Buying Guide

Choosing the right types of chinaware for your foodservice operation can save you money and lots of headaches. From size and shape to color and composition, the possibilities for chinaware seem endless and can be overwhelming. Read this buying guide to learn more about your options and the choices you will have to make when determining what dinnerware to purchase.

Type of Operation

Are you a casual, high-volume establishment, or an upscale, fine-dining restaurant that seats 30? Your dinnerware needs will differ based on how many your restaurant seats and what type of dining environment you offer. Refer to our China Requirements Guide for guidelines on the amount of china to purchase for a 100 seat dining room.

The Importance of China Selection

Front of the House

    Front of the House
  • Mood: China assists in defining a restaurant’s personality; it sets the mood and can reinforce the theme of the venue.
  • Experience: Aside from the food itself, table settings can greatly influence how customers will evaluate their dining experience.
  • Presentation: China acts as a canvas for a chef’s culinary presentation. Attention to detail when plating can make a big difference next to your competition.

Back of the House

  • Sanitation: A 100% vitrified product helps to prevent crazing and cracking which can accumulate bacteria.
  • Durability: For your china to withstand the rigors of commercial foodservice use, research the durability of each vendor's products, including the ability to be used in the oven, dishwasher, or microwave.
  • Storage and Stacking: Choosing stackable dinnerware can be beneficial to saving space in your kitchen.

Compare Dinnerware

Dinnerware Style Comparison Tool

Select a style to learn more

Colorful China


Bright colors highlight your cuisine and dazzle your diners.

  • Key Attributes
  • Bold Colors
  • Designed to be eye-catching
  • Colorful China in action
  • Fiestaware in action
  • Fiestaware in action
Embossed Dinnerware


Soft sculpting, reminiscent of brush strokes, provides a light embellishment adding elegance as well as sophistication. Styles vary from bold swirls to delicate latticework.

  • Key Attributes
  • Fine sculpting
  • Variety of designs
  • Embossed dinnerware in action
  • Lyrica in action
Speckled Dinnerware


Speckled china is a perfect blend between plain white china and solid colored china, with the right amount of color to dress up your place settings.

  • Key Attributes
  • Features outer accent band along rim
  • Adds color to traditional ivory dinnerware
  • Speckled dinnerware in action
  • Lyrica in action
Times Square Dinnerware

Times Square

Square and rectangular china will add a unique flair to any table setting with non-traditional designs and dramatic lines.

  • Key Attributes
  • Bold, geometric shapes
  • Perfect for creating unique place settings
  • Times Square dinnerware in action
  • Times Square dinnerware in action
Narrow Rim Dinnerware

Narrow Rim

Maximizing the surface space for your mouth-watering cuisine, these dinnerware pieces feature a simple narrow rim design.

  • Key Attributes
  • Take full advantage of eating area
  • Simple, timeless design
  • Narrow Rim dinnerware in action
  • Lyrica in action
Wide Rim Dinnerware

Wide Rim

Wide rims provide more space for rim designs and allow for maximum creativity when plating food.

  • Key Attributes
  • Wide rim provides greater design space
  • Draws focus to the center of the dish
  • Wide Rim dinnerware in action
  • Swirl dinnerware in action
  • Swirl dinnerware in action
Coupe Dinnerware


This durable and clean-looking china features a contemporary coupe shape with a large well area.

  • Key Attributes
  • Coupe shape, large well, no rim
  • Soft ivory/white coloring
  • Empire Coupe dinnerware in action
  • Empire Coupe dinnerware in action
Rolled Edge Dinnerware

Rolled Edge

Rolled edge china combines soft lines and simplicity to put all of the attention on your favorite dishes.

  • Key Attributes
  • Clean and simple look
  • Traditional design
  • Rolled Edge dinnerware in action
  • Rolled Edge dinnerware in action
Scalloped Edge Dinnerware

Scalloped Edge

Scalloped edges create an eye-catching, wavy design along the rims of these distinctive dinnerware pieces.

  • Key Attributes
  • Subtle scalloped edge design
  • Available with or without bold outer rim accents
  • Scalloped Edge dinnerware in action
  • Scalloped dinnerware in action

Chinaware Colors

The following spectrum shows the most common chinaware colors. It is always best to get a sample before placing chinaware orders because colors may vary depending on manufacturer.

Type of Dinnerware

The majority of ceramic and porcelain chinaware fall into these categories:

Material Features
  • Hard and dense
  • Somewhat vitrified
  • Chip and scratch resistant
  • Not recommended for food service
  • Excellent heat conduction
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Resists corrosion
  • Inexpensive
China / Porcelain
  • Vitreous
  • Delicate, smooth appearance
  • Kaolin clay
  • High strength and durability
Bone China
  • 25% bone ash
  • Lighter in weight
  • Less brittle
  • Most expensive


How can you tell if the chinaware you’re about to purchase is durable enough for your needs? Ask questions: there is no industry standard on durability. Every manufacturer is different and the guarantees on dinnerware vary widely.

Does your dinnerware pattern come with a chip warranty?
  • CAC China round plates and platters have a one-year chip warranty
  • Hall China has a lifetime chip warranty
  • Homer Laughlin has a lifetime chip warranty
  • Tuxton has a limited lifetime edge chip warranty
Does your china have a high alumina content?

Alumina is a durable compound that acts as a partial replacement for silica and increases the whiteness of the finished product. A high-alumina body offers a variety of benefits such as increased strength and chip or breakage resistance as well as improved thermal conductivity, helping food to stay warm for longer periods of time. China from Homer Laughlin and Hall China have high alumina content. Look at these lines from Tuxton for more high alumina options: Tuxton AlumaTux Specialty Items, Tuxton Modena AlumaTux, Tuxton San Marino AlumaTux.

Is your dinnerware fully vitrified? Durability

Fully vitrified means that your dinnerware is non-porous. Fully vitrified dinnerware is stronger and thinner than ware fired at lower temperatures. A fully vitrified product does not absorb water, leading to less internal stress from expanding and contracting. This helps to prevent breakage and ensures a long life for your china with normal use. CAC China, Tuxton, Hall China, and Homer Laughlin offer fully vitrified products, and Cardinal's porcelain lines Zenix and Candour are also fully vitrified. See these serving bowls, appetizer dishes, and platters from American Metalcraft for more fully vitrified products.

Does your dinnerware stack rim-to-rim?

If your china features rim-to-rim stacking, this means your dishes rest on their outer rims when stacked. This design is meant to prevent the unglazed bottom of a plate from resting on top of a glazed surface beneath it, preventing scratches and other damage to the finish of your valuable china. This type of stacking can be found in CAC China and 10 Strawberry Street dinnerware.

Care, Maintenance, and Storage

As the saying goes, “Dishes don’t break…they are broken.” It’s important to take good care of your chinaware to keep your replacement costs low.

Care, Maintenance, and Storage
  • Never stack plates higher than 12” on a shelf. Use a plate dispenser for easy storage.
  • Store plates in stacks and cups in racks.
  • Store china at or below food plating areas on shelves made of non-magnetic stainless steel. See this shelving buying guide for more information on the differences between types of shelves.
  • Use plastic or rubber scrapers, scrubbers, and sponges to remove food.
  • Avoid wet nesting (storing dishes when they are wet). Be sure to dry them according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Please remember to always follow the manufacturer’s care, maintenance and storage instructions for best results.

Cost & Availability

Dinnerware is not a fixed cost. With constant use and commercial washing, dinnerware will eventually need to be replaced.

If the company from which you purchase your chinaware stocks the items you are looking for, you can keep the initial and future costs of buying dinnerware low. On the other hand, if a company says they will stock a new pattern just for you, you will often pay a premium for that service. Buying a stock pattern allows you to take advantage of purchasing volume while staying in control of your dinnerware costs.