Span­ning a glo­ri­ous mix of col­ors, tex­tures, ma­te­ri­als and styles from a va­ri­ety of col­lec­tions, to­day’s table­ware is proudly flout­ing the rules of yes­ter­year, to won­der­ful ef­fect

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In our fast-chang­ing world, fash­ion trends come and go with alarm­ing speed, whether it’s clothes on the cat­walk or diet fads. The world of table­ware is no dif­fer­ent, with to­day‘s col­lec­tions more di­ver­si­fied than ever be­fore, mak­ing big­ger and bolder state­ments, while re­flect­ing the grow­ing de­mands of chefs and op­er­a­tors. Cur­rent trends in­clude vi­brant pat­terns and hues, a hint of op­u­lence, in­no­va­tive tex­tures and un­usual com­bi­na­tions of ma­te­ri­als. Mix and match is the buzz-phrase, while the rule book has been thrown out of the win­dow.

Mix­ing it up

“The clean and min­i­mal lines of the last years have been over­whelmed by new and un­struc­tured shapes and raw ma­te­ri­als,” said Bar­bara Cin­cotto, world­wide sales and mar­ket­ing direc­tor, ho­tel & restau­rant di­vi­sion, Arc­turus Group, which in­cludes, among oth­ers, the Rosen­thal and Sam­bonet brands. “We find now clas­si­cal dec­o­ra­tions ap­plied to new ma­te­ri­als and new color nu­ances and vice versa.”

The trend is one that the Bri­tish pot­tery man­u­fac­turer Churchill has wit­nessed first­hand and moved to ac­com­mo­date. “Five years ago, we were heav­ily weighted to­wards white prod­ucts with very lit­tle colour, but now the op­po­site is true,” Adam Den­nis, the com­pany’s ex­port ac­count man­ager, said. “Our first col­ored range – Stonecast – was cre­ated around five years ago. Since then, this ex­cit­ing col­lec­tion of rus­tic, hand-dec­o­rated prod­ucts, in­spired by the chang­ing sea­sons and fresh in­gre­di­ents, has grown phe­nom­e­nally, with the re­sult that we now have a full range of new col­ors.”

New takes on tex­ture

As well as em­brac­ing color, op­er­a­tors have shown them­selves keen to ac­quire table­ware that makes creative use of tex­ture and ma­te­ri­als, while also com­bin­ing col­lec­tions or adding in­di­vid­ual pieces to their sets. “There’s lots of mix and match,” Fi­nola Bar­bour, mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, at the Bri­tish man­u­fac­turer of pop­u­lar table­top so­lu­tions, Steel­ite In­ter­na­tional, told HN. “Op­er­a­tors want to be able to com­bine color with white­ware, also dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. Be­ing able to put ce­ramic with glass or wood to cre­ate al­ter­na­tive ta­ble presentations will al­low op­er­a­tors to build a unique of­fer.”

Nour Al Nimer, founder and creative direc­tor of the lux­ury chi­naware la­bel Nimerol­ogy, agreed, adding that her clients have rec­og­nized the ben­e­fits of cu­rat­ing a mix of chi­naware. “Over the years they have col­lected pieces from dif­fer­ent col­lec­tions that they mix, giv­ing an orig­i­nal and fresh feel to their ta­ble set­tings,” she noted.

I think a lot of peo­ple to­day are ob­sessed with where things come from En­sur­ing an out­let has its own char­ac­ter has be­come a pri­or­ity for op­er­a­tors, help­ing them to in­di­vid­u­al­ize their brand and set it apart from the competition. Table­ware is one way in which they can do this, ac­cord­ing to Bar­bour.

“Op­er­a­tors want to have some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than their neigh­bor or ri­val around the cor­ner,” she said. “So be­ing able to of­fer cus­tomers one-off pieces that also work with our stan­dard items en­hances their of­fer.”

Get­ting per­sonal

This de­sire for in­di­vid­u­al­ity may well be be­hind the trend for per­son­al­ized and sig­na­ture table­ware, which is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar and takes the con­cept of stand­ing out to a whole new level.

Jono Pan­dolfi, CEO and creative direc­tor of the hand­made ce­ram­ics com­pany, Pan­dolfi De­signs, which cre­ated the pieces for No­mad ho­tel and restau­rant in New York, among oth­ers, and also pro­duced a 1,000-piece col­lec­tion for Mar­riott Dubai, told HN that buy­ing cus­tom­ized table­ware also en­ables con­cepts to cre­ate a fully har­mo­nized look.

“We spend time with chefs and op­er­a­tors, work­ing out ex­actly what they’re look­ing for, in terms of the clay body, tex­ture and glaze,” he said. “We add to that our touch of hand, since ev­ery­thing we do is made to or­der, and that en­ables clients to en­sure the pieces re­flect and en­hance the dé­cor and char­ac­ter of their restau­rant.”

Cre­at­ing a culture

Tony Ki­tous, founder of the Lebanese and Mid­dle Eastern con­cept Libanais Comp­toir, is also a great be­liever in the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion that table­ware can make in defin­ing an out­let. His cus­tom­ized range of flat­ware and other items show­case a vast ar­ray of colours, themes and mo­tifs, which Ki­tous ex­plained also sup­port his broader ob­jec­tive of in­tro­duc­ing cus­tomers to the MENA re­gion’s culture and cui­sine.

“There’s no pro­to­col, whether they’re birds, flow­ers, veg­eta­bles, fruit, tiles or a smil­ing lady, our brightly col­ored and beau­ti­ful de­signs are there to make cus­tomers feel happy,” he said. “But on another level, they also re­call the in­flu­ences and ar­chi­tec­ture of the re­gion which, in turn helps peo­ple to re­late to the food they’re eat­ing. We’re very keen to take the food and the culture out of its au­then­tic po­si­tion and ex­tend its reach to ev­ery­body.”

Ki­tous has taken this plan fur­ther still. “We are also a souk, which al­lows our cus­tomers to take a lit­tle bit of us home with them,” he added. “Hope­fully we will in­spire them in the kitchen.”

Pan­dolfi be­lieves that the cur­rent trend for ar­ti­sanal table­ware is linked to the broader, ris­ing in­ter­est among cus­tomers in trace­abil­ity and trans­parency when it comes to their food.

“I think a lot of peo­ple to­day are ob­sessed with where things come from and the move to­ward cus­tom-made table­ware of the last few years dove­tails with that,” he said. “It’s part of a big­ger trend in fine din­ing that’s also trick­led down to fast-ca­sual restau­rants.”

Us­ing table­ware to evoke a homely am­bi­ence is a pop­u­lar strat­egy among op­er­a­tors, which may help to ex­plain the move to­ward looks and de­signs rem­i­nis­cent of grandma’s kitchen.

“Clients want to wel­come their guests with a warm at­mos­phere and a dive into the past, where mem­o­ries come back and they have the feeling of be­ing at home,” Cin­cotto said. Even pro­duc­ers for large-scale op­er­a­tors have found ways of em­brac­ing this trend, as Den­nis ex­plained. “At Churchill, we are cur­rently pro­duc­ing plates and bowls in high num­bers that are slightly curved or off-cen­ter, which gives them a hand-thrown look, but en­sures they re­tain the dura­bil­ity and prac­ti­cal ad­van­tages that our clients need,” he said. The ad­vent of so­cial me­dia has also played a ma­jor part in the rise of both cus­tom-made and eye-catch­ing table­ware, pro­vid­ing an added in­cen­tive for op­er­a­tors to give ex­tra thought to their plates and bowls.

“I be­lieve that so­cial me­dia en­cour­ages cre­ativ­ity and self-ex­pres­sion,” Al Nimer noted. “Maybe cor­re­lated to this cul­tural phe­nom­e­non, I have seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease of in­ter­est for per­son­al­iza­tion of my clients’ table­ware. Many are now in­ter­ested in the be­spoke ser­vice we pro­vide; a per­sonal touch that makes their ta­ble stand and pop out.” Fi­nola agrees. “In­sta­gram, in par­tic­u­lar, is hav­ing a huge im­pact on what table­ware op­er­a­tors choose,” she said. “Their de­ci­sion is based on whether or not the plate will look good on so­cial me­dia.”

This phe­nom­e­non is also be­lieved to have also con­trib­uted to the rise of more op­u­lent table­ware that show­cases ex­tra-spe­cial touches, from gold el­e­ments to plat­inum matte sur­faces. Per­haps th­ese are best dis­played in the col­lab­o­ra­tive ven­tures that some op­er­a­tors have en­tered into with high-pro­file de­sign­ers, such as the Rosen­thal meets Ver­sace col­lec­tions. The two com­pa­nies mark 25 years of part­ner­ship in 2018, which has pro­vided a timely op­por­tu­nity for the launch of an ex­tra-spe­cial col­lec­tion in­spired by the Ital­ian fash­ion de­signer who founded the part­ner­ship.

In­sta­gram, in par­tic­u­lar, is hav­ing a huge im­pact on what table­ware op­er­a­tors choose

Rosen­thal Gmbh

Tony Ki­tous

Jono Pan­dolfi

Nour Al Nimer

Fi­nola Bar­bour

Adam Den­nis

Bar­bara Cin­cotto

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