Finding An Eclectic Strategy That Creates Excitement

Cardinal Geode Eclectic

After what feels like forever winter, we seem to finally be seeing flowers blooming and green on the trees. Golfers are finally on the course and boaters are in the high seas and restaurants are about to shift into a busy outdoor dining season.

Eclectic can be defined as deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. While an eclectic eatery means you get to excuse all design elements because you are going for an “eclectic” vibe but if you have cluttered your restaurant full of antique items and unique tableware please make sure they are a related look. This does not mean that each menu item cannot have its own vessel, but it does mean that too many materials, shapes, colors and styles will take away from your guests’ dining experience.

You may not think about it, but from your guests perspective it can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are busy and let’s hope and assume you are. You do not want to feel like everyone at the table is eating at a different establishment. Mixing delicate antique plates with heavy stoneware does not go together.

Eclectic is a tricky thing to accomplish successfully, you may think it’s easy but there is an extremely fine line with what works and what does not. Too much or too little elements just do not work. I like some of the products like Cardinal’s Geode line.  It enables an operator to capture the “best of the eclectic movement.”

It’s amazing to me the impact that HGTV and retail has had on this eclectic movement. I look at the Property Brothers and Chip and Joanna Gaines with Magnolia. They are bringing back colors that we would never dream of using.

China VMF December 2018 728×90

Glass is without question, the toughest part of the eclectic equation. I don’t understand the trends in glass. They just don’t seem to be in synch with the drinks that are being mixed and poured.

Eclectic allows you to bring in new elements to enhance the menu, the ability to explore new and possibly less expensive mediums, buy in smaller quantities, and allows you to keep the look changing and evolving. It’s a fun, positive, trend oriented design concept but as I have said before you have got to be careful! Trends do not happen overnight so newer items can be mixed in while older looks get phased out. Just look at the square plate, not really seeing that anymore. New serving pieces can breathe excitement into tried-and-true menu items.

Let’s get into the specifics; if you are experimenting with plates, try to keep glasses simple. Whatever you do, do not, not, not mix and match flatware. That is a sure way to go from eclectic to cheap in a blink of an eye. Using large wood boards for shared steak with sides on the board can look rusty and elegant and provides a great show. This strategy actually encourages the customer to have more sides. Plus your guests will love how Instagrammable it is.

Recently there has been a new trend for smaller less expensive menu items. I know what you are thinking, this sounds like it would reduce profits. Contrary to what you think, this new trend is actually encouraging people to order and share more! This leaves restaurant operators with a small challenge and that is serving smaller portions that don’t necessarily look small. Smaller portions look silly on larger 12” plates, as do large portions on smaller plates. Using oven to tableware products like cast iron or china allows smaller portions to look larger. Factories are producing more looks that can work together for restaurant owners and operators.

We expect to see different things on the table, but now nobody wants to see the same white plates. We want to see something different, just not too much. This does not mean your guests expect your table to look like a single factory catalog picture with different colors, finishes, shapes and different mediums. Just make sure there is an element that makes them relate, even if you use sheet paper to line a French-fry basket.

It makes sense to use a dealer to help you create the look. The average restaurant owner will open a couple and maybe a dozen restaurants at the most over a career.

Our Weiss/BHS team are involved with the openings of hundreds of restaurants every year, so why not take advantage of that experience.

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 eweiss@hweiss.net