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Wed 24 Oct 2007 05:49 PM

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Market moves

New players in the Middle East market have brought fresh perspectives to modern table dressing, yet fending off competition from international companies has become more difficult according to professionals.

New players in the Middle East market have brought fresh perspectives to modern table dressing, yet fending off competition from international companies has become more difficult according to professionals.

As dining establishments continue to announce grand arrivals on their menus and kitchen teams, the pressure is well and truly on to display consistent standards across the dining space and no more so than on the tabletop.

Word of mouth from successful first impressions is a huge turnover contributor, and if tableware is the first thing customers see when they walk through the door, it needs to look inviting, closely aligned with the flatware, and grab their attention when possible.

Restaurant professionals should ask whether the collection is neutral enough so the food makes the statement, and if it is durable yet stylish.

Neil Sneyd, director of international sales for Corby Hall says restaurants should question whether tableware fits in with menu plans and give the right quality image, in order to bolster overall brand image.

Industry professionals nowadays cannot afford to overlook the impact tableware has on entire dining experiences, and in turn the long-term success of their businesses.

Fitting tableware is crucial for openings to avoid taking away from their investment in concept development, and new products in the market should be promoted with the needs of new business in mind.

"Restaurant professionals should bear their concepts in mind, whether traditional or modern, or ask whether the collection is neutral enough so the food makes the statement and if it is durable yet stylish and suitable for the budget," he says.

"Clean, crisp designs are still at the forefront of tableware trends for dinnerware and cutlery, but we are starting to see move back towards surface designs for crockery to suit the sleek, stylish flatware."

And the winner is...

The region's food and beverage industry is also eager to jump on the award-winner bandwagon in the selection process. Figgjo, for example, has witnessed a series of accolades in tableware circles after its 65 years of strong focus on product development, and recently scooped The Norwegian Design Award 2007 for the products Figgjo Plattform and Figgjo Svai.
The new Figgjo O range is in line with Figgjo's credo 'rethink china', and consists of two plates. The smallest Figgjo O is 27cm, while the largest is 32 cm. The plates are round with a wide rim and a distinctive dent in the transition between the eating surface and the rim.

The thinness of the plates gives them a highly elegant appearance, and the shape has been developed to challenge chefs' creativity.

Cato Johannessen, the company's area sales manager says enquiries through its Dubai-based distributor Chalhoub regarding special decoration have jumped in the Middle East market. The company's designers follow these up to accumulate information on how details from the restaurants' interiors can be integrated with the chinaware decoration.

"We feel that the ideal situation is to liberate ourselves from some of the trends and instead focus on satisfying the taste and needs of each client. Figgjo do not wish to be forced into one particular direction, but rather focus on complying to the needs of any of trends such as Asian cooking, as well as local, contemporary or traditional food," Johannessen comments.

Previously ceremonial settings around fine dining have now been replaced with the food and the achievement of the chef, the company and the atmosphere of the restaurant, according to Figgjo, while high quality, strength and the company's five-year chip warranty remain key draws.

Durability is undoubtedly central to tableware purchasing in the Middle East, particularly due to the popularity of buffets and busy outdoor catering operations. The greater the anticipated use, the more plates will be subject to rougher handling, stacking, and cleaning in dishwashers. Buyers are often advised to ensure crockery is fully vitrified and offers strengthened to withstand any rapid heat change.

The Impression Buffet and Flying Buffet ranges from German-based Tafelstern permit caterers to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities with buffet-style presentation. Highlights in the range include large triangular and square bowls, which could be used from breakfast to dinner.

The ever-popular building block principle is also crucial to the range, as the principle gives hoteliers and caterers the chance to merge different patterns and designs rapidly and without expense. Adapting to new food trends using existing products can be achieved with the addition of a smaller number of individual items bringing a totally new look to the restaurant.

American Idols

US-based Riverside Design Group has taken advantage of the materials available beyond bone china with its collections, particularly with its Elements series.
This presents a selection of sleek glass and stainless steel piece. The collection comprises bowls, plates, platters and serving pieces, available in ice, coal, blue and green translucent shades of glass.

"Stainless steel is a new medium for us, and while the pieces look organic and natural, we feel that the definitely modern look of the stainless steel and glass will open us up to a whole new audience," says Cassandra Ott, creative director, Riverside Design Group.

Custom and private label services must be up to par as rivalry between companies in the region escalates.

Riverside boasts the fact its design team can work with clients to create custom made designs to suit personal needs.

"Our custom pieces include museum reproductions, hotel tableware and amenity designs, as well as a private label for some of America's top restaurants, chefs, and designers," Ott says.

Practicality is the major trend in recent months from which melamine tableware manufacturer G.E.T. Enterprises, Inc has reaped dividends.

Sarah Fife, marketing and sales coordinator for the Houston-based says the material is appealing as it is more economical than china, break and scratch resistant and lighter, a distinct advantage for waiters and caterers.

According to Fife, the foodservice industry is still quite conservative when it comes to tableware choice, and considerations about the ease of carrying tableware in the hectic MICE sector, for example,should always take prominence over unusual designs.

Renewing old favourites

Regardless of the wacky designs on offer, most tableware companies are turning to the rejuvenation of current styles with minor alterations to stay fresh in the market.

The new Fine Dining Edition from Schönwald follows this pattern, with an extension of the well-loved bestseller countless combinations of variously- designed dishes, plates, cups and accessories.

As this far from static market changes ceaselessly, hoteliers have vast opportunity to organise a veritable explosion of haute cuisine arrangements.

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