When you think melamine dinnerware, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you think of elegant, contemporary tableware, or do you think of poolside plates from 30 years ago? If you answered the latter you’re not alone, but you’re also not up to speed on modern melamine. Today’s melamine is anything but utilitarian: it’s modern, on-trend, and sophisticated.
As industry leaders of on-trend melamine tableware, we at G.E.T. know there are a lot of outdated perceptions about what melamine can and can’t do. Let’s debunk them, shall we?
Pictured: Melamine Cosmo™ Platter, Mini Bistro Pot, Plastic Cubed™ Drinkware
Myth #1: Melamine Can’t Support Your Brand’s Positioning
Chefs and operators sometimes say they won’t even consider using melamine. Their perception is that melamine won’t be able to live up to dining standards beyond an informal poolside gathering. This was true 30 years ago, but not today!
With advancements in alternative materials design, today's NSF-cerified commerical melamine dinnerware delivers the aesthetics of a china plate when it comes to design options. It also offers additional operational benefits that not only can sustain brand positioning, but even improve it in some cases, all while providing tremendous operational cost savings.
From a design perspective, you can get almost anything in melamine that you can get in china or porcelain: texture, glazes, artisan patterns, modern minimalist designs, rustic farm-to-table, and more. The advances have been so significant that it can be difficult to visually tell the difference between melamine and china or porcelain dinnerware.
In a third-party study, which examined guests’ most important criteria for a positive dining experience, not a single person said they prefer china or porcelain to melamine. What was abundantly clear, however, was that 90% of respondents said that clean, bright, chip-free dinnerware was their top concern. They also stated that what they did not want was their food served on a paper plate. Serving on melamine had zero negative impact on brand perception.
It's up to operators to properly care for their tableware to maintain the demand for bright, clean plates because melamine can dull over time and will eventually need to be replenished. The long service life due to the durability of melamine dinnerware doesn't mean that it should be used forever! Like a great mattress or car, even highly durable items need to be replenished or replaced (melamine plates won't last as long as a mattess, but you see what we mean).
It's important to provide your guests a great experience, as well as ensure your brand standards are upheld. Order replacement plates in advance, even if your plates still look acceptable. The savings over china will allow for you to replace the melamine plates and continue to provide your guests with a great dining expeience.
Fact #1: Today’s melamine is versatile enough to find a design that fits your brand while also meeting the most important criteria for diners – a clean, bright, chip-free plate. This means you'll uphold - or maybe even improve - your brand perception and value proposition.
Myth #2: Melamine Comes in Boring, Traditional Sizes and Shapes
Think back 30 years ago. Cell phones were fairly new and unsophisticated, and melamine was boring. Now think about how much technology has progressed since then. Our phones can do amazing things, and melamine has come just as far!
Far from boring, you can find melamine tableware in myriad shapes, colors, textures, and patterns to fit a variety of tabletop applications. Present-day melamine dinnerware can imitate a number of textiles like wood, slate, granite, etc. Even more exciting, operators can achieve the aesthetic of these textiles while using dishwasher and food-safe melamine, making the maintenance easier and extending service life beyond what you'd get from using real wood, slate, or granite.
Fact #2: Melamine has kept up with the times and is available in more sizes, shapes, textures, and colors than you’d imagine, upgrading almost any tabletop.
Myth #3: Melamine Can’t Be Easily Mixed and Matched
When serving food on sets of matching tableware, everything is congruent and monotone, which used to be the popular option. That trend is fading, with operators opting instead for added texture created by mixing materials. Using metal, melamine, and china on the same tabletop creates a dynamic, mixed media presentation that couldn’t be achieved with a set of matching plates.
Operators can have a lot of fun playing around with different textures and mixed media while saving money at the same time. If you're not ready to completely switch from china plates to melamine, consider introducing melamine tableware incrementally. Think appetizer platters, bread plates, or dinnerware for a handful of items on your menu.
Adding just a few, or even a lot of melamine pieces at a time can help your operation save money because melamine is break-resistant. That means you’ll replace melamine dinnerware less often than china, so you’re saving money in the long run.
When you rely on complete sets of dishes, and that product line gets discontinued, what do you do? You could replace all of your tableware in one go for an immense cost. Or, you could begin replacing products here and there with modern melamine options. This gives you the flexibility to add depth and texture to your tabletop presentation without being locked into a single dish set.
Fact #3: With all of the on-trend melamine products available, you can easily create dynamic, mixed media tabletops, keep your brand positioning on par, and your spending in check.
Myth #4: Melamine Dinnerware is Only for Outdoor Use
The reality is that 21st century melamine has a place on your dining room table or at your high-volume catering event.
Operators have access to a wide variety of melamine products that can fit and upgrade most tabletop needs. Unless you’re serving something that requires the use of a steak knife, which will scratch melamine, there’s a melamine tabletop option for all of your dining needs.
Fact #4: Advances in melamine production mean that operators’ options for indoor plateware are exponentially increased by the melamine tableware options available on today's market.
Myth #5: Melamine Dinnerware is Unbreakable
It certainly would be wonderful if this was true, but unfortunately, it’s not. It is true that melamine is a very durable material, but it is break-resistant, which is different from unbreakable. It’s far more durable than china, and will break or chip less often, but it can break – especially if it’s not cared for properly.
For some perspective, consider that melamine tableware is replaced at about a 10%-20% rate annually. Compare that to the average replacement rate of china at 50%-150%, and you can clearly see how the savings will add up over time.
Fact #5: Melamine dinnerware is break-resistant, not unbreakable. If handled correctly, its service life will surpass that of your china’s.
Myth #6: Melamine Dinnerware Must Be Less Expensive to Buy than China
Over the years, we’ve heard from operators who think it’s less expensive to start using melamine than china dinnerware. Sometimes that’s the case, but it’s not a universal truth.
There are different tiers for both china and melamine, so the entry price depends on which tier is right for your brand. The main differences between tiers of melamine dinnerware come down to weight and design options, like textures and glazes.
Let’s say you pay $25 for a melamine entrée plate vs the $15 it would have cost in china. The cost savings come into play in the service life of these products. Because melamine is break-resistant, you’ll replace it at about 20% the rate of china. In the long run, you will save money, just not necessarily at the point of purchase.
Fact #6: Melamine dinnerware may or may not initially cost more than china, but its durability will save you money long-term.
Here at G.E.T., we want to help you find the best tabletop solutions for your foodservice operation. We hope you are as excited as we are about the abilities of modern-day melamine and how your operation can benefit from the advances of the last few decades. As you make those important decisions to extend your brand, it's a good idea to also ensure your investment is NSF-certified and commercially suitable. Now that you know how many applications melamine has for you, you may also be interested in reading about the normal lifespan of melamine plates.