Creating A Tabletop Strategy For Fall

Hate to say it, but Summer is almost gone. Going, going, almost gone are long days and warm nights. BBQ hamburgers and light salads served with crisp white wines and beer are soon to be replaced with hardier fare. What does it mean for fall? In the most simplest terms, it means the return of patrons from the Hamptons and backyards to restaurants, allowing us to reinvent ourselves anew for trends and new looks.

Shapes are not changing much. Squares are waning in popularity, mostly due to poor performance (nothing more unsightly than being served on a plate with broken corners). Long narrow rectangles somehow seem summery to me, and Triangles just never caught on. But there seems to be an influx of interesting organic shapes, neither round not oval, but somewhere in between. These interesting shapes work for entrees as well as salads and appetizers while adding a new updated look to your tabletop. Best part is that you can add one or a few as a lift to your tabletop without a large investment.

Organic shaped dishes are available in white and colors, china and …..PLASTIC. And the plastic is high end and really nice. Do not think of these as your old hospital green 9” narrow rims plates. These are truly high end. Some of them also have the added advantage of being “green” and have bamboo mixed in giving them color and texture.  I love the thought of extending patio season with heaters and some natural-colored organic shaped unbreakable plates.  Beige and browns work well with most food, especially the richer foods that we crave as the weather gets colder. They just seem to enhance fall flavors.

Along with the organic shapes, we are seeing a resurgence of dark colored chinas. Rich blues, olive greens, and charcoals.  These colors work well with stews, soups and other hardier fares that come with the changes in seasons.  They put us into the mood to nest and return indoors.

We’ve noticed that weight of china does not change from season to season. However darker colors signal more weight in both the food and the plate. Those new colors are rich and dense; often plates are actually more than one color- mixture of tones to come up with rich dense colors that blend with interior décor rather than match.

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Olives, beige, charcoal, denim blue, and amber- darker and richer. But not flat single tones. Blended tones, like blended tastes and flavor in soup, stews, and sauces. Summer we think of combinations (Tomato and pesto) or standout flavors, as opposed to fall is blends and combinations. This year, china is mimicking this.

New reactive glazes allow manufactures to achieve this both in standard (shiny) finished and matte. The matte finishes are “newer” and fresher. While the glaze is as durable as the shiny glaze, most are done on less durable porcelains. Usually these newer looks are not manufactured on the least expensive wares on the market. Not that this is an expensive way to update your look, but it definitely is a step up from throw-away china.

For many food service operators, Fall brings an uptick in special functions including weddings and parties. A special item can be served on decorated china, but we normally leave highly decorated and densely colored china out from catered affairs as they can interfere with party color selection. However, colored napkins, small throwaway tasting plates (cocktail hour) are nice.

It is also important to focus on the preparing your beverage service for Fall. We suggest clear tasting plates and shot glasses for soup shots. They are wonderful and allow the rich colors of the harvest to show through. Glass is also less expensive than china. If you save money on these items, it allows you to spend money on some of the newer more fashion forward items. Texture is a big thing. Reactive glazes that almost look “pitted” in texture. It is also a blend of a few colors so they have a lot of life. No 2 plates are exactly the same. They have an individual look that lends itself to organic shapes. The colors are organic in look – not jewel tones. Rich and hearty and in contrast to the bright white of porcelain- but nice contrast.

Don’t hesitate to write or call us. We would be happy to help you review your Tabletop plan for Fall.

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