Stainless Steel Buying Guide: Part 2 – How to Shop for Commercial Flatware
Managing a restaurant includes far more than just having a great menu with outstanding food. You have to sell the customer by making a good first impression. You want to tell a story about who you are with the style of chairs and tables you buy, how you decorate your dining room and what your servers wear as they greet each customer.
Commercial flatware is a subtle yet important part of your décor. Your flatware also has to be durable and functional. What few people realize is the type of steel your flatware is composed of is just as important as finding the right style for your foodservice establishment. We understand the important balance of style and functionality and want to be sure that as you shop for flatware, you can make the most informed decision possible.
There are three things to keep in mind as you shop for commercial flatware:
- Metallic alloy composition
- Style and appearance
Most flatware sold for use in food service venues is formed from stainless steel. If you’d like to know why stainless steel is almost always used for commercial flatware, check out the first part of this series, “Stainless Steel Buying Guide – Part 1: An Introduction to Stainless Steel.”
Flatware Alloy Composition Options
Flatware is often offered in 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0 alloy combinations. The first number is the percent of Chromium mixed with the steel. As we mentioned in our last article, mixing Chromium with steel is by definition how we make stainless steel. The second number is the percent of Nickel mixed into the steel to make it appear more silver-like and soft. Nickel also helps the stainless steel resist rust even better. There are advantages to each metallic composition.
- 18% Chromium, 10% Nickel – The Golden Standard of commercial flatware. The highest resistance to corrosion with a silvery sheen.
- 18% Chromium, 8% Nickel – Almost identical to 18/10 flatware and is more cost effective. 18/8 is great.
- 18% Chromium, 0% Nickel – The most common, cost-effective stainless steel commercial flatware alloy. Resists rust, and can be retrieved with magnets.
- Less than 18% Chromium? Reduced Chromium means the steel is more likely to rust, however, it also makes the steel harder. Great for steak knives.
Style and appearance
There are nearly countless flatware options when it comes to design and style, but there are a few common styles you will bump into. Speaking for the styles we carry at Restaurant Equippers, they include Windsor, Dominion, Marquis, Imperial, Barclay, Pacific Rim and more. These are available through brands we trust for quality and durability. Deciding what styles are the best fit for you is a decision you must make based on your restaurant’s ambiance and décor.
It is often a misconception that 18/8 flatware is heavier than 18/0. The truth is, the weight is not affected by the percent of Chromium and Nickel. Heavy weight flatware is simply thicker flatware with more steel and will often cost more. Weight adds to the flatware’s durability, however, some restaurant owners prefer standard or medium weight as it’s easier to pick up and almost always offers significant cost savings. Restaurants starting out generally begin with lighter weight flatware until they hone their venue’s style and rapport with the community.
A heavier weight also has the phycological effect of customers feeling they are at a high-end establishment. If you are operating a foodservice venue where customers need to wait longer than average for their food, upgrading your flatware to a heavier weight can help set the tone and expectations as customers will naturally settle in for a longer stay.
If you are offering customers an experience where they visit to eat a moderately quick lunch and your turnover is quick-paced, lighter flatware sets the mood to be more casual and light-hearted. As you can see, the weight of your flatware is hardly an insignificant decision. As with each attribute of flatware, weight helps you further mold the decor and dining experience making your foodservice establishment unique to your vision.
Maintaining your flatware
Whether you are sporting 18/8 flatware or opting for convenient and cost effective 18/0 flatware, there are a couple things you can do to extend the life of your commercial eating utensils to reduce how often it needs to be replaced.
Soaking flatware that has sat out with food on it is sometimes necessary, but also reduces the longevity of your stainless steel. Reducing how often flatware is in extended contact with food, especially acidic food’s such as tomato-based sauces goes a long way in extending the life of your flatware. Pre-rinsing the food off your flatware, or sending it directly through the dishwasher is preferred, and if you can dry it shortly after washing, then you are taking care of your flatware like a boss!
Congratulations! You are now an expert in commercial flatware and can shop making confident, knowledgeable decisions. Just remember:
- How much do I want to spend? 18/0 costs less, 18/8 costs more.
- Style. What flatware patterns are consistent with my restaurant decor and reflect my business?
- Weight. Am I promoting a quick and casual dining experience, or do I want my customers to settle in for an hour or more?
- Maintenance. Clean and dry flatware will last longer than dirty and wet flatware.
We hope this was fun and educational. Be sure to visit us again for more recipes, commercial kitchen pro-tips and more!