Turning Tabletop Trends

Tableware and servingware are playing an increasingly important supporting role as it relates to culinary trends and the guest experience.
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If a picture paints a thousand words, then the explosion of Instagram and image-focused digital content has doubled down on the importance of restaurant presentation and tabletop selections.

The right tableware is critical to guest experience, Gordon Food Service Commercial Segment Manager Doug Owens points out. “In today’s increasingly competitive market, operators must push themselves to constantly develop clear points of market differentiation. Each point of execution can make all the difference in generating sales growth.” 

Thoughtfully selected, authentic tabletop pieces are crucial for brand impact, and a valuable tool for building revenue. 

Because authentic presentation is key, top culinary trends drive tabletop selection. From the annual research tour of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC, has identified three primary culinary trends that can help build menu differentiation: sharing plates, bowls and veg-centric preparations. Each trend will impact tabletop selection.

Sharing plates and platters 

“The whole idea behind the shared-plate philosophy is simply more flexibility in dining,” Ludwig says. Sharing calls for a mix-and-match style appealing to diners and offers an excellent opportunity to add more flavor and variety to the table. Visually, shared plates are a focal point. 

“These dishes get the most attention because everyone at the table is using them,” says Carol Klein, Gordon Food Service Associate Category Manager (Tabletop). “They set the tone early on as everyone looks to see what lands in the center of the table.” She recommends picking a unique piece or two for sharing plates, which allows operators to update inventory affordably.

Veg-centric 

“This is not a trend about vegetarian dining,” Ludwig reminds. “It’s about treating vegetables and fruits as ingredients worthy of the center of the plate. Veg-centric cooking puts flavor first, and it’s this ethos that has paved the way for its success.”

Earthy tableware, with a natural feel and organic shapes, dovetails perfectly with the farmers market fresh spirit of veg-centric cooking. “Many new pieces echo the look of stone and natural materials,” Klein notes. “Grays, blacks, naturals and texture is very on trend.” 

A new line of commercial-grade tableware mimics the look of hand-thrown pottery, offering the durability and sustainability restaurants depend on with the unique and visually appealing look of stoneware.

Everything in a bowl

Bowls are huge. Literally. From a breakfast bowl of cold, creamy açai with fresh fruit and granola to a glistening heap of pasta cacio e pepe or a sunny-side up egg nestled into a pile of fragrant green rice, many of the hottest food trends beg to be served in oversized bowls. 

Klein points out that, “In many parts of the world, a bowl is the primary serving vessel. A sense of tabletop authenticity can come from employing warmer tones, softer and more comfortable shapes and natural materials and textures.”

Bowls and coupes of varying sizes allow operators to combine multiple elements in a visually stunning presentation, layering flavors and textures for a dynamite eating experience.

Tying it all together

Employing these culinary trends in a way that reflects a restaurant’s identity can be a critical first step toward growing sales. However, Owens says, “Equally important is to follow through on how you execute these dishes from kitchen to tabletop. Guests today have more access than ever to global dining trends, and they expect an authentic experience through unique and functional tableware.”

Remember, it’s no longer necessary for tableware to align with your current inventory. Gordon Food Service External research in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago shows the emergence of multiple shapes, colors and forms that can be successfully mixed to create an authentic and functional presentation unique to your brand

“Instead of a complete overhaul, changing selected pieces more often keeps the tabletop fresh and interesting without significant expense,” Klein says.

Social media can be a powerful tool for communicating a restaurant’s brand. As guests view their latest digital images, a restaurant’s ability to employ tabletop items as an extension of its overall marketing can help create a wide-reaching point of differentiation. 

A rich dining experience, unique to your location, starts with culinary distinction. The food makes an even stronger impact when presented on authentic and appealing tableware.

Top it off

Ask your Sales Representative about our experts who can help you set off your menu items with the right tableware.

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