Tag Archives: dinnerware

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.

Tuesday Tip: Know Your Dinnerware Material

With so many types of dinnerware to choose from, how do you select the one right for your establishment? This week’s Tip of the Day breaks down the basics of dinnerware and the differences between chinaware and melamine.

Chinaware

China is a durable ceramic material. Dinnerware designed out of china is biscuit-fired at a high temperature and then glazed fired at a low temp. Dinnerware of this type often runs at a higher price as is typically reserved for special occasions or used to create a highly established, fancier ambiance.

It’s important to note the two usual types of chinaware: porcelain and bone.

Porcelain china is made from a combination of feldspar, quarts and kaolin and is often less expensive and heavier than bone china. However, this brittle composition often leads to more chipping.

Bone china is translucent with a more finely grated composition made from kaolin, feldspar, quartz and bone ash. The quality of the bone chinaware is largely determined by the quantity of bone ash utilized during its design. It often appears lighter and more delicate than standard porcelain, but packs more durability.

Melamine

Melamine dishes rose in popularity in the 1940’s, commonly used for dinner parties. Melamine is a chemical used to make hard plastics, and thus, melamine dinnerware is extremely durable and often offered at a much lower cost than china. They also come in a vast variety of styles and flare to fit any type of establishment.

Interested in learning more about plastic construction types? You may like this blog that breaks down popular plastic constructions.

Farm to Table

Farm to Table: A Healthy Menu Trend

Food trends come and go, and many can be very unhealthy – Bacon. Cupcakes. Bacon cupcakes? While they may sound amazing, it’s nice to know there are some trends that are actually good for you!

farm-to-table

According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, on average, fruits and vegetables travel almost 1,500 miles before being sold to a consumer. In addition, 39% of fruits and 12% of vegetables are imported from other countries. In order to keep the produce from spoiling during transit, it is often harvested before it is fully ripened. This does not allow the produce to absorb all the nutrients from its surroundings.  According to the USDA, this causes the produce to lack nutrients that would be present if it were allowed to ripen on the vine.

Locally Grown – Better for All

What else is bad about food traveling so far? It’s not good for the environment. The average 18-wheeler would burn about 500 gallons of diesel fuel in a 1,500 mile trip. Also, when produce is imported in, it doesn’t help the local economy from the sale of farmed food.

One of the best places to start finding locally grown foods is a farmers’ market. Here you can find not only produce, but artisan cheese, local honey, and hand crafted beer and wine. You may also find local farms have roadside stands or established stores that are open year round. You will be able to find local beef or chicken, as well as fresh farm eggs for your farm-to-table menu. An app called Locavore can help you find local food that’s in season. It’s free, and also features seasonal recipes. You can also find a seasonal ingredient map from Epicurious to find out what’s fresh in your area.

Farm to Menu

farm-to-table

Central carries lots of options for your favorite recipes!

If your establishment is participating in the farm-to-table movement, there are many options to showcase your locally produced dishes. Be sure to highlight any local meats, cheeses, or produce on your menu.  Search through our website to find just the right dinnerware, flatware, and drinkware for your recipes and craft beer.

Recipes to Try

Note sure where to start? Here are a few recipes you can try with fresh produce as a main ingredient.

 

Feel free to share any great recipes or ideas on how your establishment is taking part in the farm-to-table movement!

Foodservice Trends and Predictions for 2012

Last December we put together a list of 10 foodservice trends for 2011.  Some that topped the list and stayed strong were food trucks, social media, better nutrition and mobile ordering.

For 2012, there’s much being talked about.  Several blogs, lists and articles are surfacing with upcoming trends and there’s so much great information available.  So this year, not only will you get a list from us, but each one on the list will include a link for more information so you take a look at all of the trends yourself.  Enjoy!

Image: 3rdworldman/MorgueFile

Handing Over the Control

Today’s world is very particular, especially when it comes to food.  Fast Casual reports 2012 will be the year customers gain more control over their dining experience.  They mention custom ordering systems will aid with this—which is what we’ve seen all year.  From tablets to smartphone apps, restaurants are certainly headed in the customizable direction.  One concern earlier this year with the mobile devices was if they would take away from customer service.  When we attended the NRA show in May, we learned tablets won’t take away from customer service, but in fact enhance the experience as the wait staff will have more time to focus on customers. Read Fast Casual’s full trends list here.

The Best of Both Worlds

Some customers want healthier menu items while others just want something that tastes really good and aren’t too concerned with nutritional value.  For 2012, restaurants will start catering to both types of customers.  Many sites including QSR Magazine call this trend the “Double-Sided Menu.”  The double-sided menu will give customers the best of both worlds—healthy options and not-so-healthy options.  Read QSR’s top five trends here. 

Southern Foods

Image: Jdurham/MorgueFile

During tougher times, people turn to what makes them feel good, comfortable and safe–which in many cases, is food.  According to Monkey Dish’s trend list, southern comfort foods will become more popular.  Chefs will be making favorites such as grits, chicken and dumplings or smokehouse barbeque.  They may even put their own spin on the recipes too.  Read Monkey Dish’s full article here, and check out all of their 2012 predictions here.

 

 

 Healthier Kid’s Meals

Restaurants and QSRs all over the country have been upgrading their kid’s menus to be healthier; so this is definitely not something that’s brand new.  But according to another QSR article, healthier meals for children will be on the agenda.  This will tie in extremely well with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” to help curb childhood obesity.  Read more trends from QSR here.

Plate Shapes

At Central, one of the trends we’ve seen in restaurants is an interest in unique or customizable shapes for dinnerware.  It looks like these unique shapes will continue in 2012, but in a different way.  In an article by SmartBlog on Restaurants, they reveal chefs will be changing their food presentations to be more spread out as opposed to high.  This would make a change for a higher demand of square plates instead of round.  And as a side note on ordering plates, if you do a custom order—make sure to order extras to avoid any trouble in the future if the vendor is no longer able to provide you with your custom dinnerware. Read SmartBlog on Restaurant’s full blog here.

Social Media for Small Businesses

This trend seems familiar from last year, doesn’t it? It was on the list, but it’s different for 2012.  According to Duct Tape Marketing, they predict social media will impact smaller businesses.  This stems from their statement that social networks will move in the direction of being their own marketplaces.  So far, sites like Facebook and Twitter have made restaurants successful with spreading the word about themselves and connecting with fans—so now is the time for the smaller places to get on board and take advantage of this free advertising.  (If you need help, check out our tutorials for Facebook and Twitter).  Read all of Duct Tape Marketing’s small business predictions here.

24/7 Breakfast

Image: Jeltovski/MorgueFile

Looking to bakery trends, Modern Baking says several bakery cafes keep breakfast on the menu all day.  With this in demand, many other bakeries and restaurants may follow suit and also provide breakfast items throughout the day.  Read all of Modern Baking’s bakery trends here.

 

 

Local

According to the National Restaurant Association’s list of food trends, one that tops the list is going local.  This could be anything from meat to alcoholic beverages. Going local is a great way to support your community and to also know where food is coming from.  Luke Patterson, owner of Luke’s Joint and a few other establishments in Arcata, Calif. is one of Central’s customers who buys local—and it’s been very successful.  Read about his experience here and read more from the NRA’s trends list here.

The Signature Item

Image: Maxstraeten/MorgueFile

Whopper. Big Mac. Soup and Salad. Bloomin’ Onion.  We didn’t mention restaurant names yet you most likely know where each of these items comes from.  In a recent Nation’s Restaurant News article, they interviewed Galletta Oliver of Ink Foundry who said the importance of the “signature item” will increase.  That being said, restaurants will create or promote menu items that will make customers choose their restaurant over another.  Read all of NRN’s predictions here.

With these predictions just being a handful of many, it looks as though 2012 will be a busy year for the foodservice industry.  We look forward to seeing how these predictions go and we’ll be sure to follow them throughout the year and keep you posted on how they are doing.

Central wishes you and yours a very happy New Year.  We look forward to a great 2012 for everyone!

10 Ways to Make an Extraordinary and Memorable Table Setting

One of the most important yet undervalued components of the dining experience is the table.  At this point, you know table setting basics from silverware placement to having the classic white linen neatly draped over.  But from restaurants to catered events,  there is always a way to take it a step further to enhance your customer’s experience. After all, taking some extra time to liven up the setting could bring in more money somewhere along the line.

This week we came up with a few ideas along with Michael Williams (Product Consultant, Central Restaurant Products), Laura Bedilion (Category Manager, Central Restaurant Products) and Stacy Blanton (Director of Marketing and Communications, IUPUI Food Service) to create 10 ways to make your table setting go above and beyond your guest’s expectations.

  1. Color: It’s scary, but if you know your guests and your atmosphere, which you do, you can play with color to find one that best represents your establishment or catered event.  This applies to more than the table cloth; it applies to napkins as well.  During Williams’ catering days, he used multiple colors for napkins to liven his setting.  For example, in the fall he used a burnt orange and a rich brown.
  2. Upgrade your Tableware: If you have fairly new dinnerware, skip this number. But if your plates are scratched, your glasses are murky or your knives are dull, Bedilion recommends updating.  Today there are a variety of shapes, colors and styles of plates—including those that don’t scratch or break easily. Also, when upgrading, you can look at your current dinnerware set to decide if you need more durability.  Same thing goes with drinkware and flatware.
  3. Napkins: Sure, you can roll your silverware in a napkin—but why not take some extra time to enhance the experience by folding the napkin in a way your guests have never seen?  Find one and try it.  It could become a signature part of your establishment.
  4. Go Natural: Everyone has seen gemstones in centerpieces; why not use something natural instead? Blanton recommends using natural items for centerpieces and details such as leafy greens instead of greenery, pine cones and rocks instead of clear gems.
  5. Candle Lamps: For low-lighted settings, a large or bright lamp can be distracting or in your customers way—especially if they can’t cover or move the light. Bedilion suggests candle lamps, which create just the right amount of light and are available in a variety of styles.   They are also available in LED that simulates traditional candlelight if you’re staying away from fire.
  6. Make it Personal: If you run a busy establishment and are constantly turning tables, your server will make the experience personal. But for a catered event, many times the most interaction between the wait staff and guests is filling drinks and clearing plates.  Blanton suggests taking a few extra minutes to create individual menu cards for a plated meal.  It can make a difference.
  7. Fruit: Fresh fruit can be used in many ways other than for consumption. Williams would slice fresh fruit into water pitchers to liven the setting which would also infuse the water with flavor.  Some of his most commonly used fruits were blueberries, honeydew and cucumbers.
  8. Height:  This is one of the very simple yet excellent ways to make a food presentation pop.  Instead of laying everything flat, Blanton says to use a variety of heights (especially on a buffet, but it’s possible with a table too).  There are many different ways to display food with height from risers to tiered displays.  Williams adds that height can even be added with cardboard boxes and linen.
  9. Condiment Display: Instead of throwing the ketchup and mustard on the far end of the table with the sugar and sweetener packets crammed into a small square container, find a condiment holder or organizer to conveniently hold all items for your guests.  There are even holders that include a coil for table numbers or menu items, such as daily specials.
  10. Ice sculptures: Okay, so this one may be taking it a bit further than just creatively folding a napkin or using bold red linens. However; you may find them to be the wow factor you’ve been searching for to make an event extremely memorable.  Check out these ice sculpture molds.

Let us know ways you have changed your table setting to enhance the experience for your guests in our comment section!

North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) 2011 Trade Show

The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers or NAFEM, is a trade organization that brings together food service suppliers and manufacturers and equips it’s members with everything from products to industry education.   Every two years NAFEM holds a  trade show to showcase the newest equipment and supplies in the food industry.  Last week was the 2011 NAFEM Show, held in Orlando, Florida, at the Orange County Convention Center.  Below is a recap from on all things NAFEM!

In refrigeration, the primary trend still seems to be energy efficiency.  For example, LED lighting is an option on many refrigeration lines now and is even becoming standard on some lines.  New Department of Energy requirements go into effect the second quarter of 2011, and most manufacturers seem to be ready for the changes.

Turbo Air’s booth at the show was full of exciting new refrigeration product launches, including ice cream dipping cabinets, prep units with drawers, and Premiere series reach-ins.  Manitowoc Ice had one of the biggest product launches of the show with their Indigo cube ice machines, with many energy saving features.

Cardinal Glassware introduced Zenix dinnerware, which is a fully tempered line of glass dinnerware.  It looks much like traditional china but has the durability of fully tempered glass with a moderate price point.

Hatco introduced heated zone merchandisers, which use “Spot On” technology to detect when products are on the shelf.  Super fast heat-up keeps the product warm; not having the entire unit on 100% of the time saves energy and money for the end user.

APW Wyott will launch their Champion line of steam tables in April.  These solidly constructed units have either hot or cold wells and come standard with poly cutting boards.  The tables have a lower price point than leading competitors and APW is expecting wide popularity with these.

Known for their forged knives, Wusthof is coming out with their first stamped series.  These knives have a poly handle, are NSF listed and come at a great price point.  Wusthof anticipates that this series of knives wll become a fixture in the commercial kitchen for everyday use.

In the area of beverage equipment and supplies, we learned that the trend right now is hot water products.  With the growing popularity of hot tea, oatmeal and pourover coffee service, the need for instantaneous hot water is in demand.  In fact, Bunn-O-Matic and Wilbur Curtis Company now offer hot water dispensers with “Oatmeal” backlighted graphics.  Service Ideas is also keeping up with the hot tea trend by offering contemporary tea pots, tea presses and tea infusers.

Melamine dinnerware continues to increase its presence in the foodservice industry.  Main melamine vendors – G.E.T., Carlisle, Elite Global Solutions – are seeing the growth in their dinnerware lines.  G.E.T. introduced SuperMel in Mardi Gras colors, while Carlisle launched their Dayton and Sierrus lines.  These new additions to the Central Restaurant Products catalog should help continue this growth.

CresCor introduced a new mobile holding cabinet that can be used for outdoor dining.  While electrical on the interior, the exterior uses propane tanks for heating and a solar panel to run the controls.  It has a heavy duty construction to stand up to the rugged outdoor terrain.

As for furniture, several manufacturers noted that unique seating styles seem to be the trend right now.  Low cost import products have become so prevalent in the market and these manufacturers have realized they can no longer compete.  Instead, they’re trying to set themselves apart from the imports and from their domestic competition by designing unique styles and offering more custom furniture options.

Furniture Imports debuted their booth-in-a-box at the show.  This unassembled booth (which saves on shipping costs) earned a spot in NAFEM’s What’s Hot, What’s Cool pavilion.

In addition to the exhibits, the NAFEM Show also offered several educational seminars that the category managers attended.  Some of the highlights included Tim Sanders’ presentation on Corporate Responsibility and Peter Sheahan’s seminar on Innovative Thinking.  The NAFEM all-industry celebration on Friday provided a “night out” with industry friends, and Huey Lewis and the News got the crowd rockin’ and pumped for the final day of the show.

Post-event wrapup: NAFEM 2009, Orlando

The 2009 NAFEM Show, held in Orlando, Florida, this month at the Orange County Convention Center featured several common trends in foodservice products and equipment, including food safety, green/sustainability trends, multi-function appliances, and appliances that increase productivity and decrease prep time.

Tarrison offers an induction range with a concave surface, like a wok. Chefs love induction ranges for their powerful and precise heating capabilities; hotels and caterers are beginning to embrace them for the safety aspect– no open flame. View Tarrison’s flyer here.(PDF)

Chef Revival – The fully-insulated Rotissi-glove couples protection up to 350°F with the dexterity needed for easy handling. Chef Revival also offers a variety of chef and service apparel—much more than just your average cook’s whites.

Robot Coupe, known for its rugged, high volume food prep blenders, unveiled the new and improved CL50 Ultra. It prepares 1,200 servings in three hours or less and has dozens of attachments for versatile processing.

Hatco – Known for warming equipment, Hatco introduced the Glo-Ray Max Watt Foodwarmer, which holds food at the optimal serving temperature, but with more space and higher clearance. Hatco also introduced a sexy new black heated glass shelf—a heated shelf for self-service with a more modern presentation.

Tradeco – Their trendy square china has been around for a while, but is growing in popularity as chains restaurants struggle to be distinct from their competition. Tradeco also offers a variety of colors in their popular Celebration line of dinnerware.

Vulcan unveiled a new Energy Star certified convection oven and hot holding cabinet in one. Operators can now take food straight from the oven and load it into the cabinet for instant hot-holding. This unit offers energy-savings, labor-savings and space-savings—a triple threat!

No more flipping burgers

Vulcan also had on display a gas (or electric) rapid-recovery griddle, now available with an upper plate, allowing the operator to grill on both sides without flipping.

Blakeslee – I got a chance to see how far we’ve come in dish-machine technology—Blakeslee had on display a dish machine from 1912! The all-manual unit actually had a crank that was used to lower and raise dishes from the tank. Their current line of dish machines are much more advanced—reducing both water usage and the energy used to heat dishwater.

Cleveland Range’s new “Mini” Combi Oven Steamer is, obviously, a convection oven and steamer in one, with dozens of capabilities, including cook-and-hold, slow-cooking, and features that allow the operator to program frequently used recipes into the system for one-touch cooking.

Cooper-Atkins offers dozens of different HACCP monitoring systems for food safety, including TempTrak, which provides around-the-clock monitoring and alerts, and user-friendly software for keeping the numbers organized and stored.

San Jamar introduced the Saf-T-Wash Food Sanitizer, designed to thoroughly sanitize product, increasing the shelf-life of produce and reducing costs by eliminating the need for expensive chemicals. The unit attaches to the faucet, using your water line to combine sanitizer with water. It easily switches back and forth from water to sanitizer.

Scotsman’s new Prodigy Nugget® Ice Machine is one of the most energy-efficient ice machines available. It’s Energy Star certified, and comes equipped with an alert system for operation and maintenance, so in addition to using less water and electricity than typical ice machines, it also helps reduce costs associated with service calls.

FOH (Front of House) Layout and Design

Obviously, this is just a crash course and not meant to be a complete guide to restaurant design—just some helpful hints on getting started…Your customers might think a dining room consists simply of tables and chairs, but you know there are a number of key issues that help ensure not only an aesthetically pleasing dining area for your guests, but also an efficient one.In addition to basic space requirements and limitations, consider how lighting and color come into play, what to look for when selecting your furniture, and the relationship between flatware, dinnerware and table linens.Where food meets customerAccording to NAFEM, the dining room is the “stage,” where food, service and atmosphere come together to deliver a memorable dining experience. 

Naturally, every consideration of space and construction has a corresponding operating cost. While smaller space allocations may result in reduced building costs, insufficient space can increase operating costs and lead to inefficient operation and lower profits.Consider the number of patrons you will be serving and over what period of time; what kind of preparation methods that will be used in the dining area, what type of storage space is required, what kind of space is needed for checking, waiting areas, coatrooms and service areas.

Lighting and DécorNAFEM identifies five basic principles of lighting, which are space relationships, perspective, contour, special details of intrinsic beauty and imaginative and subtle qualities.According to NAFEM, guests in your restaurant will subconsciously feel the impact of light and color, associating it with their overall dining experience. A small room could benefit from brighter colors and lighter shades. Conversely, dim lighting and warm, dark colors could make a large dining room seem less overwhelming, and more cozy.Studies show that bright lights and primary colors –blue, red and yellow- actually encourage a faster turnover in busy establishments. Often, you’ll see these combinations in fast food restaurants, commercial cafeterias and employee dining areas. Likewise, subtle colors can create a more peaceful, leisurely atmosphere.Furniture and seating arrangementsIf you have already developed a concept and central theme in your restaurant’s business plan, selecting your furniture should be fairly straightforward. It is important to pay close attention to the quality and durability of your furniture to prevent heavy replacement costs down the road. Before purchasing any furniture, ask questions about how the material will reflect your restaurant’s theme, if the furniture you’re considering is an appropriate height, and if replacement parts are readily available.Also consider how difficult your upholstery is to clean and if it will hold up under frequent and constant use. Some states even have fire safety codes that may affect your upholstery considerations. Check with your state’s restaurant association for more information about requirements in your area.Also, as mentioned, your seating arrangements must be compliant with ADA standards. Regulations require that wheelchair users should have easy access to the bar area as well as the dining area. The result is that most bars are being lowered to a 36-inch height. Check with your product consultant or local restaurant association for more information on these requirements.A design consultant or foodservice industry expert can help you identify your options, and whether you should use chairs, stools, booths, or all three. According to NAFEM, booths offer the ability to maximize seating, but they are also large and rather permanent. Will booth seating enhance or detract from your décor? How formal will your restaurant be? Are you going to offer take-out service or seating in the bar? A detailed seating plan will help answer these questions.Flatware 411Your restaurant’s seating arrangements will help you determine what goes on your table too. Consider again the theme of your establishment. Not every restaurant requires a demitasse spoon, shrimp fork and steak knife. Make sure anything you put on the table serves a purpose. The appearance of clutter will leave a negative impression with your guests, so any piece of flatware or glassware should be absolutely essential to the meal.Your flatware should be durable enough to withstand the level of use you anticipate. Some patterns naturally hide scratches and wear, while other styles can accentuate them.GlasswareWhen you are selecting glassware, considering the following tips NAFEM offers to reduce your future replacement costs:

  • Glasses that have a heavy bead or roll on the lip are less likely to chip.
  • The thicker the glass, the more durable it will be.
  • A straight-sided glass is more durable than a curved or bulged glass.
  • Glasses that are flared (like a martini glass) are more likely to chip, crack and break.

Handle your glassware with care!Remember to let your glasses cool after removing them from the dish machine. Thermal shock, which is basically rapid temperature change, is one of the most common causes of glass breakage in a restaurant and normally happens when you fill a glass fresh from the dishwasher with ice. The last thing you want is an ice bin full of glass shards! Last, store your glassware properly—in a rack with dividers, to prevent glass-to-glass contact.That being said, glasses are going to break. Experts recommend setting aside one glass from each collection and writing the model number on it for easy reordering.Make sure to order enough glassware so as not to have to rush them through the washing system, which can stress china and glassware. Maintain a simple ratio of three times as many glasses to seats to ensure a glass on every table and a complete supply of replacements even when the dishwasher is full.Dinnerware and accessoriesTable accessories like shakers, napkin rings, lamps and vases should have some visual appeal, but not at the expense of comfort or space. Again, consider whether your table accessories reflect the image of your establishment. Will your customers expect condiments and flatware to be on the table? Will a white linen table cloth create the impression of higher menu prices? Who is going to launder and iron them?Table lamps and candles have become increasingly popular with the advent of flameless and electric lamps. A table setting can appear more cozy and intimate in the absence of overhead lighting—consider overall functionality as well as aesthetics. Also consider how often you’ll need to replace candle fuel, wax or batteries and make sure to include those costs in your budget.