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How to Estimate the Cost of Melamine Dinnerware for Foodservice


When trying to figure the actual price of something, most folks don’t want to hear “it depends.” However, when our customers here at G.E.T. ask about the cost of melamine dinnerware, the truth is several variations come into play. As much as we would love to have a straightforward answer, it really just depends. Our 30+ years’ experience with melamine dinnerware puts us in a great position to help foodservice operators estimate the cost of their investment.

In the spirit of helping foodservice operators plan effectively for dinnerware purchases, we’re going to review some of the variables you’ll want to keep in mind to estimate the cost of melamine dinnerware for your establishment.

Cost Factors of Melamine Dinnerware

The cost of melamine dinnerware depends on the type and size of operation, the meal periods, how often tables are turned, par levels (how often the melamine dinnerware is being used), and how it’s being handled.

When it comes to foodservice, we always suggest a ratio of 3:1, meaning if you’re going to serve 1,000 customers in a day, you’ll want to have 3,000 plates. With our extensive background in melamine dinnerware, we’ve found that a 3:1 ratio helps our customers get the best service life out of their investment.

For example, let’s say a university cafeteria serves 1,000 students a day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your par level would need to include 3,000 plates and 3,000 bowls. You’ll want to have one set of dinnerware that you’re using to serve, one set in the wash, and the other set resting in the back-of-house. The type of plate used for this operation would generally be a low mid-range plate to a high mid-range plate, which ranges in cost from about $4.00 to $7.00 per plate.

cost-of-melamine-dinnerware.jpgPictured: Textured Rim Melamine Plate and Textured Rim Melamine Bowl

One thing to keep in mind about the cost of melamine dinnerware is that you have to look at the initial roll out cost and the replacement rate per year. Depending on the type of melamine dinnerware purchased, your roll out cost may vary. But once you make that initial investment, all you have to do is plan to replace about 10%-20% each year moving forward. Of the several factors that can determine the cost of melamine dinnerware, you’ll see the main savings in the form of low replacement costs. 


Consider Your Operational Needs

The type of meals you currently serve, or are planning to serve in the future will determine the type of plate purchased. Are you serving dinner that requires an entrŽe plate, or are you looking for appetizer plates? Are you looking for a bread plate, or a bowl for soup and salad? Essentially, your menu will dictate the kinds of dinnerware you’ll need to create an excellent dining experience for your guests.

If catering is also part of your operation, your cost will be inherently higher. Displayware usually costs more because it’s typically larger, which means it requires more labor and material to manufacture, and perhaps may cost more to ship.

Melamine displayware can range from $6.44 per product to $44.00 per product. That’s a significant difference in price compared to melamine dinnerware that ranges from about $2.60 (economical level) to $12.40 (premium level). Although bigger displayware costs more, you’ll need less than you do for dinnerware. This is because, theoretically, displayware is intended to serve multiple people while most dinnerware is intended for serving a single person. Melamine displayware is also much lighter, which your staff will appreciate, and still looks as good as china.

No matter what segment you’re in, you’ll always need to consider these variables when pricing out melamine dinnerware:

  • Type, size, and style needed for your operation (to estimate your initial roll out cost)
  • How many people you serve a day (to estimate your 3:1 ratio)
  • Plan to replace about 10%-20% of your dinnerware annually

These three factors are good benchmarks to start your research and planning. Beyond price, however, another thing to consider is brand positioning.


Pictured: Red Sensationª Melamine Collection

G.E.T. has different tiers of melamine, sorted by weight, and different styles from casual to modern to elegant. The style of plateware that’s best for you and the guest experience you want to create depends on where your brand falls on the casual to upscale spectrum. Today’s melamine can imitate china and porcelain very well, so there are plenty of great options no matter your style of service.

The 10%-20% replacement rate is a recommendation intended to help you keep your dinnerware looking great. Even though melamine is durable, it can wear down over time, and guests notice.

A third-party study looked at which factors contributed the most to diners’ overall positive experiences. The most important aspects regarding plateware were cleanliness, brightness, and the absence of chips. Keeping up with your replacement rate will help keep your guests satisfied.

As you can see now, the various factors that influence the cost of melamine is why we say “It depends,” when our customers ask us about savings. This information should help you navigate your decision-making if you decide to pursue melamine plateware for your foodservice operation. Of course, if this leaves you with any questions, G.E.T. has a team of dedicated professionals to help you through. You can reach us at (800) 727-4500, via email at [email protected], or our Contact Us page.

If you’d like to learn more about melamine replacement rates, we recommend reading “Replacement Rate for Commercial Dinnerware: China vs Melamine.” 


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