China vs. Plates. Why Cheap Makes No Sense

Why spend money on china when you can purchase cheap plates?

There are many answers and even more reasons. The obvious reason to take the cheap approach by purchasing plate ware is that you need something to serve food on.  Once you get past the need, you consider what you are trying to accomplish in the big picture.

How do you begin?  The first thing one needs to do is to think through what are your priorities:  price, enhancing your decor, availability, and durability?  They are all important, but let’s take a moment to think through pricing. Yes, I know pricing is important. We are all business people and know that money cannot be ignored.

You can always find something less expensive, or should I say cheaper, which sometimes makes sense. However less expensive is sometimes cheaper. Here’s why sometimes the less expensive version is too heavy- but no more durable. You need to think about your wait staff handling clumsy plates. Sometimes, the less expensive option is just not as pretty or refined; you just need to think through if the added expense is worth it. In many cases, we find that the cheaper items are just not as durable.

It’s important to understand the reasons that the more expensive chinas cost more.  Freight can add ten to twenty percent onto the cost of china. The real question becomes are you paying for weight that you can get sometimes with cheaper plate ware or are you paying for the durability of a higher quality more expensive china? Someone on your team then suggests “picking it up.” Think gas, tolls, and time!  Sure it may make sense on your initial purchase, but on reorders?

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We also find that less expensive ware can be more fragile than some of the “better ” china. Breakage may be more. In that case, you will actually spend more on your initial order as you will need more on hand to accommodate for future loss. Then there will be the cost of replacement, not to mention the time taken to reorder and receive replacements. Please do not forget the aggravation of staff breaking things and the kitchen being short of supplies.

So what to do? From where I sit, the answer is to call me at H. Weiss, for some help and advice. We can walk you through the process. And we would love to hear from you, bur there are things I can tell you that will help you on your own. There are factories that include freight in the costs. Ask who they are, but realize that you still will want to purchase them through your dealer. Freight may be paid to the destination, but not inside your facility. H Weiss will normally deliver on our trucks and bring the order inside where you need it. Does not sound like much until you have a 55-foot long trailer in front of your restaurant, china inside, and you need to off-load it and bring it in.

Another key element in figuring the true cost is that there is china ware that comes with warranties, chippage and glaze. You should ask which are available and for how long. You need to know what these warranties really mean; what is a chip? Some factories will only cover chips on the bottom of the rim, some smaller than a nickel, some on flat pieces only. Some factories want you to send back the broken pieces, which means that you will incur those freight costs.

We suggest you find factories that use chip warranties to make friends. They know they have a good product and they stand behind it or at least that has been my experience with factories that we support. A chip is a chip wherever it is on the plate. We remove it and replace it, happily, because we know that customers value this service.

We’re convinced that the process of determining value should begin long before we take care of your chipped and cracked plates. Our first step is to sit with you and understand your business and needs. We have asked about your budget, your storage, your menu, your decor, your vision, and even your dishwasher.  Oh yes, your dishwasher comes into play. Hot water dishwashing has less of an effect on tabletop than chemical rinse dishwashing. The chemicals used with cold water to sanitize will crack, scratch, and weaken china and glass. If you have a glaze warranty, it lessens the sting of replacing ware due to your dishwasher.

So, if you ask me what you should do, I will tell you to ask lots of questions to someone who knows the advantages and disadvantages of most ware. Someone who can give you enough information for you to make the right choice for your business.

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss is the President and co-owner of Armonk, NY based H. Weiss Co., a division of BHS Foodservice Solutions. She is known nationally as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on tabletop design. The Michigan State graduate is also actively involved with WPO-Women’s Presidents Organization. Comments may be sent to