Product Knowledge Guide: Buffetware

Buffetware is about more than serving capabilities and aesthetics. These items also can help foodservice operators control food shrink and waste. Durability, functionality and appearance are key factors to consider when specifying these items.

Used mostly in front-of-the-house applications, any serving or display items that operators employ to present food are considered buffetware. They include chafing dishes, double wall bowls, display cookware, induction equipment, chafers, upscale steam table pans, carving stations, warmers, stands, bowls, servingware and utensils.

Operators can choose from different quality items in the good, better and best categories. For example, on the lower end, economy chafers are constructed from a lighter gauge or lower-quality stainless and have a more economical price tag. Mid-range products may offer more options and higher-quality materials. High-end buffetware will typically be constructed of more durable materials with upscale features, like chafers with self-closing lids rather than the lift-off type.

With servingware items, such as steam table pans and display cookware or decorative pans with templates, foodservice operators can choose from 12-inch-by-20-inch single well or 24-inch-by-20-inch double well units. Chafers, some of which can work with induction heating and double wall bowls, can help maintain food temperatures without an energy source. Chafers tend to be freestanding units available in various capacities.

When it comes to buffetware, foodservice operators can choose from more elaborate materials and display options. As a result, wood, metal, slate, matte finishes, decorated items and melamine have become more prevalent. In high-volume operations where breakage is an issue, sturdier materials like wood, metal and melamine, are more viable options than glass or ceramic.

In buffetware, colors are becoming more common and are now mixed in more often with traditional white products to enhance food presentations. There also are more Pantone colors used to match decor and themes. Distinctive designs are also being developed to support various buffet themes.

In addition to a range of colors and materials, operators are incorporating shelving, risers, unique lighting, distinctive bowl shapes, unique serving utensils and items made of natural materials, like bamboo and slate.

Elevated displays have become more widely used to achieve a more unique and appealing setup. Stands and risers are being incorporated in these presentations to create vertical, space-saving displays.

In terms of appearance, wear and tear is a factor with buffetware since it is typically utilized in self-service environments. Scratches and chips are typically more prominent on dishes and cups because these items are usually stacked in buffet settings. These products are available in a wide range of textures that will help hide noticeable wear and tear. These include pebble surfaces, linen textures and organic-looking products.

Portion control is another factor to consider with buffetware as sizing can negatively impact food costs. Manufacturers have developed containers in various sizes with shallower depths. These containers give the appearance of more food with less product, which helps minimize waste. In this case, backup serving vessels are necessary for consistent food replenishing. By the same token, buffetware dishes with larger rims portray the look of larger plates. This encourages customers to take smaller portions in self-serve situations.

Storage and transportation are also key considerations as there needs to be designated space when items are not in use and options for transporting products to the display area. Shelving, racks, containers and carts can be used for storing and transporting buffetware.

The trend in buffetware is moving toward more induction-type items for warming and cooking due to a trend in themed stations.

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