Flatware Buyers' Guide

Flatware Buyers' Guide

Flatware is an item nearly all restaurants need, but it often doesn't receive the attention it deserves. Your flatware can help set the ambiance of your restaurant, so it's important to consider the message you'll send very carefully. While the pattern may be one of the key criteria in your search, you'll also want to consider the material and weight of each piece of flatware.

Patterns

When setting the atmosphere or motif of a restaurant, diner, or bar, the way things look generally takes precedence over most other aspects. In that respect, the pattern of flatware you choose will go a long way in establishing what that style will be. With more than 100 different patterns to choose from, the task can be daunting, but by considering the three main pattern types, you can narrow your focus considerably.

  • If you're looking to create a chic, upscale look, you may want to go with a more modern pattern. These patterns, such as Madison World Collection, have bold architectural elements and sleek lines.
  • If you have a strong, thematic brand, you may want to go with a decorative pattern that will suit your scheme. For instance, if you're a crab shack, you may want to go with any one of a number of shell patterns.
  • For mom and pop restaurants, a traditional pattern such as Dominion or Windsor will help add a hint of nostalgia or convey a family-friendly vibe. These patterns range from simple to ornate in their appearances.

Materials

Stainless steel is an alloy of steel, chrome, and sometimes nickel. Chrome gives the flatware strength, while nickel provides rust-resistance and the silver-like sheen that is popular on dinner tables today. Restaurant flatware is made from one of the following, depending on which alloy is used, and each has its own unique characteristics and benefits.

  • 18/10 - 18% Chrome and 10% Nickel: The highest grade of stainless steel, flatware made of 18/10 tends to be reserved for higher-end applications. Rust is virtually eliminated, and forks and spoons made of it are nearly unbendable. These pieces tend to have more detailed patterns. The high durability of the steel, coupled with its brilliant sheen and sophisticated details make this flatware more costly and long-lasting.
  • 18/8 - 18% Chrome and 8% Nickel: 18/8 flatware is markedly more substantial in feel than that made of 18/0. It will be shinier and resist rust better, and it serves as a great mid-level look for those who want to take their décor to the next level, but can't afford to invest in 18/10. You'll need to decide if the upgraded look is worth the cost of replacement. Flatware made of 18/8 comes in mirror, matte, and silver-plated finishes.
  • 18/0 - 18% Chrome and 0% Nickel: 18/0 stainless steel flatware is an excellent option for budget-minded operators. Its accessible price point makes it easy to replace these pieces as they get lost in the hustle of a busy restaurant. If you're just starting out or if you're looking for a way to cut costs, you may want to go with 18/0 stainless. It contains no nickel, so people who are sensitive to the metal can rest at ease. It is relatively durable and can be placed in the dishwasher for hassle-free cleaning.
  • 13/0 - 13% Chrome and 0% Nickel: While you won't typically find flatware made entirely out of it, 13/0 stainless steel is the primary material used in the knife blades of restaurant silverware. It is harder and therefore holds an edge better than the other types. It can rust and bend, so extra care should be taken when handling and maintaining your knives.

Weight

The weight of your flatware can be just as significant as the pattern or material in setting the climate of your establishment. Heavyweight and extra-heavyweight flatware sits solidly in the hand and has a certain heft to it. With some patterns, however, this heft can be cumbersome. For operations that serve high volumes and have significant turnover rates, a medium weight design may be more appropriate, since they tend to be more cost effective.

Choosing the Right Pieces

If you're setting a formal table, there can be as many as nine different dining implements at each place. Most people don't need that many options in daily dining, though. Depending on your needs, you may simply fill stainless steel bins with dozens of table knives, table forks, and table spoons for self-service.

On the other end of the spectrum, a high-end restaurant or tea room may run the gamut of flatware, from oyster forks to dessert spoons. For most middle-of-the-road establishments however, you'll simply require table knives, perhaps steak knives, tablespoons, teaspoons, and dinner and salad forks. A good rule of thumb for a casual dining environment is to allow four pieces per seat of each type of knife, fork, and spoon you'll be setting your table with. You may find you need more or less, depending on table-turn rates and your menu.

Maintaining Your Flatware

Most commercial flatware is relatively simple to use and maintain. Most of it can easily be washed in the dishwasher. To keep it spotless and shining like new, it may be necessary to dry the flatware immediately. You'll want to avoid using bleach, as this can cause the steel to pit, stain, or corrode. Soaking the flatware for extended periods of time, particularly with other metal objects, is also not recommended as it will begin to corrode and discolor.

You'll want to keep in mind that 18/8 and 18/10 compositions are not magnetic, so a magnetic flatware retriever won't catch your forks and spoons, increasing the risk that those pieces can become accidentally lost in the trash.