How to Choose Plate and Glassware
Of the countless tough decisions that operators must make prior to opening the doors, buying plate and glassware would seem like one of the easiest ones. Buying plate and glassware is like playing offensive line in the NFL – you only get noticed if you make a mistake. On the other hand, following a few rules can make the product-buying process a little easier in the long run.
Use a Trusted Restaurant Supplier
This is one of the many scenarios in which having a personal relationship with a restaurant supply vendor can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, there’s no ratings guide system on plate and glassware, and it’s very hard to get user feedback. This means it’s nearly impossible to hear how supplies hold up over time.
A solid vendor representative can give anecdotal accounts of how different pieces work, and what items to avoid. Vendor reps need trustworthy relationships. They also need business, and lose out on it when they steer you wrong.
Buy a Brand Name
Sure, brand names cost more. But it’s worthwhile to have a brand name with supplies that have held up over time in restaurants around the country. There will be plenty of time in the future to work the phones to shop around and come up with the best price. This is one area in which it’s worthwhile not to skimp, but to buy the products that work.
Try it Out First
Getting samples is always a good idea before making a big purchase. Without first using the items, it’s impossible to know if the ridges in the glassware make all the ice slide down at once when drinking, leading everyone who uses them to spill ice on themselves. Without using plates first, it’s impossible to know if they’ll stand up to the heat lamps if they have to sit in the window.
Plate Size Equals Portion Size
Larger plateware generates bad habits from kitchen staff, who tend to want to cover plates. Meanwhile, plates that are too small make dishes look too small. The answer for entrée plates is to have two or three standard sizes for various dishes. Larger plates can be used for pastas, soups, and certain appetizers; low-cost dishes where larger portions are affordable.
Don’t Get Fancy
It’s tempting for many new operators – especially those with extensive kitchen experience – to purchase a wide variety of plateware in different shapes and sizes to match with certain entrees. I have to admit that triangular and oval plateware with strong accents can bring seafood to life. But this gets more complicated than it should in the high-volume environment most operators crave.
Plate and glassware that is too fancy leaves line cooks looking for the right plate instead of plating up entrees. It also leads to excessive breaking and costly damage when larger accidents inevitably occur. Let the service, food, and atmosphere be fancy, and let the plate and glassware support the concept.
Make Sure You Can Get a Hold of Replacements
Never buy items that can run out of stock. Buying exotic plate and glassware is like buying the expensive European sports car. It’s great until it’s time to import new parts. Running out of items happens routinely, leading to inconsistently set dining rooms and haphazard table set-ups. Brand name plate and glassware makes it more likely that spares will be available when necessary.
Keep Spares In-house
Having a spare box of plates or glasses may not seem like a big deal, until a large party is a half-hour from arrival and you realize you don’t have enough water glasses. It’s much better to over-order and have a box ready than to have to tell the bride and groom of a rehearsal dinner that a few of their guests may not be able to enjoy water.
In-house spares aren’t cheap, and over-ordering flies in the face of conventional ordering wisdom. But having extras can save huge headaches, and save money in the long run.