Forks, Spoons and Knives: Foodservice Flatware Buying Guide

Forks, Spoons and Knives: Foodservice Flatware Buying Guide 

Like all aspects of your decor - colours, style of chairs, dinnerware and drinkware patterns - flatware also tells your story. Your customers get up close and personal with your cutlery; grabbing, gripping, touching and putting it in their mouths.  Trust us, they will remember if your choice of forks, spoons and dinner knives fell flat.

But with all the choices, how do you know which one is best for your operation? Our Foodservice Flatware Buying Guide will tell you what you need to know. 

There are four major things to consider: 

Material 
Weight 
Pattern 
Size 

These major considerations put together will determine the last. Cost.  Before you start shopping, have an idea of what your budget can handle because there is a large range in prices.  But rest assured, there is something available that meets your needs without breaking the bank. 

 

Material 

Silver-plated flatware is most often found in high-end fine dining establishments. It is available at a much higher price point than stainless steel flatware and requires more delicate care. Because it is susceptible to tarnish, it is necessary to polish silverware and it will live a much longer life when hand washed. 

Stainless steel flatware is the most popular option for food service operations, is dishwasher safe, and offers three levels of quality and durability. Stainless steel flatware quality is based on varying quantities of chromium and nickel content. Chrome offers strength while the addition of nickel contributes rust-resistance and a silver sheen or luster. 

You will notice number codes associated with stainless steel flatware that will indicate the chrome and nickel content. 

18/10 flatware is the most durable and often the most expensive style of stainless-steel flatware. The 18/10 indicates 18% chromium and 10% nickel. 18/10 flatware offers top notch rust resistance and a lovely sheen. 

18/8 flatware is your mid-level option, containing 8% nickel. This level of quality offers good protection from rust and corrosion along with a high luster. 

18/0 stainless steel flatware contains no nickel and therefore no protection from corrosion or cleaning. It’s the budget friendly alternative and has the bonus of being magnetic; a handy feature for operations that use a magnetic flatware retriever on the trash bins. This selection is often found in fast casual dining and for anyone with a sensitivity to nickel this is the way to go. 

13/0 is conventionally used for knife blades because it holds a sharp edge well, but can rust and bend and therefore requires some extra care.

Forged vs Stamped 

Stainless steel is turned into cutlery using one of two primary methods. Forging or stamping. 

Forged flatware is made from a thick piece of stainless steel that is heated and cut to form each utensil. Stamped flatware skips the heating step and the flatware is cut like a stamp out of the large pieces of stainless steel.

Forged flatware is stronger while stamped flatware is more flexible. 

 

Weight 

Good quality flatware will have a bit of heft to it. It should be evenly balanced and comfortable to use. It is recommended to get a feel for weight and balance whenever possible. The dinner fork is the most used piece, so make sure to test it out - consider ordering a small amount to get a feel.

It is important to note that heavier utensils denote higher quality in customers’ minds, so if you’re looking to impress the customer while choosing a more budget friendly material, go for the higher weighted option in that category. 

Weight Pros Cons Best Use
Medium (Economy)  light easily damaged cafeterias
inexpensive bendable institutional
easily replace basic patterns fast casual
Heavy mid-level durability can be unbalanced fast casual
more pattern options can feel awkward catering
banquets
Extra Heavy strong and durable higher price fine dining

 

 

Pattern (and Finish) 

Opt for a flatware pattern and finish that suits your style and compliments your other tableware including dinnerware, drinkware, linens and serving accessories.

Classic patterns are traditionally detailed with scrollwork. Choose flatware with curved lines to coordinate tableware with rounded design, or straight lines to match more angular motifs. Classic design is timeless and works for many styles of table settings. 

Modern patterns provide clean lines, and contemporary looking flatware that can complement more elaborate and decorative dishware or reinforce a more stringent style. Modern style is purposeful and progressive in design. 

Decorative patterns make you think of floral and romantic concepts with organic flourishes. 

Rustic patterns are chunky, and can use alternative handle materials such as wood or ceramic. 

Keep in mind that a more lustrous finish on your flatware is fitting with glossy table tops, where a matte or hammered finish complements more rustic wood surfaces. 

Size 

Flatware is produced as luncheon-size, place-size and continental, and can be thought of as small, medium and large. 

Luncheon-size flatware is the shortest in length and not commonly used today. 

Place-size flatware, also called American size, is approximately half an inch larger than luncheon-size and the most popular choice among restauranteurs. Its size balances well with an average table setting. 

Continental flatware, also called European size, is generally a half-inch longer than place-size flatware and an inch longer than luncheon size. Continental is proportioned for a formal table setting and is slightly heavier than the other two size options. 

 

How much flatware to purchase? 

Decide what flatware you need. Make a list. Review your menu and the utensils used in the serving and consumption of each dish. Also take into consideration your turn-over rate. How fast will the flatware need to be washed and ready for the next use? 

Restaurant flatware is typically sold in packs of 12 or multiples of a dozen and can vary between manufacturers.

A generalized rule of thumb is to order 2-3 pieces of flatware per seat. So if your restaurant seats 50 people, you will want a minimum of 100 forks, 100 spoons etc. It is always recommended to order more than you think you’ll need. You might be surprised at how much cutlery ends up accidentally scraped in with the trash. 

Here's a reference chart to help you determine how much of each type of cutlery you need for your foodservice business.  The number is a factor that you can use to determine the number of each you should have on hand.

# of seats x factor = # of pieces to order

For example: 100 seat family restaurant needs to order soup spoons.  The factor from the chart below is 2.

100 seats x 2 = 200 pieces

Remember that pack sizes differ between manufacturers, but are typically sold by the dozen so order to the nearest dozen.  200 pieces = 17 DZ.

FLATWARE ORDERING FACTORS

Item Type Fine Dining Casual Dining
Teaspoon 5 4
Dessert/Soup Spoon 2 2
Tablespoon 0.25 0.25
Iced Tea Spoon 1.5 1.5
Demitasse Spoon 2 -
Bouillon Spoon 2 2
Dinner Fork 3 3
Salad/Dessert Fork 1.5 1.5
Cocktail Fork 1.5 -
Dinner Knife 2 2
Butter Knife 1.5 1

 

When it comes down to it, pick the flatware that suits your industry, aesthetic and budget. There is an overwhelming number of decisions that need to be made operating a foodservice business. Let the choice of flatware be a straightforward one.  

Written by Breanne Baker

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