Every meal should be about more than food. Mealtime is rich with tradition and meaning across the globe. It is a time to gather together as family and friends. Unless you're grabbing a snack on your way to work, mealtime should be about connecting with people. As the founder and CEO of Felt+Fat, Nathaniel Mell, elevating the dining experience is engraved into his identity. His ceramic design and manufacturing studio has a long-standing relationship with renowned restaurants throughout Philadelphia which places him in a unique position to reflect and comment on the importance that tableware has on the dining experience.
At no time is the importance of tableware more evident than when dining at a restaurant. When guests gather at a restaurant, they come expecting to participate in a memorable experience. It may be to celebrate an event, explore or deepen relationships, or seal a business deal. Still, in any case, the entire atmosphere created by the restaurateur is expected to contribute to the experience.
Every nuanced aspect of the restaurant contributes to the dining experience's success. Each element contributes to the outcome by beginning with the decor and carrying throughout the staff's demeanor and appearance.
The importance of tableware should not be overlooked or its impact on the guest experience discounted. Guests at a restaurant interact with the tableware throughout their visit. At the extremes, it is easy to compare the impact of being served on chipped and dirty plates against fine dining on custom tableware thoughtfully selected for the presentation of that specific meal. It could be the same food, but the guest's impression is completely different.
Just as the first meeting with another person can set the tone for the resulting relationship, a diner's first impression of a meal is developed as it is presented on tableware. The food may be exquisite, but a poor first impression may be what stays with the guest — and what remains with the guest is what they will tell others about their dining experience.
A professional chef's reputation is built on the quality, taste, and appearance of their culinary designs. The tableware used to present the chef's masterpiece should be given equal consideration.
Beyond the aesthetic appeal of the tableware, there are functional considerations too.
- Size - choose serving plates for both the main course and dessert that complement the food's portion size. Too big a plate will make the course appear diminutive.
- Color - choose a tableware color scheme that does not detract from the presentation of the food. Subdued colors will enhance the appearance of the food.
- Materials - Consider the temperature of the food to be served. Use tableware made of a material that will keep the food at the perfect serving temperature. This can be especially important for drinks best served hot.
The difference between a good restaurant and a great one often comes down to the restaurateur's focus on the details — and no doubt there are many details to consider. To create a dining experience that is more than a meal but facilitates human connection, leaves a lasting impression, and meets all the guest's functional requirements, give special attention to the tableware.
About Nate Mell
Nate Mell is the founder and CEO of Felt and Fat, a ceramic design and manufacturing studio based in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood. In 2013 Nate was asked to design a set of plates for what would become the award-winning restaurant 'High Street on Market.' Today, Mell's Felt and Fat has a track record of working with over 100 restaurants worldwide, producing more than 30,000 pieces annually, and being featured in the NY Times, the Forbes 30 under 30 list, and many other publications. Timeless design, ethical manufacturing, and intentionality toward relationships are the core values of the ever-growing team at Felt+Fat.