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Types of Chinaware

Whether you're a restaurant owner, event planner, or caterer, identifying what china to purchase can be difficult. Making the right choice can elevate your serving experience and leave a lasting impression on your guests, while the wrong choice can negatively impact your service. China varies in shape, size, and color, presenting a wide range of options. Continue reading to learn about the different types of china, what sets them apart, and the details to take into account before you make a purchase.


Shop All China Dinnerware

Use the following links to skip to china information that most interests you:

  1. Types of Dinnerware
  2. What Is Fine China?
  3. What Is Vitrification?
  4. How to Store China
  5. How to Clean China
  6. How Much China Do I Need?
  7. China Purchasing Considerations

Types of Dinnerware

When it comes to choosing china, each type features a unique set of characteristics. Understanding what sets each of them apart can help you make the best purchase for your business. We'll investigate the most popular types of china below.

Restaurant Equipment

1. Stoneware

Stoneware can be fully vitrified or semi-vitrified. Because of this, stoneware is resistant to chipping, scratching, and breaking. From classic to trend-forward, it comes in several forms and suits multiple restaurant styles. It falls in the mid-range price category, making it a cost-effective option for many commercial establishments. You can find stoneware dinnerware sets that fit your budget without compromising quality or style.

  • Is stoneware dishwasher safe? Yes
  • Is stoneware microwave safe? Yes
Restaurant Equipment

2. Earthenware

Earthenware is made from clay and fired at a relatively low temperature, resulting in dinnerware that is glazed to a non-vitreous state. This gives it a distinctive rustic appearance. The glaze used on earthenware enhances its durability and makes it resistant to chipping and cracking. Earthenware can also withstand high heat, making it suitable for oven-to-table service.

  • Is earthenware dishwasher safe? No
  • Is earthenware microwave safe? Yes
Restaurant Equipment

3. China Dinnerware

China dinnerware is made of malleable clay and is a great choice for establishments looking to add a touch of elegance to their table settings. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, china dinnerware is known for its durability. With a wide range of colors, shapes, and designs available, you can easily find china dinnerware that complements your restaurant's theme and adds a touch of sophistication to your table settings.

  • Is china dinnerware dishwasher safe? Most types
  • Is china dinnerware microwave safe? Most types
Restaurant Equipment

4. Bone China Dinnerware

Bone china dinnerware is made from bone ash, feldspar, and kaolin clay. It contains at least 25% bone ash, giving it unique strength and translucency. Due to the cost of the materials used and its intricate manufacturing process, bone china is one of the most expensive tableware options on the market. Bone china is vitrified, glazed, and features a thin-walled design, contributing to a delicate and refined appearance.

  • Is bone china dinnerware dishwasher safe? Most types
  • Is bone china dinnerware microwave safe? Most types
Restaurant Equipment

5. Porcelain Dinnerware

Like china, porcelain dinnerware is crafted from malleable clay, allowing for the creation of intricate and detailed shapes. The clay is fired at high temperatures, resulting in a vitrified construction that gives porcelain its characteristic smooth and glossy finish. Compared to traditional and bone china, porcelain is a more budget-friendly option without compromising on quality. Its neutral and timeless appeal allows it to seamlessly blend with any decor or theme, making it suitable for both casual and formal dining experiences.

  • Is porcelain dinnerware dishwasher safe? Most types
  • Is porcelain dinnerware microwave safe? Most types

What Is Fine China?

Fine china refers to high-quality dinnerware made from either porcelain or bone china. One of the distinguishing features of fine china is its lightweight nature. Fine china pieces are delicate and easy to handle, making them perfect for formal occasions where elegance and refinement are key. They are made with high-quality materials and vitrified, making them resistant to chipping and cracking.

Differences between Porcelain and China

The terms china and porcelain are used interchangeably when referring to ceramic dinnerware. While they are both made from the same materials, some subtle differences set them apart. We'll investigate each of them below:

  • China: One can trace traditional china's roots back to the country of China. The term refers to a specific type of ceramic dinnerware known for its high quality and elegant appearance. China is vitrified through a single-firing process.
  • Porcelain: You can trace porcelain's origins back to Europe, while its name originates in Latin. Porcelain is vitrified through a multi-step firing process or fired at higher temperatures than in traditional china. This process gives porcelain its unique translucent quality, creates a delicate appearance, and makes it more prone to chipping and cracking.

Differences between China and Bone China

One of the main differences between traditional china and bone china is their composition. Traditional china is made from malleable clay, which is then fired at high temperatures to create a durable and chip-resistant material. Conversely, bone china is made of clay that contains at least 25% bone ash, giving it a unique and delicate appearance.

Traditional china tends to be less expensive, while bone china comes with a higher price tag. The addition of bone ash gives bone china a translucent quality and a beautiful, almost porcelain-like appearance, making it an excellent choice for upscale restaurants.

What Is Vitrification?

Vitrification is the process of changing something into glass or a glass-like substance. This process is used in ceramics, where it plays a crucial role in enhancing the durability and functionality of china. During the vitrification process, clay is fired at high temperatures, causing the components within the clay to melt and fuse. As a result, the clay becomes impervious to water, making it highly resistant to cracks, chips, and other forms of damage. The reduced porosity of vitrified ceramics significantly reduces the risk of bacteria or mold growth, allowing you to prioritize food safety and hygiene.

It's important to note that china can be fully vitrified or semi-vitrified. Continue reading to learn about each type:

  • Fully vitrified: Fully vitrified ceramics have undergone a complete transformation and have a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%. This makes them extremely strong, durable, and suitable for heavy-duty use in commercial settings.
  • Semi-vitrified: Semi-vitrified ceramics have a water absorption rate between 0.5% and 3%. While they may not be as impervious to water as their fully vitrified counterparts, they still offer enhanced durability and functionality compared to non-vitrified options.

How to Store China

man pushing dish caddy

No matter what type of china you buy, it should always be handled and stored with care. Proper china storage is essential for maintaining the quality and longevity of your tableware. We'll explore the best practices for storing china below:

  • Location: Minimize the risk of accidental bumps or collisions by dedicating a specific cabinet or shelving unit solely for your china collection. Choose a location away from busy kitchen areas or high-traffic zones. Avoid areas near ovens, stoves, or steamy dishwashing stations, as excessive heat and humidity can damage the glaze and promote the growth of mold or mildew.
  • Stacking: Plates and other dishes should be stacked on top of one another during storage. Prevent scratches, chipping, and other potential damages by cushioning each stack, and use dish caddies to transport your dinnerware. Conversely, it's best to store cups in racks. These racks allow you to keep the cups upright, preventing any potential cracks or chips that may occur when they're stacked. Avoid wet nesting, or storing china while it is still wet, as this can lead to the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Overcrowding: Leave enough space between each stack to prevent accidental bumping or scraping. Never stack plates higher than 12 inches on a shelf. If a stack of plates grows too high, it could fall over. When you run out of storage space, it's wise to invest in additional storage containers.

How to Clean China

Most types of china available today are dishwasher safe. When using a dishwasher, select a gentle setting to prevent damage. The delicate nature of china can make it susceptible to chipping or cracking if exposed to harsh dishwasher cycles. Avoid using high-heat drying options for the best results.

It's important to note that certain delicate or vintage types of china require special care and should be washed by hand. Delicate china, in particular, may have intricate patterns, gold or silver accents, or fragile handles that can be damaged in a dishwasher. To hand-wash china, follow these steps:

  1. Fill a sink or water basin with warm water and mild dishwashing liquid.

  2. Place the china in soapy water and use a soft sponge or cloth to clean the surface. Do not use abrasive scrubbers or brushes, as this can damage the china.

  3. Rinse the china thoroughly with warm water to remove any soap residue.

  4. Dry the china using a soft, lint-free cloth.

How Much China Do I Need?

When it comes to buying china in bulk, it's difficult to identify how much you'll actually need. Keep your restaurant concept and the types of food on your menu in mind as you calculate how much to buy. We've compiled a chart below to help with this calculation.

To calculate how much of any type of china you'll need, use the following equation:

Amount of china = number of seats x the number that corresponds with your restaurant concept

Item
Usage
Fine Dining
Casual Dining
Cafeteria
Banquet
Institutional
5" - 6" Plates
Serving small salads or bread and butter
2
--
6
1 1/4
3
6 1/4" - 6 3/4" Plates
Serving small salads, desserts, or bread and butter
1 1/2
3
3
--
3
7" - 7 7/8" Plates
Serving salads, sandwiches, and desserts
1 1/2
2
--
2 1/2
--
8" - 9" Plates
Serving lunch entrees and salads
1 1/2
2 1/2
2
--
2
9 1/8" - 9 3/4" Plates
Serving large breakfast and lunch entrees, dinner entrees, and salads
1 1/2
2 1/2
2
1 1/4
--
10 1/4" - 12 1/8" Plates
Serving large dinner entrees
2
2 1/2
--
1 1/2
--
7" - 7 1/2" Platters
Serving sides and salads
1
1 1/2
--
--
--
9" - 9 1/2" Platters
Serving lunch entrees, salads, and specialty seafood dishes
1
1 1/2
1/2
--
--
11" - 13" Platters
Serving large meat and seafood entrees
1
1
1/2
--
--
Mugs
Serving coffees, cappuchinos, lattes, and hot chocolates
--
3
2 1/2
--
2 1/2
Cups
Serving tea and other light, hot beverages
3
3
2
1 1/2
1 1/2
Saucers
Underliner for serving hot beverages or soups
2 1/2
3
2
1 1/2
1 1/2
Bouillon Cups
Serving soups, stews, and desserts
1
2
1 1/2
1 1/2
1 1/2
Fruit / Monkey Dishes
Serving sides and desserts
2
3
6
2 1/2
3
Grapefruit Bowls
Serving soups, cereals, and desserts
1
1
1 1/2
--
1 1/2
Oatmeal Bowls
Serving soups and cereals
--
1
1
--
1
Rim Soup Bowls
Serving soups, salads, and pastas
1/2
1/2
--
--
--
Pitchers / Creamers
Serving milk or cream
1/3
1/3
--
1/3
--
Sugar Bowls
Serving crackers or sugar
1/3
1/3
--
1/3
--
Sauceboats
Serving sauces, gravies, and dressings
1/3
--
--
1/2
--

China Purchasing Considerations

food on colorful plates

The type of china you choose should best fit your needs and the requirements of your business. In addition to cost, style, and functionality, keep the following purchasing considerations in mind as you shop:

Front of House Purchasing Considerations

Consider the following front-of-house factors when purchasing china for your restaurant:

  • Mood: China helps define a restaurant's personality; it sets the mood and can reinforce the theme of the venue. Consider what types of flatware or table linens you will be using, as these all work together to create a unique atmosphere.
  • Experience: Table settings can greatly influence how customers will evaluate their dining experience. Your choice of dinnerware and glassware will have a big impact on your guests' experience.
  • Presentation: China acts as a canvas for a chef's culinary presentation. Attention to detail when plating can create a more elegant experience and give you an advantage over your competition.

Back of House Purchasing Considerations

Remember the back-of-house factors listed below as you shop for china:

  • Sanitation: A 100% vitrified product helps to prevent crazing and cracking, which leads to the buildup of bacteria.
  • Durability: For your china to withstand the rigors of commercial foodservice use, research the durability of each vendor's products. Pay attention to whether your china is oven, dishwasher, or microwave safe.
  • Storage: Choosing stackable dinnerware can save space in your kitchen.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.

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