How Many Utensils Does Your Restaurant Need?

In most restaurants, when your patrons sit down to a meal, they’re given reusable utensils and other dinnerware. Now imagine you have a full house. Everyone still needs flatware, but how much? 

To determine how many utensils your restaurant requires, you first need to know what your restaurant’s max seating capacity is. For example, if you have 100 seats max, you’d need 200 dessert spoons, 200 dinner forks, and 200 dinner knives. 

How did we arrive at that number? Keep reading to find out. Also in this article, we’ll help you determine how much money you’ll spend on flatware and tell you how often your cutlery needs to be replaced.

Let’s get started.

The Types of Dinnerware, Flatware, and Drinkware Restaurants Must Have

Before you can begin calculating how much flatware you need, you have to ensure you have the right kind of cutlery as well as dinnerware and drinkware. This way, no matter what kind of dishes your restaurant serves, you have the appropriate dinnerware to serve your customers.

Use your discretion here, of course. For instance, a pizzeria can skip a fish knife, as you won’t serve salmon or halibut, well, unless it’s a pizza topping, perhaps. Full-service sit-down restaurants of other cuisines though should have a full range of dinnerware as appropriate to the menu. 

Here’s what we recommend.

Forks

There’s a fork for every occasion, and all are somewhat different from one another. Check out this overview.

  • Cocktail fork: Also referred to as a seafood fork, a cocktail fork has two to three prongs, all of which are narrow and short. The handle of a cocktail fork is quite lengthy, between 4 ½ inches to 5 ½ inches. You can use a cocktail fork informally or formally to spear or stab into seafood.
  • Fish fork: Yes, there’s such thing as a seafood fork and a fish fork, and they are different. A fish fork is designed for loading fish onto the fork. This fork has four tines instead of three, and they’re a more regular length. The broad shape of a fish fork makes it convenient for handling seafood. 
  • Salad fork: When a customer orders salad, you’re supposed to offer them a salad fork. This has four tines as well, but they’re float and broad to easily pick up lettuce leaves and other sizable vegetables. A salad fork is six inches on average. 
  • Dinner fork: A dinner fork is the standard fork in everyone’s utensil drawer. With four tines, a dinner fork has a curved base and a broad handle. You serve main courses with this fork. 
  • Dessert fork: The dessert fork goes by names like pie fork or pastry fork. With three or four tines in all, the dessert fork is one of the smaller forks in your restaurant’s collection of utensils. One tine is supposed to be longer, with an edge that’s flat for slicing into pastries and other desserts.

Knives

Your restaurant will also require this assortment of knives.

  • Fish knife: A unique-looking knife, a fish knife has a sharp yet scalloped blade with an end designed for removing tiny fish bones. The blade also features a flat side that’s ideal for cutting into the flesh of fish. 
  • Steak knife: A large knife with a wooden handle, steak knives have a serrated blade with a sharp point so they can easily cut through even tougher steaks. 
  • Butter spreader knife: Akin to its purpose, a butter spreader knife is short, with a rounded edge and flat sides so you can seamlessly spread butter on bread. 
  • Dinner knife: The dinner knife is the longest in a traditional dinner setup. It can push food and cut through it. Exclude serving a dinner knife with soup, but otherwise, it’s necessary for informal and formal dining. 
  • Dessert knife: An eight-inch knife, the dessert knife has a pointed or rounded tip with a narrower blade. It goes especially well with the dessert fork for eating the sweetest meal of the day.

Spoons

For soups, ice cream, and other such dishes, you must have a variety of spoons, such as the following.

  • Bouillon spoon: As the name may have suggested, you’d use a bouillon spoon for enjoying soups made with broth or madrilène and other jelly-based soups. This very round, circular spoon is curved so it can naturally fit into a soup bowl’s edge.
  • Demitasse spoon: One of the smallest spoons around that’s even tinier than a teaspoon, a demitasse spoon can get cappuccinos frothy as well as stir coffee. 
  • Iced tea spoon: A long, skinny spoon that goes by names like a latte spoon or soda spoon, the iced tea spoon is perfect for mixing sweeteners or sugars into beverages like iced tea. 
  • Tablespoon: A tablespoon can be used for measuring ingredients, but it’s also a very sizable serving spoon. 
  • Teaspoon: The more traditional spoon size in your cutlery collection is referred to as a teaspoon. Serve this with coffee and tea for stirring the beverage. 
  • Dessert spoon: Ideal for cereal, soup, and desserts, the dessert spoon has a bowl that’s oval-shaped instead of rounder. It’s about the same size as your soup spoon.

Bowls

Moving outside of cutlery into dinnerware now, these bowls are a requirement at most restaurants:

  • Oatmeal bowl
  • Deep rim soup bowl
  • Grapefruit bowl
  • Bouillon bowl

Cups

Don’t forget drinkware! Stock up on these types of cups and glasses for your restaurant:

  • Coffee cup
  • Fountain glass
  • Iced tea glass
  • Water glass
  • Juice glass
  • Bistro glass
  • Brandy glass
  • Martini glass (6 to 9 ounces) 
  • Double old-fashioned glass (12 to 14 ounces)
  • Shot glass 
  • Rocks glass (8 to 12 ounces)
  • Highball glass (8 to 10 ounces)
  • Beer glass (14 to 16 ounces) 
  • Wineglass (10 to 15 ounces)
  • Wine flute (5 to 7 ounces)

Plates

Last but certainly not least, you need to have plates, and plenty of ‘em:

  • Fruit dish
  • Breakfast platter
  • Steak platter
  • Dinner plate
  • Dessert/salad plate

Calculating How Many Utensils Your Restaurant Needs

Your shopping list is complete, but now you need to know the quantity of flatware for your restaurant.

This quantity is solely dependent on your seating capacity. We found a handy calculator on foodservice company Wasserstrom’s website that you can check out here. The calculator will clue you in on how many spoons, forks, and knives your restaurant must have to serve every patron no matter what they order.

Restaurants That Seat 50

Let’s say your restaurant has the space for only 50 patrons. Your establishment is a decent size, with lots of room for everyone to sit comfortably and enjoy your top-notch cuisine. 

Here’s how much flatware you’d need to serve 50 people in a semi-formal setup:

  • 75 dessert knives
  • 75 dinner knives
  • 75 cocktail forks
  • 150 dessert forks
  • 100 bouillon spoons
  • 75 iced tea spoons
  • 13 tablespoons
  • 100 dessert spoons
  • 150 teaspoons

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Are you keeping things ultra-casual with bar service? You still need utensils in these quantities:

  • 150 dinner knives
  • 75 cocktail forks
  • 150 dessert forks
  • 100 bouillon spoons
  • 75 iced tea spoons 
  • 100 dessert spoons
  • 150 teaspoons 

If you’re a more upscale establishment with formal dining, here’s what your flatware tally is per the calculator:

  • 100 butter spreaders
  • 100 dessert knives
  • 100 dinner knives
  • 75 cocktail forks
  • 100 dinner forks
  • 150 dessert forks
  • 100 bouillon spoons
  • 100 demitasse spoons
  • 75 iced tea spoons
  • 13 tablespoons
  • 100 dessert spoons
  • 250 teaspoons

Restaurants That Seat 100

Most restaurants can fit between 80 and 100 people on average, excluding bar seating. Here are the quantities of cutlery you’d need courtesy of the Wasserstrom calculator.

For semi-formal dining:

  • 150 dessert knives
  • 150 dinner knives
  • 150 cocktail forks
  • 300 dessert forks
  • 200 bouillon spoons
  • 150 iced tea spoons
  • 25 tablespoons
  • 200 dessert spoons
  • 300 teaspoons

For bar service:

  • 300 dinner knives
  • 150 cocktail forks
  • 300 dessert forks
  • 200 bouillon spoons
  • 150 iced tea spoons
  • 200 dessert spoons
  • 300 teaspoons

For formal dining:

  • 200 butter spreaders
  • 200 dinner knives
  • 150 cocktail forks
  • 200 dinner forks
  • 300 dessert forks
  • 200 bouillon spoons
  • 200 demitasse spoons
  • 150 iced tea spoons
  • 25 tablespoons
  • 200 dessert spoons
  • 500 teaspoons

According to Central Restaurant Products, here’s a suggested limit for drinkware and dinnerware for 100 patrons:


  • 12 dozen fountain glasses
  • 24 dozen iced tea glasses
  • 12 dozen water glasses
  • 12 dozen juice glasses
  • 2 dozen brandy glasses
  • 8 dozen martini glasses
  • 10 dozen double old-fashioned glasses
  • 6 dozen shot glasses
  • 10 dozen rocks glasses
  • 10 dozen highball glasses
  • 10 dozen beer glasses
  • 24 dozen wine glasses
  • 12 dozen wine flutes
  • 6 dozen creamers
  • 6 dozen sugar packet holders
  • 6 dozen oatmeal bowls
  • 20 dozen deep rim soup bowls
  • 25 dozen grapefruit bowls
  • 33 dozen fruit dishes
  • 20 dozen saucers
  • 20 dozen bouillon bowls 
  • 33 dozen coffee cups
  • 6 dozen steak platters
  • 6 dozen breakfast platters
  • 33 dozen dinner plates
  • 33 dozen dessert or salad plates


Restaurants That Seat 120

For restaurants that are larger than the norm and can fit up to 120 patrons, you can expect your flatware load to increase per the following. 

For semi-formal dining:

  • 180 dessert knives
  • 180 dinner knives
  • 180 cocktail forks
  • 360 dessert forks
  • 240 bouillon spoons
  • 180 iced tea spoons
  • 30 tablespoons 
  • 240 dessert spoons
  • 360 teaspoons 

For bar service:

  • 360 dinner knives
  • 180 cocktail forks
  • 360 dessert forks
  • 240 bouillon spoons
  • 180 iced tea spoons
  • 240 dessert spoons
  • 360 teaspoons

For formal dining arrangements:

  • 240 butter spreaders
  • 240 dessert knives
  • 240 dinner knives
  • 180 cocktail forks
  • 240 dinner forks
  • 360 dessert forks
  • 240 bouillon spoons
  • 240 demitasse spoons
  • 180 iced tea spoons
  • 30 tablespoons
  • 240 dessert spoons
  • 600 teaspoons 

How Much Money Will You Spend on Utensils and Other Dinnerware?

As you can see, you need significantly more flatware as your restaurant size grows. With a larger establishment, it’s anticipated that you’ll make more money to counteract the higher costs of owning all these utensils.

Just how much will you spend on cutlery? That’s hard to say, so all quotes here are estimates, not guarantees. On ABestKitchen, a wholesale restaurant store, you can choose your flatware first by type, then specific utensil. For example, within the forks category, you’ll find dessert forks, fish forks, cocktail forks, salad forks, and dinner forks.

You don’t just buy individual forks on a wholesale site like Restaurant Supply.com. Instead, you can shop forks by the dozen or in cases of 24 or more.

Let’s say you bought a nice set of a dozen stainless steel dinner forks. This may cost you $11.53 for a dozen, which we’ll round up to $12. If your restaurant has the seating capacity for 100, which is the average, then with a semi-formal dining setup, you’d pay $1,800 for 150 forks. For a formal dining setup where you need 200 dinner forks, that’s $2,400.

That’s just for forks, and not only that, but just for one type of fork, the dinner fork. Your price for cutlery can easily head into five, even six figure-territory then. We aren’t able to find an average price that restaurants pay on cutlery, but that’s probably because there are so many variables.

After all, who’s to say you’ll necessarily spend $12 for a dozen dinner forks? Still using Restaurant Supply.com as an example, they have a dozen stainless steel dinner forks for $1.50, which we’ll round up to $2.

Now, for 150 dinner forks, you’re paying $300, and for 200 forks, $400. Those prices are far more reasonable, but because you’re paying less for the silverware, it might not last as long. That’s a risk you might want to take, spending less money now and replacing your silverware every few years compared to dropping a lot of money now and having your flatware for longer.

How Often Should You Replace Utensils?

Speaking of cutlery longevity, if you spend a small fortune just on utensils for your restaurant, how long should you expect to have them?

The material choice goes a long way towards longevity. Not all metal is the same, after all. Stainless steel is comprised of nickel (although not always), chrome, and steel alloy, but the alloy ratio is different depending on the manufacturer. 

Here’s a list of all the alloys your restaurant utensils are made of.

  • 13/0: 13/0 flatware has no nickel but 13 percent of chrome. Most knife blades are 13/0 metal because this alloy ratio has a hard base that retains its edge. This flatware is also prone to bending and rusting, both of which can necessitate a replacement.
  • 18/0: 18/0 also lacks nickel, but now there’s a larger quantity of chrome, 18 percent. Cutlery made with this alloy is inexpensive, so if a piece gets worn down, you can quickly replace it.
  • 18/8: Now your utensils have some nickel in them, but only 8 percent. That 18 percent of chrome still remains. This flatware feels a bit heavier, takes longer to rust, and it has a nice shine. It’s also a little more expensive.
  • 18/10: You can also shop cutlery with an alloy ratio of 18/10, which is 18 percent chrome and 10 percent nickel. This stainless steel is the most upscale and thus the most expensive, as it will almost never rust. It’s also really hard to bend 18/10 utensils, although not impossible. 

If you invest in 18/8 and 18/10 utensils especially, then they could last for the lifetime of your restaurant. Cheaper metal alloys can get bent in the dishwasher, and a coat of rust will make these utensils unappealing to customers. You’ll have to change out your stock of cutlery faster, but since you didn’t spend much money on it, that’s not such a big deal.  

Conclusion

Your restaurant will soon open, but before you can do that, you need utensils. The quantity of cutlery depends on what type of restaurant you run (formal vs. informal) as well as your seating capacity. 

With the information in this article and the handy calculator, you won’t have to guess on your restaurant’s utensil counts anymore. This ensures you’ll have all the flatware you need for a successful opening and many fruitful days ahead!

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