Ever get asked a question expecting a definitive answer only to receive an answer of “it depends”? Well, I am about to answer this question with “it depends” and provide you the considerations wrapped up in this answer. So, when trying to determine the lifespan of a melamine plate you must consider the following:
- The importance of your brand image
- The foodservice venue in which it will be used and the par level set
- How your staff cares for the plate
Melamine is one of the most durable dinnerware materials available. Because of this durability, the plates will last longer than many others made from other materials like ceramic or porcelain. What is important to also mention is that many people hold on to their melamine longer than they should. Stay with me and I will explain!
Let’s review the aforementioned considerations to determine the life span of a melamine plate.
Pictured: melamine Coralline serveware
The Importance of Your Brand Image
Sure, I am going to share ways to extend the life of your melamine plate; however, the most important consideration for you is how you want your brand image portrayed. Melamine plates will last for years if taken care of correctly. Some people really take this last statement to heart and keep the plates longer than they should. Melamine over a period of time will start to lose its luster and like ceramic will show normal wear and tear (even though ceramic has a much shorter lifespan due to being easily cracked, chipped or broken). This is where you must make what I view as an easy decision to replace the melamine plate. Because you will already have saved money vs. using a ceramic/porcelain plate it is important to think about what your customer sees as they eat from the melamine plate. If the plate is worn and has no other issues, it is time to replace it! If you are changing your menu items or the theme of your foodservice venue it is also important to change your melamine plates to support the overall new look. In order to stay ahead of your competition and provide a share stealing experience for your consumer, it is critically important that you uphold your brand image by changing out the plates you use to serve your customers. Rule of thumb: Visually check your melamine plates for wear and tear like knife marks in the center, dullness/loss of shine, chips or cracks. If you have enough plates you should replace somewhere between 10-20% per year. If you do not, then your replacement percentage will be higher.
Pictured: melamine Etchedware dinnerware
The Foodservice Venue in Which it Will Be Used and the Par Level Set:
Whatever the foodservice venue that you are using the dinner plates in it is important to ensure you have the right amount of plates. In any foodservice setting, you must determine how many dayparts you will be using the plate in (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), how many menu items will use the specific dinner plate and how often the plate will be used. So if you have 8 items on your menu and 4 of them use the same plate there is a 50% chance that this plate will be used. So, if you have 200 people to feed and you know that 50% of them will order the menu items then the plate will be used 100 times per day. So it is important to have three sets of what you need (one set in use, one set in dishwashing and one set drying). This will extend the life of the plate because one plate will not be used over and over again. Rule of thumb: If you want your plate to last longer make sure that you have enough to handle the demand and remember the rule of 1, 1, and 1 (one set in use, one set being washed and one set ready to be used).
How Your Staff Cares for the Plate:
If your staff takes care of the plate it will last a long time. That means no banging the plate on a surface to remove food and no throwing the plate into a bus tub or anywhere for that matter. Also, it is important not to use any bleach-based chemicals to wash the plates and at least twice per week, the plates should be soaked in a mild detergent like Cascade to remove any protein build-up or stains that may occur. Finally, do not put the plate in a microwave or under a heat lamp or its lifespan will be severely shortened. Doing this will dry out the wood pulp used to make the plate and will eventually cause the melamine to become brittle and break.
I hope my “it depends” answer has given you some food for thought on how long your melamine plate may last. If you take into account your brand image, the venue and par levels needed and how your staff handles the plate and you follow the advice I have provided your melamine plate will be replaced at an average of 10-20%. Your plates will last a long time–but not too long as your customer’s perception and your brand image is the most important thing to maintain.
I'd appreciate if you share a comment below on your experience with melamine dinnerware and its lifespan.