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A Buying Guide to Cutlery & Flatware

Cutlery & Silverware Buying Guide

You have selected the perfect décor and layout to reflect the theme and concept of your restaurant.
You've researched the correct commercial equipment in depth to ensure that your kitchen runs smoothly and without a hitch.
You've put time into developing a tasty and enticing menu and have sourced the finest and freshest ingredients.
You have even planned uniforms and dinnerware that will emit the desired image and show the professionalism with which your business is run.

However, without the right selection of cutlery or silverware, the whole image that you have built could take a major knock.

Just as every other aspect of the restaurant needs to be on point, so should your cutlery.
If your business is a fast food establishment then perhaps disposable cutlery will be sufficient.
However, if you run a fine dining restaurant then the quality of your cutlery  should be just as high as the dishes that you serve.
Don’t be tempted to scrimp on the cost - you don’t want your guests to cut into a sumptuous steak only to find that your cutlery bends and distorts under the pressure.

Consider these elements when choosing the perfect cutlery for your restaurant:

What type of food do you serve? (Pasta, salad, meats etc.)
What type of restaurant are you? (Fast casual? or fine dining?)
What kind of impression do you want to give to your guests?

Before you make any flatware selections you must understand the basics of cutlery and which pieces are available for what purpose.




Types of steel used to make cutlery

Cutlery selection

Table settings

Different types of Knives

Dinner knives
The most recognisable and mainstream type of knife, the dinner knife is a part of the traditional five piece cutlery table setting. Its primary use is to cut regular foods; however, in the absence of a butter knife, it can also be used to serve and spread butter or jam. The blade is moderately sharp (though not excessively so) and the tip narrows to a dull point.

Formal dinner knives
Typically used for fine dining and formal occasions, the quality of the formal dinner knife is much higher. These knives are nearly a third larger in size and almost a third heavier than the average dinner knife - which typically means they are more expensive to purchase.

Butter knives
The blade on this knife has a dull edge and a rounded tip. These features make the butter knife perfect for spreading butter or jam onto soft foods.

Fish knives
Typically smaller in size, this knife has a distinctive spatula blade perfect for eating fish.

Steak knives
These pieces are more sturdy than regular dinner knives with a sharper blade which is usually serrated. Steak knives are designed to make easy work of slicing through prime cuts of meat.

Different types of Forks

Dinner forks
This item is a multi functional piece that can be used for a variety of uses. Some restaurants will utilise this piece for fish dishes, salads, meaty dinners and desserts however its primary use should be for main courses solely. Dinner forks are one of the items included in a traditional five piece table setting.

Formal dinner forks
The heavier weight and increased size when compared with the average dinner fork make it the perfect pairing for the formal dinner knife. It is typically used for fine dining and more formal events hence the higher purchase price.

Salad forks
This is smaller in size than a dinner fork and more delicate. It is used for eating not only salad but also sliced fruits.

Fish forks
Although this fork is similar in size to a salad fork it only has three tines (prongs), much like a trident. This makes separating fish meat from the bone easier.

Dessert forks
Although closely resembling a salad fork, the structure is even more delicate. No extra weight or durability is required as it is typically used to break through soft, crumbling cakes and desserts.

Cocktail fork
A piece that is included in the standard five piece table setting, it is used to eat small appetisers. It features only three tines, similar to a fish fork.

Different Types of Spoons

A multi functional piece that, despite its name can be used for soups, cereals and desserts as well as the obvious stirring of tea and coffee beverages. This item is a part of the traditional five piece table setting.

Soup spoon
The bowl of the spoon is generally wider and deeper with an oval shape designed to hold more liquid. This spoon is a larger form of the teaspoon.

Bouillon spoons
Another type of soup spoon which is typically smaller and with a shallower bowl. The shape is rounder than other soup spoons.

Dessert spoons
The bowl is wider and deeper to enable the user to hold more liquid and solid food together.

This item is generally used for service of vegetables from communal bowls set in the middle of the table. Resembling a teaspoon in shape, a tablespoon is much larger in size.

Demitasse spoons
Closely related to the teaspoon, the demitasse spoon has a longer handle designed as such to enable stirring of hot drinks served in small quantities such as espressos etc.

18/10 vs. 18/0? - Types of Steel used to make Cutlery

Now that you know the basic cutlery items you should be made aware of the difference between shopping for 18/10 or 18/0 grade stainless steel.
These numbers represent the percentages of chromium and nickel content within the steel.
For example, stainless steel cutlery labelled as 18/10 has 18% chromium content and 10% nickel content. Alternatively, 18/0 graded flatware has 18% chromium content with zero nickel content.
Chromium is a hard metallic substance that improves the durability and strength of the cutlery, whilst nickel is a silvery metallic element that helps to resist the process of corrosion.

Both grades have their own advantages but to decide which one is best for your restaurant, you need to weigh up the facts regarding each:

18/10 graded cutlery

  • Rust resistant
  • High durability
  • Bright and glistening lustre finish
  • Greater cost

18/0 graded cutlery

  • Lower cost alternative
  • Can become stained
  • Softer shine

Cutlery Selection

Once you know which grade of cutlery is best suited for your requirements you will need to select which style will best reflect the core principles and themes of your restaurant.  Although the ultimate choice will be personal there are certain guides which may prove a source for consideration.

The taste and surroundings of your restaurant will determine the style of flatware which you choose. Flamboyance will not suit a no frills restaurant just as a plain design will look cheap and out of place in a fine dining establishment. Consider the type of guests which you receive and that you regularly attract and aim to reflect their general tastes. Consider either a traditional or modern design, rounded or flat handles, decorative elements or plain metal and the type of finish, whether brushed or a polished metal.

Durability and price
Visual aesthetics are only one element of commercial flatware. Purchasing fancy and eye catching cutlery would be pointless if it will need replacing every month or so. The quality of the manufacture should be acknowledged to guarantee the durability and longevity of the pieces. Stainless steel is a popular choice as it has strength paired with economical price tags. When properly maintained and cared for stainless steel flatware can remain at a high standard through many years of use. Choosing between 18/10 and 18/0 will determine the items resistance to rust and the level of lustre which can be expected from the product.

Balance and weight
The perfect flatware should have a comfortable and balanced feel when held. The heavier the cutlery the more expensive it will seem and the more durable it should be. The formal style flatware is typically larger and heavier than average pieces and therefore more expensive hence mainly used in high priced fine dining restaurants. If you want a more economical choice then medium weighted items will be more affordable - although a little flimsier than heavy weight alternatives.

Match wisely
It is recommended to lay any potential flatware choices out with your existing dinnerware in order to make sure that they are a perfect match before making any purchases. Some cutlery may seem like the ideal choice when viewing the pieces singularly, but once they are teamed with your dinnerware you may find that the styles are contrasting and contradictory to each other.

Once you have found the perfect pieces; the right design and style, the correct weight and balance, the perfect metal grade and the ideal match for your dinnerware, you must understand how to use these items to maximum effect.
Laying a table correctly can be a simple task for a fast casual restaurant, typically needing a dinner knife, a dinner fork and a dessert spoon; any other extra pieces such as steak knives will be given as and when needed.
However, setting a table in a fine dining restaurant can be a little trickier and lot more confusing. If you own a fine dining business your customers will be expecting the utmost in quality and a full, decadent dining experience including a properly laid table with all pieces in the correct place.

Below are some examples of basic and full table settings:

Restaurant table setting

Cutlery you should have to place:

  • Dinner fork
  • Dinner knife
  • Soup spoon
  • Dessert fork
  • Dessert spoon

Correct positioning:

Begin by placing the plate in the centre of the setting laid on a charger plate. A soup bowl can be placed on top of the dinner plate.
In the upper right corner of the dinnerware should sit a water glass and a wine glass.
A napkin should sit to the left of the plate with the dinner fork placed on top.
The dinner knife should be placed, blade inward, on the right side of the plate - followed by the soup spoon.
Finally, place the dessert fork and spoon horizontally on the table above the plate in alternating directions.

Formal table setting

Cutlery you should have to place:

  • Butter knife
  • Formal dinner fork
  • Formal dinner knife
  • Fish fork
  • Fish knife
  • Soup spoon
  • Teaspoon
  • Dessert spoon
  • Dessert fork

Correct positioning:

Begin with a salad plate placed in the centre of the setting placed on a charger plate.
The bread plate should be located to the upper left corner with the bread knife laid on top.
To the upper right corner should sit a water glass, a red wine glass, a white wine glass and a champagne flute.
Directly above the salad plate you should lay a dessert spoon topmost with a dessert fork placed underneath, nearest to the top of the plate.
The forks should sit to the left hand side of the plate working from the inside out, formal dinner fork, fish fork and salad fork.
To the right side of the plate working from the inside out you should place a formal dinner knife, a fish knife, a soup spoon and a teaspoon.
The napkin should be folded neatly and placed delicately on the salad plate.

Many high class restaurants will insist on a fixed measurement between flatware and dinnerware items that create a perfectly uniformed appearance and highlights the attention to detail regarding all aspects of the restaurant.

Another point to consider:

If you own a specialised fish restaurant you will find that you will have no need for certain flatware items; most notably the steak knife.
Instead you may need extra pieces that will provide the perfect tools for your guests to get into those tough and tricky shelled delicacies.
For example, you may need to include a lobster cracker and a lobster pick designed especially for breaking through those hard shells and for digging into tiny crevices to gain access to the meat.

By understanding the basics of flatware it should be much easier to make the right cutlery selections for your catering needs. They may be simple eating tools however getting it right and making the perfect choices will help to distinguish your restaurant from the rest of the catering crowd.

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