Is there a difference between commercial and retail grade melamine dinnerware?
We are frequently asked this question from customers, especially when they are looking to understand if the value of commercial grade melamine justifies the investment in it as opposed to buying retail grade melamine. After all, isn’t it all the same?
The short answer is NO, they are not the same! Let's take a look at some of the reasons why retail grade and commercial grade melamine tableware differ. The major points of difference we will focus on are:
- Performance and durability
- Safety standards
Retail Grade Melamine Dinnerware
Performance and Durability
Melamine dinnerware available from retailers offers a level of performance and durability meant for home applications and light-duty service. These products are usually meant for occasional use and not the rigors of daily use and abuse in a commercial foodservice environment.
Retail melamine tableware has a lower requirement for safety standards than commercial grade options, such as the need for an NSF certification.
If a trend changes in the retail environment, a dinnerware's pattern can be quickly discontinued never to be seen again. Additionally, many retail products are offered by marketing companies that use a variety of producers to create their line of dinnerware, making it a challenge to get consistency in color, custom specifications, and the quantities needed.
Alternately, commercial use requires unique sizes and quantities, which may not be readily available when needed for rollout or replenishment.
Pictured: melamine Coralline™ dinnerware
Commercial Grade Melamine Dinnerware
Performance and Durability
Because a commercial foodservice setting has a much higher demand on melamine's tableware performance, commercial grade products are designed to handle these requirements.
Commercial melamine should first and foremost be sustainable in appearance and use in the heavy dishwashing use of most kitchens. Commerical melamine is generally thicker and sturdier than retail grade melamine. Commerical melamine is rarely covered in decorative decals. Decorative plates work well with retail grade dinnerware, where the use is limited and wear and tear is light, but they don't last as long when put into commercial use.
A fully decalled plate in commercial use is discouraged unless for display or light use as utensils will eventually scratch the surface and replacement will be needed sooner vs the norm. Simply put, a stronger and more durable melamine is required to handle the multiple drops, turns, and cycles that occur in a commercial environment.
The quality of the construction in commercial grade melamine is consistent through a variety of price points, and the designs and colors of commercial melamine are now as broad as it has ever been.
For example, here at G.E.T., we offer four grades of commercial melamine categorized as Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, with a wide array of patterns from the trendy “Farm to Table” look to the champion Diamond White traditional style, as well the more utilitarian products and patterns that vary depending on operator styles and use.
Because foodservice operators are responsible for the health and safety of their patrons, as well as their staff, safety standards for commercial grade melamine dinnerware are more strict than retail grade choices.
You'll find many commercial grade melamine options are NSF certified, which assures products in question are:
- Using only FDA approved raw materials; free of harmful chemicals
- Factories are audited for compliance
- Tested for material safety, design, construction, and product performance
- Safe under the rigor of commercial dishwashers and designed not to harbor bacteria
In order to verify the melamine products you are buying are certified by the non-profit NSF organization, flip the product over; amongst the other markings, you will see an NSF emblem. Although many commercial suppliers of melamine will have some products NSF certified, all of G.E.T.'s melamine products are NSF certified to provide customers with the assurances of a best-in-class product.
In commercial environments, patterns and colors tend to remain available for years and decades, as the installed base grows and operators need replenishment to maintain their facilities' use. This is not the case in retail where seasonality and trends tend to change annually.
It is also critical to note that a wide variety of sizes and shapes are needed to serve these operators as menus, concepts, and operational efficiency demand different things from their dinnerware.
There are also unique, high-volume settings that may require custom products which retail grade melamine would not have the capabilities to support.
Home use dinnerware typically has four or five sizes and shapes that would serve the normal dinnerware pattern. Quite often, commercial grade providers will use a small and specific group of producers with whom they can rely on consistency from or at least an awareness of capabilities. This helps to ensure a consistent and reliable offering for customers and guests alike. Retail doesn't have the same demands as the use is typically a one-time purchase where commercial locations will need ongoing purchases of the same item and consistency is a must in color, shape specifications, and quality.
As you evaluate your needs, keep in mind the purpose of your melamine dinnerware and if you are seeking to serve an at-home use or a commercial need, remember the product qualifications will vary. Not all melamine is alike!