Care of Restaurant Dinnerware

There are two popular forms of dinnerware used in restaurants: china and melamine. While these materials are quite different, their care and maintenance have many similarities. This guide will help you care for both your china dinnerware and melamine dinnerware to help you maximize the return on your restaurant dinnerware investment.

The most important test of chinaware quality and melamine cost effectiveness is its ability to maintain appearance and resist damage and breakage under the demanding conditions of commercial kitchen use. This includes bussing, scraping, racking, ware washing, and storage.

The three most common problem areas related to dinnerware failure are breakage or chipping; scratches, metal marking and excessive glaze wear; and stains or discoloration. This guide will help you train your staff on the steps needed to avoid these common problems.

Step 1: Clearing Up

Clearing up dinnerware properly is an essential component in maintaining the lifetime of your dinnerware and preventing mechanical shock as well as scratches and metal marking. Make sure that dinnerware, glassware and flatware are kept in separate bussing containers so they don’t rub against one another. Do not overload bus boxes and dish racks. Also make sure that you are using the proper racks, avoid metal racks and metal trays as much as possible.

Make sure not to pile heavy items on lighter items; or nest cups. Make sure to use cup racks. Don’t stack dishes too high. Stack plates anywhere from 12” to 16” high, but never higher. These short stacks are easier to handle and are less likely to be dropped by your bussing staff.

Step 2: Clean Immediately

Help prevent stains and discolorations by cleaning your dinnerware immediately. This will ultimately save time on having to clean dried on food debris as well. To do so, use a pre-rinse unit to spray off food residue and then a rubber scraper or sponge to scrape off whatever is left.

Note: Never use harsh or abrasive scouring products such as steel wool, metal pads or abrasive cleansers to remove food or stains as this can cause scratches and excessive glaze wear.

Step 3: Periodically Pre-Soak

After the food residue has been removed, it’s a good idea to periodically pre-soak your restaurant dinnerware to prevent staining and to maintain luster. Be sure not to oversoak as that could compromise the glazing on the both your china dinnerware and your melamine dinnerware, and avoid temperatures over 160 degrees.

Step 4: Loading the Dishwasher

When loading your dishwasher, it is best not to mix up different types of dinnerware, rather load up plates, bowls and cups with other like items to prevent scratching and chipping. This also helps maximize the space on each rack in your dishwasher.

Remember to leave enough space between items so that the vibration of the dishwasher does not make one piece hit and scratch another.

Note: Other causes of breakage include high water pressure in the dishwasher, lack of rubber guards on disposal units or dishwashers, insufficient protective matting on floor of your dishwashing area, and faulty hand washing procedures.

Note: Check dishwasher temperature twice daily.

Step 5: Storing Dinnerware

It is best practice to store your restaurant dinnerware plates in stacks and cups in cup racks. Plates and bowls should be stored next to, or below serving areas making it convenient for plating. Adequate shelving made of the proper materials, or easily accessible cabinet space should be available to properly store your dinnerware and to promote longer life.

Step 6: Expiring Dinnerware

Cracked, chipped or otherwise broken dinnerware should be removed from service immediately. Dinnerware with obvious abrasions should also be removed, as it could break while in service.

More Important Tips

Don’t put cold dinnerware (such as a plate that was in the refrigerator, freezer or on ice) into warm water.

Don’t use warm dinnerware with cold foods as this may cause the dinnerware to crack or chip.

If you want to preheat dinnerware, do so via moderate temperature changes, such as by using a plate warmer.