A Guide to Charger Plates
Whether you are putting the final touches on a soon-to-open restaurant or are in the process of updating the tabletops in an established one, charger plates can be used to add an extra layer of visual appeal. Adding charger plates to your dinnerware presentation is an easy way to elevate a basic tabletop to create a more dynamic, impressive, and upscale dining experience for your guests. Even operators of casual restaurants may want to keep some on hand for special occasions like private parties and banquets.
Charger Plate History
Because these large plates are meant to act as bases for bowls and course plates during meal service, they are sometimes called underplates or service plates. Charger plates is the most common term, though they may occasionally also be incorrectly referred to as plate chargers. The origin of the word charger, which is defined as "a large flat dish or platter," can be traced to around the 14th century;1 credit for the name itself is also given to a usage in the King James Version of the Bible.2
Charger Plate Etiquette
As with many age-old traditions, the exact etiquette of how and when to use charger plates has been obscured by changing expectations and modern trends that have given restaurateurs the freedom to take some liberties with the ways they incorporate certain traditional dining elements. Below, you can read about the different ways charger plates may be used in restaurants today.
In multi-course dinners, charger plates may be placed on tables before meal service begins to provide attractive foundations for each course plate served throughout the meal. Charger plates traditionally remain in front of the guests until the dessert course is served, though they may instead be taken away when the entrée is served.
If you are serving a less structured meal, charger plates may be placed on the tables simply to ensure guests are not faced with empty dining spaces when seated. The chargers are then taken away when an appetizer or the entrée is served. These decorative pieces of dinnerware can also be used as service plates to help servers transport entrées, either for aesthetic appeal or because food is on plates that have been heated up while a dish was finished in the broiler or kept warm under a heat lamp.
Though they're often viewed as purely decorative pieces of dinnerware, charger plates can also serve a functional purpose: protecting tables and tablecloths. Because of their large diameters and tendency to have wide rims, charger plates can act as barriers between the meal and the table, catching liquids, crumbs, and bits of food that may fall off the course plates.
Charger Plates at KaTom
Standard restaurant dinner plates are generally between 8 and 10 inches in diameter, but charger plates have a larger diameter of around 12 or 13 inches. Charger plates come in a variety of styles, including tans and grays that can extend the visual scope of white and cream dinnerware, and bright shades of blue, red, and yellow that can add pops of color to otherwise neutral table setting palettes.