Flatware is present in every restaurant, on every table, but the quality and look selected by the venue differs from restaurant to restaurant. Some venues offer a wide range of flatware tools, specific to many different types of foods and drinks, while others only offer a few basics. The latter type of venues will often prefer to save the extra expense and forgo purchasing such specifically geared flatware tools. Beyond the different types of flatware tools available, the numbers used to describe stainless steel products and the different flatware weights offered can be confusing as well. This guide will put some of the options into perspective.
18/10, 18/8, 18/0- the numbers used to represent different types of stainless steel flatware can be overwhelming. Stainless steel is a metal usually made from a mixture of chromium, stainless steel and nickel, with some other metals sometimes incorporated as well. The concept behind the numbers is very simple: the first number indicates the percentage of chromium (a type of metal) compared to the total weight of the item, and the second number represents the amount of nickel content in the stainless steel mixture. The rest of the alloy, not indicated in the numbers, is the percentage of steel in the stainless steel metal mixture.
Why do these percentages matter? Chromium is a light-colored metal prized in alloys because of its toughness and stain resistance. Almost all stainless steel products contain steel and chromium. In higher quality stainless steel mixtures, nickel is added as well for its non-corrosive and stain resistant properties, as well as shininess.
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The type of stainless steel flatware chosen for a restaurant should depend on the type of venue and the purpose the item will serve. Fancier venues will usually choose to purchase flatware containing nickel, in order to guarantee a nice shine. However, flatware for use in the restaurant kitchen can be made with chromium alone, in order to keep the expenses lower, since it will not be seen by diners. Family dining venues and other casual venues may also consider choosing stainless steel flatware with low nickel content due to its lower price.
Flatware comes in different weights including medium, heavyweight, and extra-heavy. The weights are usually a function of the types of metal used. Medium-weight flatware is relatively inexpensive and easy to bend and manipulate without applying a lot of force, making it a good option for very casual restaurants and small restaurants on a strict budget. Heavyweight flatware is probably the most common weight type used for flatware in fast-casual venues, providing durability and due to its affordability. Extra-heavy flatware is often seen in higher class venues and is considered high quality and very durable, but expensive. It is important to take the menu into consideration as well. A steak, for example, should not be eaten with medium-weight flatware, since medium-weight forks are likely to bend if used to eat steak. The choice in flatware weight should be made based on the budget and desired quality.
The typical, almost mandatory, types of flatware a restaurant table is set with include dinner spoons, dessert spoons, dessert forks, dinner forks, salad forks, and dinner knives. However, many other options exist as well. Cocktail forks offer a comfortable tool for appetizers served in verrines. Butter spreaders are shaped to help the user spread butter without cutting through a piece of bread. Iced tea spoons have a long handle, enabling comfortable mixing of the drink. Each of these examples is a more elaborate piece of flatware compared to the standard types mentioned above. They each have very obvious advantages, yet they are not often seen in fast casual venues. Since they are geared towards such specific dishes, they are often overlooked when ordering restaurant equipment. Their presence on a dining table is often appreciated by diners, but their absence will rarely be missed. Therefore, many venues choose to save the costs and forgo these flatware items. Venues which can afford to invest in such items, however, will be able to slightly boost the dining experience they offer.
Choosing flatware should be approached with attention and purpose. The first step in selecting flatware items and types is knowing the options on the market. Next, is deciding which options are ideal for the venue, considering the menu of the restaurant, the style or ambience, and the ordering budget. Though heavy-weight or 18/10 stainless steel flatware may be the epitome of the best options available, fast-food style venues would be out of their league if they offered such high quality flatware, and casual venues would sometimes be strapped for cash in other areas of the business if they allowed themselves the novelty of purchasing such items. The many types, styles, and materials offered allow venues to choose flatware which will best fit their specific requirements.