When it comes to creating a tabletop strategy, a restaurant should focus on designing an atmosphere that enhances the dining experience for their guests.
With that there are several key factors in the selection of cutlery, plates, and glassware for a restaurant. If you offer fine dining, elegant and sleek options might be the way to go. If you have a more casual setting, durable and practical choices could work better. Another aspect to keep in mind is the comfort and functionality of the items. Ensure that the cutlery is easy to handle, and the plates are the right size for your dishes. Lastly, don’t forget about the aesthetic appeal! Opt for designs, shapes and colors that match the overall ambiance of your restaurant.
With that in mind, Libbey, one of the truly iconic names in tabletop, has expanded the breadth of its brand. What was for years known as a leader in glassware has evolved into a guiding force with both cutlery and plate wares as well.
That evolution did not take place overnight. Libbey has been around for over 200 years, “and we got our start in the glass business,” noted Kevin Oglesby, Sr. Vice President. “We still have our US factory in Toledo and still do a ton of glass work, but over the last 80 years we also offer the full tabletop. Many people have seen and heard of World (WTI) and Syracuse plates, but what they don’t know is those are Libbey. We have plates, glassware, dinnerware, buffet sets and serveware.”
Libbey’s understanding of the importance of tabletop design has made them a longtime partner of leading restaurant and service operators across the nation and the equipment and supply dealers that support them. “Tabletop is the only thing a guest touches intimately,” Oglesby added.
“You put utensils in your mouth when you eat, you kiss a glass when you drink, the plate is the canvas the chef uses for his art and you always consume that with your eyes first. The full tabletop is really the vessel used to experience the art of food and beverage. I would note guests don’t come in thinking about tabletop, but if it is a bad experience, they can come out thinking about it. Have you ever been to a place and used those cheap metal forks that are nearly sharp around the edges? See, you all know what I mean without ever thinking you would think about the flatware.”
With its collective ear so close to the needs of the operator and dealer community, Libbey has been a valuable resource in the significant changes that are being seen with tabletop design. “Many operators are trying to find their way through the move in many cases from the use of white tablecloths to a more casual look,” the veteran tabletop executive continued.
“It honestly opened some doors because the idea that luxury only comes on a white plate is out the window and has been great for our business. We can be more creative and still service those loyal customers with the same gusto we did before. We are able to bring our roots of durability and quality into things like stoneware and new glazes that we never played with before. Quality and durability really don’t have to sacrifice trend, style and design at all.”
To accomplish the goal of presenting a portfolio that can finish both the traditional dressed table and today’s looks, Libbey offers the industry’s most diverse portfolio of solutions. Libbey got its roots in glass, so the largest part of our assortment is glass, followed closely by flatware and then dinnerware. The assortment ranges from classic staples all the way to trend forward looks, colors and styles.
“We have over 5,000 skus so there is something for everyone,” Oglesby noted. “We are focusing in the next few years on products that lend to an upper middle service style, but we won’t be walking away from our current shapes that fit in nearly all types of service settings. Libbey has some major segments we focus on including healthcare, hospitality, bar and restaurant. We have a great sales team, one of the few full sales teams in this industry and they focus on relational selling to get you the information you need to make an informed decision based on your service type, industry and needs of your guests and residents.”
As operators seek to find their ‘new normal’ they are looking to find exciting new ways to present food to their customers. “We are seeing all kinds of exciting colors,” Oglesby added. “We have done a lot of work to bring our trusted quality to good use with newer body compositions and glazes for dinnerware. Gone are the days of “Libbey is just whiteware”. We really do have anything to get that eclectic look onto the table. Recently, the dining public has spent so much time at home that they want comfort and a beautiful setting when they go out.”
The Libbey foodservice team also understands the changes in the demographics of the dining public. “We see tremendous growth in healthcare. Dining residents need ergonomic friendly products,” Oglesby detailed. “We focus a lot on how our items will sit/fit into the hands of our customer’s guests. We want it to feel good and feel right for the mood of the space or the abilities of the user. For example, our Infimum Wake and our Newton glass are perfect for preventing slippage with a little detail perfect for grip and we have adaptive ware and lighter weight plates to assist as well.”
In addition to changes in the dining public, Libbey is also working with its operator customers to respond to the challenges of reduced labor forces across the nation. “Our relational selling team can really help with an on-site analysis of your operation. We can offer solutions that best fit how you operate,” Oglesby said.
“Many members of our team have been operators themselves. Having that knowledge in-house really helps us develop with our customers in mind. We also offer solutions for space saving in both glass and dinnerware. We focus on the form and function of our products and have the most stackable options in the industry. We were first to market with our stemless stackable, orbital, and have many other stackable options.”
Libbey is also working closely to support the upgrading of cocktail and wine service with efficient and profitable beverage programs. “We are currently seeing a big push for premiumization and the cocktail and spirit; glass is integral to that presentation to maximize that experience. Like I said before, people are consuming with their eyes first through pictures and more on social,” Oglesby said.
“The more people are taking pictures of your drink the more the glass helps get people in the door. We want to help you turn heads by delighting your guests, in turn making you more profitable. We also are a big proponent of cost savings for our customers and one way we do that is in our durable designs and special Duratuff coating. It really keeps shattering from happening. We also have some glassware with discreet pour lines or ones that hold larger rocks to help with portion control.”
The nation’s restaurant and foodservice professionals have once again made green and sustainable and eco-friendly a priority. “Honestly, what is more sustainable than glass?” Oglesby questioned. “Libbey glass is one of the purest glasses, we can fully recycle our glass as it isn’t full of impurities like metals or contaminants that impede the recycling process. We also use a very sustainable process with a reduction in furnace emissions, water reduction and being able to reuse our ‘waste’ back into the glass making process. We also have some products that align with this mission such as our repurposed wine bottle glasses.”
Libbey wants to simplify their solutions, so the company has made some branding changes. “Our dealer relationships are super important to us, we recently rebranded our company to align everything to Libbey and Reserve by Libbey, during the rebrand getting the information to our dealer partners to share out the same story was top of mind. Our sales team works on training with the dealer sales teams hard on all telling that same brand story.”
With a goal of bringing Libbey’s new portfolio to the nation’s restaurant and foodservice professional, the company has slated a number of fun and informational Taste of Libbey events.
“We have held them in LA, Columbus and Chicago and our next one is in Dallas on October 24 from 3-7 at a great customer location called Felix Culpa,” noted Libbey marketing expert Mandy Rentschler. The event will feature local Dallas area who’s who of the industry including Heaven’s door ambassador, Austin Millspaugh, who will be working the bar. “We will have some fun giveaways for free products and discounts for those who attend. We are going to convert the fun and swanky Felix Culpa space into a pop-up showroom. You can find complimentary tickets at @Libbeypro on Facebook or Instagram to RSVP.”
“We also believe that your food and beverage menu is an extension of your location’s personality, so we are advocates for using the perfect glass and plate to tell that story you had in mind,” Oglesby concluded. “That is why Libbey is really for makers and we like to say for makers by makers because we are so involved in our own form of artistry.”
Operators and dealers can get more information on the Libbey line of tabletop solutions on the web at their website. They are all invited to connect with the company via social media @Libbeypro or ask for a rep to meet/talk with you directly through social or their site.