Restaurant trends tend to elicit passionate responses in people. From avocado toast to unicorn food, the sometimes innovative and often wacky ways that restaurants entice diners often leave people either loving the change or hating it. A case in point is plateless food.
The trend of serving food on everything but plates has been going strong for a couple of years. While it has faced a backlash from some, others love it. Here’s what you need to know about this food trend if you’re considering a career in culinary management.
Plateless Food Started Off as a High-End Concept Before Going Mainstream
You can thank—or blame—high-end restaurants for plateless food. Modernist restaurants have long sought new and innovative ways of presenting their dishes. Noma in Copenhagen, for example, serves toffee shaped like birds feet on a bird’s nest, while Alinea in Chicago famously serves dessert straight on the table without plates of any kind.
That trend percolated down to more popular dining establishments, especially gastropubs. Food served on wooden boards or slate are pretty common now, while more outlandish plating options have included miniature shopping carts, VHS cases, dog bowls, shoes, and vinyl records.
Social media is helping fuel the trend. Even critics of plateless food admit that these plating innovations often make for great Instagram photos. For restaurants, that means plateless food can end up giving them a lot of free publicity.
Plateless Food Is Divisive, But It Helps Create Memorable Experiences
Critics claim plateless food puts style over substance. They complain that restaurants are so focused on making food visually interesting that they ignore how it actually tastes. Some critics also contend that some plateless offerings are impractical, such as ice cream served on slate or beef wellington served on barbed wire (both of which have been offered by real restaurants).
However, plating is important to how food tastes, which is why you’ll learn about plating techniques in your culinary management program. For example, one study found that diners judged cheesecake to be of higher quality and liking when it was served on a black square plate, but rated its sweetness and flavour intensity higher when served on a white round plate. And while some plateless meals can appear quite gimmicky, even that may not be a bad thing. Since such “gimmicks” are quite memorable and can be great conversation starters, diners are more likely to remember their meal long after they’ve left the restaurant.
Students in Food Handling Courses May Wonder About the Safety of Plateless Food
One concern about plateless food that students in food handling courses will be interested in is whether or not it is safe. Wooden boards, which are especially common for serving food on, are often the subject of such concerns. Critics claim that wooden boards are harder to clean and are more likely to harbour bacteria.
The truth, however, is that wooden boards, so long as they are cleaned properly, are just as safe to serve food on as ceramic or glass. However, it’s important that they be replaced if they become cracked as cracks can harbour bacteria. Wooden boards also have a number of advantages beyond looking great. They break much less easily than plates and last longer. That makes them more sustainable than traditional plates while also keeping costs down for restaurants.