine. They are, however, highly stain resistant and safe for both dishwasher and microwave use. They have a fairly decent drying time but may require additional wiping. It can typically withstand temperatures between 32°F through 180°F.

An additional blended hybrid of polypropylene is co-polymer. This material is often observed in the construction of cafeteria trays, and has a high resistance to breakage, scratching or staining. It’s also microwave and dishwasher safe, and considered to have a faster drying time than traditional polypropylene plasticware. It can handle temperatures between 40°F and 210°F, not ideal for use in freezers.

Acrylic

Acrylic is a hard plastic that is manufactured to replicate the look and feel of glass and high-end crystal. Acrylic is a common construction material of servingware, enhancing the presentation of buffet areas while extremely durable. Throughout your search, you’re likely to come across serving bowls, utensils, display stands, and bakery cases made of acrylic. Acrylic products are traditionally more affordable than their glass counterparts, with added shatter-proof durability.

Rosseto Acrylic Display Case

Central Model #989-019

ABS and SAN Plastic

ABS is the same type of plastic material used to make the popular LEGO® building blocks! It stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a thermoplastic (a resin that becomes a plastic on heating and hardening) resin that’s largely considered to be middle of the road. Plastic dinnerware made with this type of material is typically considered to be medium strength with a good resistance to impact, breaking, and chemicals. It absorbs shock, resistant to high heat and scratches, and affordable. It can withstand temperatures between 0°F to 180°F.

Some limitations of ABS plastic include poor weatherability and not resistant to solvents that may weaken and corrode ABS plasticware over time. It also generates a lot of smoke if burned. Because of this, dinnerware made of ABS is not recommended for use in the microwave. It is, however, dishwasher safe with an average dry time. Due to the lack of solvent-resistance, it is recommended that you wipe down your ABS-constructed ware soon after the cleaning cycle finishes.

ABS is not considered to be the most environmentally-friendly plastic material on the market. It is not biodegradable or a renewable resource.

SAN plastic, also known as styrene acrylonitrile resin, is another co-polymer plastic blend and shares a lot in common with ABS in terms of its chemical structure. SAN is often used by manufacturers to create durable plasticware that mimics the look and feel of ceramic china.

Additional Dinnerware Material

In commercial dining facilities, china and plastic dinnerware are certainly the two most common. However, dinnerware made of metal and glass are occasionally used to create unique, one of a kind environments.

Metal Dinnerware

Metal dinnerware is sleek and affordable, but should only ever be used for serving, and never for cooking or reheating. Common types of metal dinnerware include stainless steel and copper, which offer a trendier presentation for appetizers, entrees and side dishes. Check out American Metalcraft’s selection of dinnerware for trendy, affordable serving inspiration.

Bon Chef Metal Soup Bowl

Central Model #16Y-037

Glass Dinnerware

Glass is ideal for upscale dining establishments. Quality glass dinnerware runs at a higher price point than their plastic counterparts that have been strategically designed to mimic the look and feel of glass (see acrylic section above). However, authentic glass adds a touch of class to every dining room.

Libbey Gibraltar Clear Glass Dinnerware

Central Model #186-087

In addition to higher upfront costs, there is also a higher risk of breakage. Glassware will need replaced down the road, so your glass dinnerware purchase more than likely won’t be a one and done experience.

The three most common types of glass dinnerware include Annealed, Fully Tempered, and Rim Tempered.

  1. Annealed glass is your standard glassware and the most cost effective (up front). It’s slowly cooled to reduce internal stress, making it capable of withstanding temperature changes. However, when it breaks, it shatters into a hundred shards, creating a cleaning nightmare and safety concerns.
  2. Fully-Tempered glass has been more processed than annealed glass, increasing its strength and making it less prone to breakage. When it does break, it breaks in chunks instead of shattering into dangerously miniscule and sharp shards.
  3. Rim-Tempered glass runs middle of the road. A part of the piece has been tempered for added protection, but not the entirety of the product. This is usually the rim, because it’s the most likely to tip over and take the blunt force of the impact. This is a nice option if you’re on a budget but want to ensure some sort of durability.

Libbey is one of our top glassware manufacturers, boasting a comprehensive selection of glass drinkware and dining solutions.

All in all, your final decision should be made around which piece of dinnerware can enhance the experience you wish to give your guests, based on your established environment, ambiance, and menu. Central offers a complete selection of all different types of dinner and servingware to help you find the right piece you’re looking for. If you have any additional questions about which material will work the best given your unique needs, give us a call us at 800.215.9293.