Q&A: Chris Crocetti, director of business development, R.W. Smith’s Southeast region on tabletop accessories
FE&S: What are tabletop accessories?
CC:Tabletop accessories typically encompass all tabletop supplements and complements to the core tabletop categories of china, glass and flatware. However, when specifying these items, operators will include china, glass and flatware with tabletop accessories.
FE&S: Are accessories limited to items permanently on the table?
CC:Every item coming out from the kitchen or bar can be served in something that is considered an accessory. This includes glass plates for sharing salads, slate boards for serving cheese and other showpiece vessels. Accessories would also include condiment service and coffee/tea service. We’re specifying unique and innovative products used to bring food and drink to the table, even in cases where simple white dinnerware is also being used.
FE&S: What are the main goals for today’s tabletop accessories?
CC:These days, tabletop accessories are upscale, encourage interactive dining and are more personal. Restaurants want customers to feel pampered and also interact more with their food and beverages, while keeping their supply budget in line. It’s our responsibility to help our business partners be more profitable in their foodservice operations by introducing them to new products, materials, styles, different colors, unique shapes and various sizes, while recommending various applications. Investing in updated accessories is easier and less costly than completely changing out china. A variety of vessels is crucial to keep competitive in today’s restaurant industry.
FE&S: The tabletop accessory needs of foodservice operators vary so dramatically. What are the main considerations when specifying these items?
CC:Whoever drives the concept, whether it is the chef, manager, food and beverage director, owner or other team member, will determine the vision for the restaurant. Then, we’ll present the accessories that will support how the menu items should play. Is the style progressive or rustic? Was the restaurant inspired by a particular location or time period, such as the South of France or Roaring Twenties? We’ll work on design boards and sample showings together. Smaller plates and side dishes, rather than large proteins and pasta, need to be taken into account. For example, there may be a dish featuring a pork, veal and beef meatball trio that isn’t designed as an entrée, but as an accompaniment. Creative plates can help the foodservice business increase not only sales, but also guest satisfaction and reputation in the marketplace by highlighting appetizers, small plates, sides or accoutrements. We also assist in cost control by recommending vessels that better regulate portion size, keep presentation more consistent and reduce breakage.
FE&S: What are the current material trends withtabletop accessories?
CC:Generally, items are chosen to match or compliment dinnerware and the overall aesthetic of the interior design. Both raw and enameled cast iron is huge right now. Sides or small plates may be served in a terra cotta piece, since this material is making a comeback. These materials are often spiced up with different colors and finishes. Other popular accessory materials are stoneware, raw ware and irons in different tones or colors. Natural and earthy items are crucial to include in the accessories category, like rough woods made from oak and acacia. An increasing number of dining establishments have eschewed white tableware altogether in favor of granite or more natural materials with matte finishes. Copper also is back in style. Dining as theater is showing as well, with some vessels for canapés resembling similar structures that would be used in the circus.
FE&S: How do menu trends impact this segment?
CC:An increasing number of segments, including steakhouses, farm-to-table concepts and other styles are serving side dishes and small plates in vessels different from the core dinnerware. This way, customers can compose their own meal by choosing from a variety of small plates, rather than predesignated items or fully composed dishes. In many cases, the entrée or core plate may be white, and the beans or creamed spinach would be served in a clay pot or iron dish.
FE&S:What are the latest trends in salt and pepper service?
CC:For the most part, basic porcelain or china salt and pepper shakers have been replaced. Now, these items are less likely to stay on tables, since many chefs prefer diners don’t alter the flavor of their dishes with additional seasonings. When these are used, vessels deliver salt and pepper in a more unique way, such as with small bowls and tiny spoons or in compact wooden flip top boxes that contain various types of whole salt blocks and
grinders, for example.