The Lifespan of Melamine Dinnerware
Melamine dinnerware offers a long lifespan due to the material's strength and durability. A melamine plate can stay in service significantly longer than one made from another material, such as ceramic or porcelain that can break or chip more easily. However, many restaurant operators keep their melamine dinnerware long beyond its intended lifespan because they often think a piece of dinnerware doesn't need to be thrown away if it isn't broken. In fact, like all manufactured or natural products in a commercial environment, melamine will deteriorate over time from normal use. It will start to show signs of normal wear and tear, such as knife marks, dullness or loss of shine, chips, or cracks. Melamine products should last, on average, two to five years, but rotating new pieces into your existing melamine inventory will help maintain optimal appearance and performance.
Replacement Rates and Cost
The average replacement rate of a melamine dinnerware budget hovers at 10 percent. This figure is based on an average-sized restaurant (100 to 125 seats) that serves lunch and dinner. Based on the same parameters, the average replacement rate of a ceramic dinnerware budget is 30 to 40 percent. This means restaurant operators who choose melamine dinnerware can expect 10 percent of their annual dinnerware budget to be dedicated to maintaining the inventory, as opposed to nearly a third. Along with the affordable price of melamine products (a dinner plate from the mid-range tier averages $7.50 per plate), the savings are further increased by the extended lifespan and lower replacement rate. There are several factors that impact how long your melamine dinnerware will last, thus affecting the replacement rate, such as how the melamine is handled when bussing and washing, the amount of inventory, and your cleaning and maintenance procedures.
Care and Handling
Staff should always be trained and monitored on the care and handling of your dinnerware. Especially during busy periods, bussing dishes from tables and washing must be done quickly to keep the flow of operation running. When bussing, avoid striking the plate against other surfaces and using sharp utensils to remove food. When washing, avoid overloading plates in dish racks to prevent scratching. It's important to properly educate your staff on the importance of careful handling to help prevent melamine plates from being cracked or chipped.
Making sure your melamine products aren't being overused can help maximize their lifespans. Items that are used too frequently will show wear and tear more quickly and will be unable to receive proper maintenance. A general recommendation is that your inventory be large enough for three categories: being used, being cleaned, and being stored. Following this rotation will spread out the usage and help ensure your dinnerware will last as long as possible.
Cleaning and Maintenance
To extend the useful life of your melamine dinnerware, follow a few simple guidelines. While melamine is relatively easy to clean since it's dishwasher safe, it's important to rinse food from the plate as soon as possible to prevent staining. To remove stubborn stains, dishes can be soaked in an oxygen-releasing solution, but bleach or abrasive pads should never be used. To maintain shine, dishes should be soaked in a non-bleach granulated detergent solution bi-monthly. Most importantly, melamine products should never be exposed to high heat, since the use of microwaves, ovens, heat lamps, or open flame can cause cracking, discoloration, or breakage.
See our guide on the care and handling of melamine for more information on making the most of your melamine dinnerware.