And yet suppliers have argued that investing in quality glass and tableware is absolutely key for any outlet looking to establish a reputation for the quality of its food offer.
Kathy Birch, marketing manager of tableware and glassware manufacturer Artis, said crockery, cutlery and glassware are “probably the most important visual element of a successful restaurant” as it is what diners see before tasting the food.
“Your choice of tableware will speak volumes about what style of food, dining style and service the customer can expect from your individual establishment,” said Birch.
And first impressions count, according to Trish McGhee, director of Style Linens.
“Never underestimate the value of a well dressed table or venue,” she said.
“Following on from ‘a warm welcome’ it is a huge part of first impressions and indeed a great talking point for customers and should set the scene for a wonderful meal.”
People will judge a business on its tableware and presentation.
While premium tableware such as crockery may traditionally be associated with high-end restaurants and hotels, Heather Lovatt, head of marketing at Steelite International, said it is just as important for bars and pubs.
“Creating the right impression for the best possible dining experience is just as crucial in the pub environment as in a Michelin-star restaurant,” said Lovatt.
“Quite simply, quality tableware says that this is a quality establishment which serves quality food.”
Lovatt said durability and heat retention should be top of the agenda for operators looking to update their tableware.
And while tableware, like any equipment, represents an investment for operators, Lovatt said a “core range” of products should last for years, supported by the addition of occasional “accessory pieces”.
“Unusual shaped bowls, quirky serving platters, bold patterns or colours, to show your pub’s individuality and flair,” said Lovatt.
“Keep your core range constant and just update the statement pieces.”
Choosing new tableware for a venue deserves careful thought, said Birch, who advised operators to start by choosing glassware that matches the style of the outlet, before progressing onto the important areas of crockery, cutlery and linen.
“Try not to mix qualities; if you can afford the best and it suits your restaurant, go for it,” she said.
“But don’t blow the budget on fabulous glassware and then find yourself compromising on the crockery; it will let you down.
“Where possible, match up the four elements of table design (glassware, crockery, cutlery, linen) quality for quality.”
Practical considerations such as storage are also important, according to Heather Beattie, brand manager at catering equipment supplier Nisbets.
“How much storage space is available for the crockery and what size items are actually needed?” she said.
“How many of each different item is needed? For instance, plates; will the starters be served on different plates from the mains? And, of course, desserts are going to come out on a different dish – depending on the pudding it could be a plate or a bowl. With a busy kitchen to run, there needs to be a quick turnaround on the meals, so ensure there is enough crockery to cater for the customer’s demands to save any unnecessary hold-ups.”
Replacing older tableware is an expense, but if an operator is willing to take time to research the options, they can achieve something special without spending more money, according to Neil Marr, director of tableware supplier One Track.
Marr said the time and effort devoted to selecting tableware should be immediately obvious to customers.
“There’s no point in spending money for the customer not to be aware that you’ve spent some money,” said Marr.
“So rather then just buying another 24 plates of the same kind you’ve been using for the last ten years, for the same money and a little bit of care and taking a little advice from people that know, you can achieve a little bit of a difference for the customer, but it won’t cost you any more.”
Marr said after a couple of years of operators trimming costs, the trade is waking up to the importance of quality tableware.
“They know that if they’re going to be successful they’ve got to refresh the offer,” he added.
Quality table and glassware are a crucial factor in how an outlet is perceived by its customers, argued Beattie.
“While tableware may not be the most expensive item on the list to buy, it is one of the most important as people will judge a business on its tableware and presentation,” she said.
Image – Although it can sometimes be overlooked by operators, tableware such as crockery plays a vital role in an outlet’s reputation for food, say suppliers.