Supply chain issues continue to impact every product category; tabletop is no exception.
Anticipating the need for replacement is more important now than ever when it comes to these items. That even applies to products available and in stock today. We could have everything an operator regularly uses right now, but two weeks later we could be short 50 cases. Supply has been that unpredictable. My advice to operators is, if you have the ability to store products, try to think a month or two out and plan ahead for busy periods to make sure you’ll have what you need. It’s hard to spend money on something that will just sit on the shelf for a while, but you’ll be covered when you need it.
Another consideration in the tabletop supply chain story is understanding the impact that adding or expanding outdoor areas will have on your tabletop needs. In some cases, operators may look to simply buy more of the same while it may prompt others to rethink their entire approach to tabletop to better address the needs of outdoor dining. That can lead to changing suppliers and more.
Operators continue to take a new look at materials, and notably, demand for unbreakable tabletop items remains on the rise. Bars and any operations with a high-volume beverage business increasingly show interest in polycarbonate drinkware because it not only reduces replacement need, it also reduces liability associated with broken glass.
If outdoor dining represents a hot opportunity for new tabletop strategies, the same applies to the return of larger parties and private events.To be able to accommodate groups of 6, 8, 10 or 12 people, serving family style is great. This style of service requires larger platters, a variety of serving utensils and other items that help with the sharing of food. Family style also calls for more and a wider assortment of individual small plates and vessels for everyone at the table to use for sampling from those larger platters.
While the era of chefs and operators creating distinctive tabletop programs with myriad pieces carefully paired to specific menu items is far from over — the trend is still prevalent among independents, for instance — some now seek to minimize SKUs and maximize cross-utilization.
While consolidation and simplification can make sense from a sourcing and efficiency standpoint, however, commercial restaurant tabletops, in particular, need to stay on-trend and Instagram-worthy. Occasional refreshes — even minimally as seasons change and/or new menu items are introduced — are recommended. It really depends on the segment. In larger operations like hotels and banquet centers, the need for greater efficiency is huge right now. But a lot of independent chefs continue to seek more, and more interesting, tableware. They want to create buzz, and social media drives that. They want items that photograph well and show off their food.
That desire to create interest and photo-worthy presentations extends into the glassware category as well. Craft beer, spirits and mixology trends are showing no signs of abating, creating strong demand for specialty barware. Sales in this category are skyrocketing and there’s a lot of opportunity to introduce specialty glassware and bar tools right now.
Senior business development manager
San Diego, Calif.