Following the trends in tableware design

By Sean Moon
November 7, 2013
Trends in tableware design

For most chefs, the process of creating a culinary masterpiece does not end when the food comes out of the oven or off the grill. There are many who believe that how a dish is presented to the guest can be just as important as the techniques or ingredients used to put it together. So if the adage of “eating with our eyes first” holds true, chefs should always be thinking about not only what utensils are most effective in the kitchen, but what kind of tableware will help put the finishing touch on their work of art.

Although the type of vessel a food or drink is served in has been important for hundreds of years, today’s restaurant dinnerware designs are heavily influenced by a number of factors, from trends in colour and materials to more practical issues such as portion control and multi-use functionality. Innovation in other aspects of food and beverage service, such as specialty cocktails or beer tasting, is also leaving its mark on tableware design.

“Today’s chefs have access to ingredients, cooking techniques and presentation styles that are global in influence,” says Nick Mowat, president of dinnerware manufacturer Churchill Canada. “The larger dinnerware manufacturers are continuing to develop new and exciting ways for the resulting dishes to be presented.”

Function and form

Two major trends affecting the appearance and function of tableware are the increased interest in portion control and a preference for retro or vintage-styled glass and dinnerware. Portion control, for example, can influence the design of a glass or dinner plate based on a variety of factors, including the current shift towards more small-plate food items or an emphasis on moderate alcohol consumption.

“We are seeing a continued popularity in the use of smaller dishes and bowls for small plate menus and concepts to encourage community style dining, especially if the decor allows for bench style seating,” says Mowat.

Don Sousa, national sales manager of glassware producer Libbey Canada, says portion control is also a concern when it comes to vessels such as wine glasses. “Portion control is trending high so we are being asked to apply a visual marking on wine glasses such as a line or logo as a control reference point,” says Sousa.

Vintage is in

Vintage or retro-influenced tableware is another area where manufacturers are paying particular interest. Whether it is the use of specific shapes or colours on plates and glasses or a desire to infuse the dining table environment with a more down-home feel, the vintage look is in.

“Customers are now looking for influences that they may see within a home environment being carried across into the restaurant world, especially with a vintage or retro slant from patterned china like Churchill’s Vintage Prints collection through to classical styles of glassware and serving vessels,” says Mowat.

Among the other popular trends influencing the latest tableware designs are more naturally toned vessels such as wooden platters as well as a move to new shapes that address the specific features of the products they are intended to contain, such as custom beer and wine glasses.

“Coming on the back of many years of plain white china we are seeing increasing demand for warmer, natural tones which tie into the continuing popularity of farm-to-table or locally sourced dining trends,” says Mowat. “Tabletop innovation is being driven by a variety of materials coming to market from wood, slate, cast iron or other metals – all of which help to raise the food presentation and allow the operator to update their tabletop without having to switch out all their core tableware items.”

Technology improves

Sousa says that although glassware composition has not changed much over the years, the technology to produce glassware has become more efficient.

“We are able to produce shapes that we were not able to produce effectively in the past. The new shapes are allowing operators to offer a better final product to their consumers. New beer shapes are an example. Craft beer and infused cocktails are making us develop products that better capture all the flavours of these new creations,” says Sousa.

Similarly, Mowat says that as today’s chefs have an ever-increasing range of ingredients and technologies at their disposal, their dinnerware needs to be able to offer creative yet practical solutions.

“This can be seen with the recent trend of molecular gastronomy which has crossed over from being solely within the food and protein category and is now cropping up in the cocktail and beverage world,” says Mowat. “Many manufacturers now offer miniature serving vessels or sealed glass containers to capture vapours infused with scent reductions that their clientele can then release at their table.”

While these and other trends will continue to affect what chefs and operators literally bring to the table in terms of dinnerware, Sousa believes that the global marketplace will help ensure that another great tableware idea is always just around the corner.

“In today’s market, tableware trends come from different cultural food and cooking trends. Whether it’s a single restaurateur who owns one unique local concept to multi-unit chains with locations across the country, I believe that operators will take a great idea from anywhere in the world and adapt it to what works best for their concept.”

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