NAFEM, the National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, hosts a show every other year in which distributors and manufacturing partners come together to learn more about emerging trends, innovative technologies, and foodservice industry updates. 2019’s NAFEM show, hosted at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, brought in more than 550 manufacturers from across the country to proudly showcase their latest releases. On display were thousands of products spanning all foodservice categories, all designed to get ahead on emerging trends, enhance environmental ambiance, and provide profound benefits to the end user. In this post, we offer up our insights into the latest and greatest in tabletop display. 

A pop of color. 

American Metalcraft has long been established as a tabletop giant. Trend-focused, they continuously add to their assortment throughout the year—always with an emphasis on style. Their massive assortment ranges from serving and catering supplies, drinkware, dinnerware and more, as well as different construction materials ranging from aluminum to melamine.  

Taking in their product sampling at their NAFEM booth, a select few tabletop trends came to light, and were quickly reinforced by other manufacturers with similar product lines. “In terms of aluminum,” Matt Willis, marketing manager for American Metalcraft, explains, “a pop of color is what people are looking for. In the past, mostly everyone stuck with blacks and silvers. This year, we’re introducing gold.” Combined with traditional silver serving accessories, a gold utensil stands out and can enliven the environment.  

1. American Metalcraft’s silver hammered chafer complemented by a gold serving spoon. 

“Especially in catering services,” Willis continues, “caterers don’t want to replace their chafers. But adding a serving utensil with a little color is a great, inexpensive way to upgrade presentation.” 

2. On display from American Metalcraft, multi-colored serveware and catering necessities like chafers and coffee urns. 

A fork isn’t just a fork.  

Serveware wasn’t the only product line where color additions were obvious. Every major producer of flatware was proudly boasting their continually diversifying selection. Long gone are the days of standard silver-coat and stainless steel. Today’s flatware seeks to enhance the dining presentation while helping establishments tell their stories.  

3. Bon Chef’s extensive collection of flatware on display at NAFEM. 

Bon Chef is one such manufacturer that believes presentation is an art, and their flatware designs make it clear they’re intended to be used as a strong supporting character. Their new Tavola line of colorful flatware offers new gold, rose gold, black and rainbow options that certainly differentiate from the usual.  

Adel Salem, Vice President of Sales for Bon Chef, explains this trend: “Earthy colors have been a trend and we have seen an increased demand for this type of offering. The Bon Chef Tavola Collection was created to reflect the deep colors of Earth’s nature. The reactive glaze provides an individualized colorful creation to every plate.” 

4. Bon Chef introduced their colorful rainbow flatware, part of their Tavola flatware collection that adds a modern look and pop of color to tabletop presentations. 

5. A fork isn’t just a fork. Your choice of flatware can complement your dinnerware, enhancing presentation while offering a unique dining experience for your valued guests. 

6. Polished rose gold flatware is the perfect match for the Tavola line of dinnerware, featuring a reactive glaze finish to provide an individualized colorful creation to every dish. 

7. Like above, this gold flatware brings out the blue in this Tavola dinnerware set from Bon Chef. 

More color options naturally bring to market additional stylings. In addition to newer colors like black, gold and rose gold, Walco, one of the most prominent flatware manufacturers in the industry, showcased options for brushed or polished and introduced Fieldstone™, a new application that can be added to any of their current flatware patterns to give them a dulled, burnished finish. 

8. A before and after of Walco’s new Fieldstone application. 

This gives the flatware a more antique and rustic feel, perfect for farm-to-table. This buffed stainless steel is also great for hiding fingerprints which is sometimes an issue with polished flatware. 

Serve up flare with organic dinnerware and a hammered finish. 

Though hammered finishes on metal serving utensils isn’t necessarily brand new (see Carlisle’s Terra collection), it was obvious at NAFEM that the trend has risen in popularity, expanding not just to serveware, but to chafers, drinkware, and flatware.  

9. Bon Chef’s hammered handle flatware. 

10. American Metalcraft’s hammered serving baskets. 

11. American Metalcraft’s hammered mugs. 

12. American Metalcraft’s hammered vs. smooth finish coffee urns. 

American Metalcraft was perhaps one of the biggest embracers of this trend, with marketing manager Matt Willis describing, “The industry seems to really be loving this look. Not only is it unique, but our customers can ding it up a bit and no one will be able to notice.”  

In addition to a hammered finish, there was also a rise in prominence of new colors, shapes and styles of dinnerware with new intended uses. Dinnerware is a product line that is heavily influenced by trends, with each dinnerware manufacturer striving hard to set the new standard. With that in mind, hundreds of new styles are introduced each year with a goal to offer establishments something refreshing.  

Many still try to tow the line of farm-to-table, a niche that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, offering an assortment of organic shapes and festive designs. Others, like American Metalcraft, are catering more towards specific regions with their new reclaimed wood melamine serving boards. Willis, again, details this:  

“Ethnic foods are exploding and nowadays it’s even more centered, not just on the region, but the specific region. For example, instead of just going out for Caribbean cuisine, diners are more focused on either Jamaican or Bohemian. It’s much more defined these days. The reclaimed wood look has been huge because it greatly elevates the presentation of different ethnic dishes.” 

13. American Metalcraft’s natural looking melamine serving platters on display at NAFEM. 

14. This reclaimed wood look from American Metalcraft enhances the presentation of ethnic dishes. 

The shift towards melamine and upgrading disposables for a sustainable future. 

A driving force for new product innovations for some time has been improving environmental sustainability within business practices. It’s become clear that customers are willing to pay more if businesses showcase their strides to make a positive impact, and manufacturers are offering more solutions to address this need.  

One such issue of sustainability that has recently come under harsh scrutiny is the use of plastic straws. In America alone, it’s been estimated that consumers plow through more than 500 million straws a day! Too many of these end up in the ocean endangering marine life. New to American Metalcraft’s booth this year were reusable stainless-steel straws, available in 6”, 8” or 10” lengths and in copper, silver, gold, and black. 

15. American Metalcraft stainless steel, reusable straws. 

American Metalcraft wasn’t the only one to get on board with this trend. Tablecraft also showcased their new eco-friendly straws. Available in paper that’s biodegradable, or a plant-based material that’s compostable. Both materials are made from a 100% renewable resource, BPA, GMO and gluten free, presenting an awesome alternative to plastic. They’re also available in 70 styles to accessorize and complement the dining experience. 

16Tablecraft’s new assortment of paper and plant-based, eco-friendly straws. 

It’s not just straws making this change. Select dinnerware is too. Joel Gonzalez, Vice President of Sales at Elite Global, described how consumers are more conscious than ever before of a business’s sustainability efforts. “We’re seeing more businesses opt to replace their disposables with melamine-based products that are reusable, because using disposables are resulting in an overall loss of business.”  Inspired by this revelation, Elite Global has been experimenting with different ratios of bamboo and melamine to create eco-friendly alternatives to disposable plastic dinnerware. Cue their Greenovations line. Made of 50% bamboo and 50% melamine, they are sturdy, reusable, and biodegradable.  

17. Elite Global’s biodegradable Greenovations line is made of 50% bamboo and 50% melamine, an eco-friendly alternative to disposable plastic dinnerware. 

To learn more about sustainable practices inside the dining room, check out this blog!  

There’s always a lot to see at NAFEM. This blog featured some of the top highlights specific to tabletop and dining service. If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy our NAFEM recap on warewashing trends. For more information on emerging trends and popular product assortments, give us a call at 800.215.9293.