If you operate a restaurant or other foodservice business, your number one selling point is undoubtedly the quality and affordability of your food, but this isn’t the only thing that attracts customers and keeps them coming back. From the overall design of your dining space to the presentation of your staff, there’s a lot of other elements that combine to convey your unique concept to patrons.
Perhaps the most immediate element that can influence the dining experience is your choice of smallwares. Place settings, cutlery, serving bowls and plates, condiment dispensers, glassware and more combine to subtly communicate an aesthetic to patrons as they sit down to a meal.
Here’s five things to consider when selecting the right smallwares for your business, via Modern Restaurant Management.
Pick smallwares that are ‘on brand’
You’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to smallwares, with plenty of styles, materials and finishes to choose from. The temptation is to go with the fanciest and most impressive looking pieces you can find, but this isn’t always a great idea. If, for instance, you run a quick-service, high volume burger restaurant, customers might not expect to be presented with gold plated cutlery. Conversely, if you’re operating a fine dining destination expecting patrons to use durable plastic cutlery can quickly kill the aesthetic you’re trying to establish.
When selecting smallwares, always have your overall dining concept in mind. Ask yourself if the plates you’re looking at would fit with the other elements of your desired experience. You don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune to convey a sense of sophistication on the table, but don’t get carried away if your main target audience isn’t looking for an elaborate fine dining experience.
Work out your menu first
If you’re opening a new restaurant the first thing you’ll need to figure out is exactly what patrons will be eating before you start picking smallwares. Work out how many different types of dishes you’ll be serving, the portion sizes of each and how you want the presentation to look. Will you serve salads in a bowl or on a plate? Do you like the look of vintage ‘fry baskets’ for chips, or would you prefer something more contemporary? Knowing your portion sizes in particular will influence the smallwares you decide to purchase (more on that in a moment).
Another thing to keep in mind is how your servingware will look in photography. Like it or not, maintaining a strong social media presence is key in the modern foodservice industry so the more ‘Instagrammable’ your food looks, the better chance you have of patrons sharing their experience and attracting more customers through your door.
Plate sizes and perceived value
Beyond what exactly it is you are serving, the way you present a meal to patrons can have a significant effect on the perceived value of the dining experience. This comes back to thinking about your overall concept. Serving a small amount of food on a large plate tells a completely different story than a small dish overflowing with food. Selecting the right smallwares to match the impression you want to give customers is key. Consider this: do you want diners to saviour each (smaller) course, or do you want guests to feel like they’re getting the most value for money with each plate that leaves the kitchen?
A change is as good as a holiday
Trends in smallwares are always changing, with new products hitting the market all the time. A great time to evaluate new products is when you need to restock. The temptation is to just stick with what has ‘worked’ for your venue in the past, but over enough time this can leave your dining room looking tired or boring. Take a look around and see what’s new on the market every once in a while. Be flexible about introducing new smallware elements and retiring others. Sometimes all it takes is a few subtle changes to dramatically update your overall design.
See it to believe it
Aside from your food, smallwares are the most intimate point of contact patrons have with your restaurant. They’re right in front of them when they sit down and they’ll be using them throughout their dining experience so it’s important to select items that suit your overall food concept. Trends in smallwares are always changing, so it’s useful to revisit your decisions each time you restock and keep your venue feeling fresh and ever-evolving.
You can browse as many websites and catalogues as you like, but the only way you can truly get an idea of how smallwares look and feel is by seeing them in person. We stock a massive range of smallwares in our Botany showroom, so next time you’re opening a restaurant or thinking of revamping your existing table design why why not drop in? We can show you the latest products and provide expert advise on what works for your business.