Types: There are literally hundreds of tabletop items available for commercial foodservice use. The most basic and commonly used include salt and pepper mills or shakers; ramekins; napkin rings and dispensers; serving trays; thermal beverage servers; wine buckets and coolers; bud vases; condiment racks; oil/vinegar cruets; syrup dispensers; serving baskets; creamer and sugar holders; electric table lamps and candles; parmesan cheese shakers; and dispensers for ketchup, mustard and other condiments.
In terms of servingware, double wall bowls, display cookware, decorative pans with matching templates, upscale steam table pans and chafers are available.
Capacities/Footprints: Sizes of tabletop items vary, depending on the manufacturer.
With servingware items such as steam table pans and display cookware or decorative pans with templates, there are 12˝ x 20˝ single well or 24˝ x 20˝ double well units. Chafers and double wall bowls are freestanding and available in various capacities.
Manufacturing Methods: Tabletop items are available in a wide variety of materials, including glass or porcelain with chrome accents, stoneware, wood, powder-coated metal, plastic and polypropylene. Some metals offer a choice of finishes, such as brass, copper, gold or silver. Baskets can be wood or hand-woven in bamboo or willow.
Servingware is typically stainless steel for a high-quality appearance and durability.
Standard Features: In terms of tabletop items, some have handles attached, while others have tops or lids that may or may not be interchangeable. Lids may be slotted or perforated.
New Features/Technology/Options: Tableware is offered in unique shapes and sizes. One new salt and pepper shaker offers a bigger and taller shape, providing a 2-ounce instead of the typical 1-ounce size. Recycled green glass tableware has become a popular choice for many operators. Probably the biggest impact on tabletop is the increase in demand for small complementary pieces that hold product in a unique way. Through the use of small, unique pieces, operators have found a way to affordably update their tabletop without the dramatic cost of changing china, glassware and flatware.
Chafers are available that work with induction heating, which uses less energy than other conventional heating methods. Double wall bowls help maintain food temperatures without requiring an energy source.
Key Applications: Tableware is used for dispensing or serving products in any foodservice application that offers seating, while servingware is used to contain and serve food generally seen in buffet and catering applications.
Purchasing Guidelines: For both tableware and servingware items durability, functionality and appearance are key. Be sure all front-of-the-house accessories will keep their appearance through many years of use and cleaning. For many operators, unique pieces can help differentiate their dining rooms.
Maintenance Requirements: For all tabletop and servingware, proper cleaning and storage should be followed per the manufacturer's recommendations.
Food Safety Essentials: Tabletop and servingware items should be easy to clean and keep clean. Make sure that all materials are food-safe.