How to Buy Resturant Dishes

Guide to buying commercial dinnerware

Buying dishes for a new restaurant
••• Steve Buissinne via Pixabay

Today’s restaurant dishware is far more than just functional. Commercial dishes add personality to restaurant table settings, reflecting the ambiance, design, and theme of a restaurant. As you begin stocking your commercial kitchen, consider the following before buying restaurant dishes:

Know Your Budget

Commercial dishes, just like restaurant seating and tables, are more expensive than those for personal use. Restaurant dinnerware comes in a wide range of prices and typically if you buy in bulk, the more you will save.

Look for Durability

The reason commercial dishes are more expensive than those you might pick up for your own kitchen is that they are designed to withstand the wear and tear of restaurant use. 

Consider Your Restaurant Design

Opening a quaint little diner? Then the classic white plates and coffee cups will do just fine. Is your restaurant concept Mexican or Italian? Then perhaps plates with bold colors and designs. You dinnerware should reflect your restaurant theme and compliment the overall design of your restaurant. Some commercial dinnerware can even be customized with your restaurant's name and logo.

Plastic, Paper or China Dinnerware?

A popular seafood chain in New England used paper plates for years. Their restaurant franchises all featured elegant interiors, with glassware and silverware. But they always had paper plates. Even as a kid I could never figure it out. Why didn’t they just buy china plates? Years later a friend of mine worked for the restaurant franchise when they finally made the switch to china plates. He told me that the company decided to switch because it was cheaper than to continue to buy paper plates.

If you do opt for paper or plastic dinnerware, look for ones that can be recycled or composted. You can purchase disposable dinnerware made from corn that is 100% compostable. Of course, it is important to have a place within your restaurant to compost or recycle disposable dinnerware - otherwise, it will end up in a landfill somewhere and that kind of defeats the purpose.  

While some restaurant concepts can benefit from disposable dishes, like food trucks, or for catered functions such as barbeques or other outside events, the cost of replacing paper plates continuously for years, is going to far exceed the initial investment cost of china plates. Plastic plates, while more durable than paper and reusable, still won’t hold up the way classic china dinnerware will. So, even if you are opening a simple, casual soup and sandwich shop or a diner, China is still your best bet for a long-term investment.

Environmentally friendly dishes are also important for Millennial customers, who look for environmental sustainability and good stewardship as key aspects of businesses they are willing to support. 

Restaurant Glassware

Today’s glassware can make just as much as a statement as dinner plates. You can dress up your restaurant bar with funky martini glasses, oversized wine goblets or brightly colored tumblers. Just remember to buy from a commercial distributor, to avoid premature chips and cracks. Another tip about restaurant glassware: You beer distributor can often give you promotional pint glasses and other restaurant glassware for free. But be sure to check your local liquor laws, first.

Purchasing dishes for a new restaurant may seem like a simple enough task, but careful consideration should be paid to the quality of the dishes. Commercial grade is important in order to withstand the heavy wear and tear of everyday restaurant use. Migrating from plastic and paper to China and glass may be expensive upfront, but over the long run it will save money and be better for the environment. Whatever you choose, be sure that your dishes reflect the style of your restaurant concept. Interesting patterns and colors are a good way to make your menu items stand out.

Remember people eat with their eyes first.