Commercial Dinnerware Materials Guide

Everything you need to know about which material to choose for your commercial dinnerware.

By Kinnek Community




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Choosing the appropriate dinnerware for your food service enterprise can be difficult, as there are many options, some of which may appear at first glance to be quite similar (price, durability, presentation) to one another.  If you consider your options carefully, however, you’ll find that there are differences and that certain dinnerware offerings may suit your kitchen’s needs better.

General Rules for Buying Commercial Dinnerware

When shopping for commercial dinnerware, always account for two possibilities: 1) that you’ll, at some point, be thankful for having excess dinnerware on-hand, and 2) that dinnerware can and will break during food service operation.  As such, we recommend that you seek dinnerware materials that are durable - it doesn’t have to be the most durable - but durable enough that a dropped plate will not shatter.  We also recommend ordering in excess of your current dinnerware needs, so that you have replacements for broken dinnerware (and extras for events, perhaps, or to account for growth).

Materials

Melamine
  • Popular in casual eateries where paper and light, flexile plastic dinnerware is not appropriate.
  • Relatively affordable compared to other non-disposable dinnerware options.
  • Hard plastic material that is extremely durable - highly resistant to chipping, scratches, and breaking.  Importantly, however, if melamine chips or breaks, food and bacteria can enter the porous material below and become a health hazard. 
  • Comes in multiple colors and styles.
  • Is not microwave-safe, and may break if put in high heat environments.
Polycarbonate
  • Extremely durable - almost impossible to break by dropping.
  • Easy to scratch, and utensil use may also lead to scratches.  There are polycarbonate options that are scratch resistant, however.
  • Dishwasher-safe and microwave-safe.
Glass
  • Resistant to scratching, but is more breakable than the alternatives.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Can be exposed to high temperatures without issue.
  • Dishwasher-safe and microwave-safe.
  • Non-porous material reduces the risk of bacterial growth.
  • Comes in a wide variety of designs and colors.
Porcelain
  • Commercial porcelain, or fine china, is generally stronger and more durable than residential versions, which are infamous for their lack of durability.
  • Medium durability.
  • Can be exposed to high temperatures without issue.
  • Dishwasher-safe and microwave-safe.
  • Relatively more expensive than other dinnerware options.
  • Non-porous material reduces the risk of bacterial growth.
Stoneware
  • Made more refined clay.  Is permeable, but to a very minimal degree, which limits temperature swings and makes it easier for serving hot items.
  • Dishwasher-safe and microwave-safe.
  • Highly resistant to chipping.
  • Sought after to give the table a more natural look that cannot be obtained with other materials.
Earthenware
  • Also made of clay, like stoneware, and is sought after for the natural look it adds to a table.
  • Temperature swings wildly, which may make it more difficult for holding hot items.
  • Easily scratched and stained (glazing can lessen this property).
  • Microwave-safe, but not dishwasher-safe.
  • Can be exposed safely to high temperatures (can be used in conventional ovens).
Caution!
  • Take care not to place dinnerware in a microwave, dishwasher, or oven unless it has been rated safe for such use.  Depending on your dinnerware, various materials and chemicals can come lose and cause food safety issues, increasing the risk of bacterial contamination or worse.
  • Any dinnerware with metal accents must especially be kept out of the way of microwaves, as the metals used are highly flammable and react in the microwave.
  • Certain dinner materials, such as porcelain, require a higher degree of care and maintenance than other dinnerware.  Speak to your supplier about the care necessary for the dinnerware you purchase and ensure that a trained employee is consistently giving it the care it requires.

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