Charger plates, sometimes referred to as show plates, are a growing trend often observed in elegant and private dining settings such as banquets, catered events, and exclusive golf clubs. These large plates, used for displays and suggestive selling, elevate the ambiance and the overall dining experience – really giving a charge to your tabletop presentation.  

Though it is technically possible to serve meals on charger plates, their primary purpose is reserved for display and to casually suggest upscale ordering. Glenn Sheehan, Foodservice Territory Manager for Libbey Glass, who represents popular dinnerware brands World Tableware and Syracuse China, explains:  

Many fine dining establishments will preset the table with either a plain or decorative plate just to fill up the space, and they’ll have next to it red and white wine glasses to set the mood for suggestive selling like, ‘Oh, would you like some wine for the table.’ It’s easier to upsell when guests can see the expected setting in front of them.” 

What’s the Difference Between a Charger Plate and a Traditional Placemat?

Placemats are still popular, but the charger plate trend is growing faster for upscale dining experiences. Whereas a placemat is normally made from cloth, wicker or plastic, a show plate charger is usually made of high-end ceramic or metal. “Ceramic is definitely the most prominent choice in commercial dining,” says Sheehan, “whereas metal is usually reserved for more residential décor.” 

Glass and wood chargers are also available, though glass chargers have fallen out of favor in recent years.

“Normally, most restaurants have the same style of dinnerware they’re using to serve with for their charger plate to match the whole set, with perhaps a little fancier appeal,” continues Sheehan. “Same white color as their standard china, for instance, with an added gold rim to set the mood.”

This could explain why glass chargers aren’t as popular as they used to be. Since charger plates are used for presentation, you don’t need to purchase as many of them as you would standard dinnerware. The manufacturing of glass charger plates is done in bulk, and the usage doesn’t always match the output production.  

The most traditional charger plate is circular, but triangle and square chargers are available, depending on the mood you’re looking to set. Vast color and style options are also available, making for nearly endless possibilities.  

Round metal charger plate display.

This restaurant uses a charger plate to display brochures for their rewards club.

Using a Charger Plate

Keep in mind that charger plates are traditionally larger than standard entrée dinner plates. Place a charger plate on top of the tablecloth or placemat at each seat, and finish setting the table.  

The charger plate is designed to act as a base. When service is ready to start, servers will place soup bowls, salad plates and entrees directly on top of the charger. When the entrée is finished, remove the charger plates with the rest of the dishes prior to serving dessert.  

Charger plates can also be used as display trays to showcase delectable appetizer and dessert selections or to further enhance the dining ambiance with votive candles or flowers. They provide a canvas for creativity, so don’t be afraid to try something new! 

A gold metal charger plate used to showcase a liquor selection.

A gold metal charger plate used to showcase a liquor display.

Additional Popular Charger Plate Uses

As mentioned, charger plates are often utilized to energize the setting, commonly observed in finer dining environments as tabletop place holders to set the scene and subtly establish upscale expectations. However, uses for charger plates don’t end there.

Some additional uses include:

  • Table centerpiece to accentuate decorations
  • Protect your table or table covering from stains from food or beverages
  • Cake server
  • Serving tray
  • A base layer for multi-course meals

In addition to their decorative flair in fine dining establishments, charger plates are also popular for high-end catered affairs, weddings, celebrations, banquets, etc. They make for a simple, affordable way to dress up any occasion.

Affordable Charger Plates from Tabletop Classics by Walco

We offer a range of charger plate options in varying sizes, colors and styles. However, the case pack size is often a concern when choosing a charger plate to electrify the presentation. Many brands offer charger plates in massive quantities at high prices.

Tabletop Classics seeks to resolve this common complaint, providing a range of charger plates and tabletop essentials in lower case pack quantities and affordable prices. These charger plates are ideal for setting the scene at banquets, weddings, and elegant events.

Their large variety of charger plates feature rich, distinctive colors, and available in plain round, bead round, and square designs to serve up that decorative upscale look of formal dining at an affordable price point. They can also be personalized for special occasions. If you’re interested in personalizing your charger plates, simply connect with one of our product experts to get started.

In addition to charger plates, Tabletop Classics by Walco offers an assortment of classic napkin rings to match the charger plate-enhanced place setting, serving trays, candelabras, and serving necessities to upgrade the presentation and grandeur of your event.

Final Thoughts on Chargers

Sheehan concludes: “The trend is restaurants going to upscale presentations because people are looking for more enhanced experiences when they go out to eat, so I think one of the main reasons many are now asking for charger or show plates is it’s one of the things people are expecting when they go out for that ‘wow’ experience. 

“Think of it this way – why do you put flowers in a vase? The vase is nice enough, but the flowers add something more.” 

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