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What Qualifies as Foodservice Dinnerware?

We hear it all the time, “Why can’t any plate be foodservice dinnerware?” Simply put, because if you’re going to operate a professional foodservice establishment, you need professional tools. That includes the grade of plates you use to serve your food.

To understand why, you need to understand that not all plates are made the same way. Also, familiarize yourself with the term vitrified, because it is the key that separates foodservice dinnerware from an ordinary plate.

Vitrified china is a glazed ceramic body with extremely low porosity (0 to 0.5%). The body is fired in extremely high heat, from 2,000° F to 2,350° F. It has a very durable body, especially when alpha alumina is added, with high chip- and impact-resistance. Vitrification occurs due to the high temperatures used in the firing process. It virtually eliminates porosity, leaving nowhere for impurities to be absorbed. As a result, vitrified china is very sanitary, strong, and is worthy of being called foodservice ware.

The plates you can buy off the shelf at department stores are called semi-vitrified, meaning they have porosity greater than 0.5%. This lets impurities in, and also results in low resistance to chipping and breaking. It’s perfectly acceptable for home use, but just can’t stand up to the daily foodservice grind of repeated use, washings, stacking, and handling.

There are two main ways of firing vitrified china, one-fire and two-fire. Both are acceptable methods of creating vitrified china for use as foodservice dinnerware.

One-fire china is a fully vitrified product that is formed, dried, and glazed then fired just once at 2,000° F to 2,300° F. It has extremely high durability and a mirror glaze. Characteristics include a polished foot to reduce marking when stacked.

Two-fire china is a fully vitrified product that is formed, dried, and finished then fired at 2,000° F to 2,300° F (called the bisque firing). It is then polished, glazed and fired a second time at 2,190° F (called the glost firing).

American vitrified china is a uniquely American blend of fine china and porcelain designed and engineered specifically for use in commercial operations. The body was developed in the U.S. to give great impact strength and durability with the low absorption that is required in public eating places. Decorations are applied between the body and the glaze, thereby protecting the decoration during commercial use.