Bakers Journal

Features Business and Operations Marketing
Smallwares = Big Impact


November 7, 2007
By Michelle Brisebois

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Michelle Brisebois tells how smallwares can add profit.

glassWith “the Devil in the details,” it’s the little extras that can make or break any initiative.  In the foodservice and bakery industries, smallwares often fall into this category.  Encompassing everything from cake pans to dishes, smallwares play important roles both behind the scenes and on centre stage.

“Smallwares” is the name given to all the small utensils (wares), other than the major cooking and food preparation equipment — most often used in the commercial preparation of food, including fresh-baked bakery products. Items such as special pan molds and shapes used in the world of baking are collectively referred to as “bakeware.”  The first rule of any effective smallware strategy is to acknowledge that these items will be the workhorses of your operation.  Whether a baking pan or wine glass, your smallwares will be subjected to repeated use, washing and handling.  This means that you need to purchase smallwares intended for industrial use — not consumer use.  Richard Sansom, equipment and smallwares specialist for GFS Canada, confirms that purchasing smallwares designed for consumer use can pose operational challenges. 

“Operators may find a similar glass at a large department store that’s a lower price initially, but there are huge differences in the construction of these items.  Often, they break much easier, then it becomes a challenge for the operator to match the glass down the road when it has to be replaced.  Smallwares designed for industrial use, hold up much better over the long haul, and are easier to replace and match down the road,” says Sansom.

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It’s best to view your smallwares strategy in two ways — back of house and front of house.  Those pots, pans, and ladles can help make your operation more efficient if the smallware is properly suited to the need.  Enlist the assistance of a smallwares specialist through your distributor.  Share your operational goals and menu plans  and let a smallwares specialist look at your current inventory to determine which items need to be replaced – because they’ve come to the end of their lifespan.  “Some operators may be using pans that need to be replaced,” says Sansom.  A pan may have about a one to one and a half year lifespan, depending on how it is used; and properly pre-treating the pan is imperative to its lifespan.  “We can show operators how to do this,” says Richard Sansom. 

Innovative new pan finishes are available that help ease the production flow.  Ticona, a division of Celanese Corporation, has just launched a new grade of liquid crystal polymer (LCP) for industrial and consumer cooking and baking use.   Cookware and bakeware, coated with the new grade Vectra® E540i LCP, come to temperature more quickly and transfer heat more uniformly, making an operation more productive.  This technology also minimizes burning and helps the product to brown more evenly.
LCP-coated cookware does not require the periodic recoating with fluoropolymer or reglazing with silicone that is needed with its metal counterpart. Bakeware and cookware coated with LCP withstands a variety of temperatures from -20 C to 240 C, and is suitable for use in conventional or microwave ovens and freezers, including those involving shock freezing.  The product also releases from the pan more easily.  An innovative coating such as this can lower the amount of waste product you have, speed up your cooking and make cleanup faster, too.

All of these small wins contribute to your profitability.  As new and innovative solutions such as this are introduced into the marketplace, your smallwares specialist will bring these items to your attention, and ensure that you are benefiting from efficient equipment.  Richard Sansom also sees a return to cast iron pans.  “The benefit of cast iron is that it goes easily from stove top to oven, handle and all.”  If you choose to add a signature menu item that requires a specially-shaped pan, some suppliers will work with you to develop something custom-made.  The time, effort and extra cost could be minimal in comparison to the up-side of a unique product that makes your operation a destination for consumers, rather than simply a convenience stop.

Smallwares used at the front of the house should be considered marketing tools.  They convey a sense of image to your customers, and can enhance the presentation of your menu items.  This all translates into higher margins for you, so careful consideration when choosing plates, flatware and stemware, is time well spent.

Keeping on top of trends is important when it comes to tabletop smallwares.  Trend watchers are predicting a return to curved shapes in decorating, and this is being mirrored in some of the innovative plate shapes we’re seeing.  The tear-drop shaped plate is becoming quite popular, as are stemless wine glasses resembling tumblers.  If your operation also serves coffee, consider some espresso cups or latte mugs — possibly expanding your menu to include specialty coffees.  The margins on these high-end beverages are quite generous, and they can complement a wonderful array of baked goods.

It’s been noted that there are two ways to effectively increase profitability.  You either become more efficient by decreasing your costs, or you increase your margins by charging more.  A solid smallwares strategy will allow you to accomplish both of these objectives.  Equipment that makes it easier for your operation to flow will lower your costs.  Tableware that enhances presentation and perceived value to the customer will allow you to charge more.  Take a look at how you can enhance your smallwares program.  Sometimes it’s the little things that really do count — and add to your profitability.


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