If it’s true that we first eat with our eyes by taking in the appearance of our plate, then the second step is grabbing a set of utensils. Flatware and cutlery can help define the tone of our meals, as well as provide the vehicles that make tasting possible. Through factors ranging from design to weight, flatware must meet standards for both function and fashion.
Before you decide what flatware will work best for your foodservice operation, you first have to make some important determinations about your operation. Who is your ideal customer? What will your menu look like? What type of volume do you expect? Make sure you consider the big picture before selecting your big fork.
There are three main types of flatware: sterling silver, silver plated, and stainless steel. Silver will always be the best choice for traditional, formal dining, while silver plated flatware is an economical way to add refinement. Stainless steel is great because it doesn’t rust, tarnish, or wear out. Stainless steel is graded based on the amount of nickel in the alloy, with 18/10 being the highest quality followed by 18/8and 18/0. The tough and luminous 18/10 has 18% chrome and 10% nickel.
With flatware, there are three basic production methods. Hollow handled flatware is the most complex to make. It is light weight and well balanced. Stamped flatware is produced with patterns stamped right into the metal making this style heavier than hollow handled varieties. And forged flatware are comprised of a single piece making them the heaviest.
Weight is judged differently depending on where you’re dining. In the United States, heft is often associated with quality, while in Europe, cutlery is viewed as an extension of the hands and should almost be unnoticeable. For example, in Europe where the knife is rarely released, a heavy piece of cutlery could be uncomfortable during the course of a long meal.
If a place mat is a frame that surrounds a table setting, then the flatware and dinnerware contained within that frame must contribute to an overall balance. Designs should contribute to the overall aesthetic of the operation. Classic restaurant décor should result in classic forks and knives. Color coating can also add a stylish and elegant touch.
The types of flatware needed for a particular operation greatly depend on the menu items that operation will serve. From bread knives to fish knives, determine what the needs are before deciding on individual pieces or even an overall collection.
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