A new barrage of colored stemware, geometric plates and angular flatware is tops on tables at today's special events. Here's what rental companies and manufacturers have to say about the shape of things.
“We've had a great deal of success with our square and triangle-shaped dinnerware,” says Brett Harris, national sales manager of distributor Ten Strawberry Street, Denver.
Another popular plate is the coupe style, which can double as a pasta bowl, according to Lynn Wells, custom projects manager for Brighton Falls China in Beaver Falls, Pa. Brighton Falls manufactures the Tucson coupe plate, which comes in two sizes — 10-inch and 12-inch — and is designed to serve more as a shallow bowl with no rim.
“It can be very elegant or casual depending on the custom pattern,” Wells says. “It's popular because of its versatility. The shape draws your eye to the food.”
Brighton Falls mixes geometric shapes within the plate for a hipper look. “We take a round ceramic plate and put a rectangle in the center of it,” Wells says. While the plate is being fired black under the glaze in the factory, a lead mask creates the rectangle. “You put the dessert in the rectangle.”
Today's stemware falls into two categories: “Either sleek and angular like the Calvin Klein line or the lush Renaissance feel of very wide gold and silver banding,” says Kathy Ruff, president of Chicago-based rental company Tablescapes.
But stemware manufacturers have abandoned thick-lipped edges, she adds. “Make sure you have as little lip as possible so it's not something that looks rented. Otherwise it's more institutional rather than something you would have in your own home,” she says.
Randolph, N.J.-based flatware manufacturer Corby Hall has introduced two new designs because “there's a trend toward more modern, funky designs for the rental industry,” president Alan Millward says.
Pieces in Corby Hall's Horizont line are long and narrow and resemble chopsticks. Event planners are using them with square or triangular plates, Millward says. The Picasso line “has various different angles etched along the handle,” he adds. The stainless steel pieces have a high-gloss finish.
Plate colors are warming up, according to Wells. “We see a return to a creamy white body color instead of a stark white color,” she says. “That has a lot to do with the warmth of the colors being used today, like the greens, rusts and browns.”
She adds that patterns are becoming popular as well because of chefs' emphasis on presentation. “With the plain white plate you have to garnish it in order to decorate the food,” which costs 30 cents extra per plate in labor and food costs, she says. “You spend less money buying a decorated pattern.”
Another trend is toward rich plate designs, Ruff says. “Glass plates have a gold leaf sprayed on the back. It's a wonderful, lush look rather than a cold, metallic look.”
Customers like to mix old and new products and colors, according to Marjory Eggleston, partner in Unique Tabletop Rentals, Bellflower, Calif. “We had someone take one of our formal platinum-rim plates and mix it with a cobalt-blue charger,” she says. “They mixed Baroque and antique-looking with modern and sleek. Then they did hot-pink decor. The whole room popped.”
“We see a big demand for glass plates, both clear and colored,” says Jean Zuckerman, spokesperson for manufacturer Eschenbach Commercial Foodservice of Chantilly, Va.
Even if the plate is white, the rim isn't. “Everyone has red and blue [rims], but pink, fuchsia and black are becoming popular,” Harris says.
The demand for new colors hasn't stopped at plates. “Everyone wants colored stems,” Harris adds. However, the color palette for glassware is limited. “To make colored glass dishwasher-safe, the color literally has to be inside of the glass, which is a huge investment,” he says.
Colored glass is popular, but Ruff warns to stay away from using colored stemware to serve wine. “You can't see the color of the wine if you are using a green stem. They should only be used for water.”
Colors also are showing up on flatware. Unique offers “Red Crayons” — stainless steel flatware with red handles.
The days of the 6 1/2-inch dessert plate are gone, says Larry Green, president of Rentals Unlimited in Stoughton, Mass. “Everyone is going for bigger plates. [Event designers] use 12-inch chop plates to set the table and 10 1/2-inch plates all the way through the meal.”
For less formal crowds, the company offers a 13-inch, laminated leather charger.
Green says the upsizing provides more work space for chefs. “They are doing a lot more design of the dessert and salad courses,” he says. “It's all about the presentation.”
Though dessert plates are growing, Eggleston says chargers have been scaled down to more “realistic” sizes. “The normal size for a charger is 12 inches,” she says. “It had crept up to 14 inches, which I balked at. I tease chefs that they'd like a 48-inch plate.”
She attributes the trimmed sizes to a need to conserve space. “I think table space was getting too tight,” she says.
For formal affairs, “you still see a lot of precious metals being used like gold and platinum,” Wells says. “We do a pattern where we have a gold and platinum mix” so the planner can choose a gold or silver theme.
Likewise, Rentals Unlimited offers Cotillion, a new plate that mixes silver and gold in a rim design, Green says.
However, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of silver over gold, according to Harris. For younger clientele, “gold is too ostentatious, and silver is classy and understated,” he says.
In flatware, “we're seeing a trend away from silver plating into a high-quality 18/10 stainless steel,” Millward says.
Eggleston says event designers are going back to a traditional feel for formal table settings. “The wide-band glasses and gold-rim plates do get a big impact when you walk in the room. It's not subtle.”
RESOURCES: Brighton Falls China, 724/846-3300; Corby Hall, 973/366-8300; Eschenbach Commercial Foodservice, 703/263-1550; Rentals Unlimited, 781/341-1600; Tablescapes, 312/733-9700; Ten Strawberry Street, 303/320-5525; Unique Tabletop Rentals, 800/709-7007
For archived articles on plates and tableware click on the following links:
- Tools of the Trade: Choice China
By Layna Pedersen; November 2000
- Beyond the White Plate: Tabletop Trends
By Tanja Mushenko; May 2000