When Forky, the existential spork, came to life in Toy Story 4, it marked one of the only times a piece of cutlery has transformed into a beloved character. Cutlery tends to work under the radar, but, like Forky, it can have an outsized effect on guest experiences.

Often overlooked, cutlery plays a crucial role in how patrons might enjoy a meal. Forky himself initially believed he was merely garbage, yet the combination of aesthetics, waste, and complex material — such as polystyrene or polypropylene — creates a scientific formula that should match your style of restaurant.

With cutlery, there’s no one size fits all solution. And since summer is beckoning, different types of service, from al fresco to takeout, delivery to catering, each require their own disposable companions. Here’s a quick forkcast of the summer cutlery scene.

Carry That Weight

Let’s dig into material: Polystyrene (PS) is often the default substance used in cutlery — a rigid, transparent thermoplastic that, piggybacking off its name, snaps! — it breaks before it bends. This is a sturdy, stiff plastic that carries a slightly higher cost, though it remains the go-to for denser foods that may require cutting.

Polypropylene (PP), on the other hand, is a flexible, synthetic resin that is a (middle school science alert!) polymer of propylene, used in ropes, fabrics, and molded objects. It makes for lighter, softer cutlery that’s flexible — it bends before it breaks. Due to its pliability, this material is usually a safer and lower cost option.

Cutlery weights range from medium to extra heavy, providing choices for a spectrum of applications. Medium is a popular, lower density formulation used in economy settings, applicable for items like pasta or Asian-inspired cuisine. Medium weight PP kits and bulk packaging are available through the First Mark® brand.

And step aside Rocky — heavyweight cutlery brings added strength and even higher quality. Heavyweight PP is one of the most commonly used options in foodservice — offering a versatile middle ground between value and strength. It’s less likely to break and is used in more fine dining concepts. Extra heavyweight offers the highest quality with the greatest density weight available. It’s the closest alternative to non-disposable and can be paired with upscale takeout or bistro items. Heavyweight is probably the best fit for BBQ, Italian, and salads, with selections available through First Mark in heavyweight PP kits, wrapped, and bulk.

That’s a Wrap

Forky originally arrived in packaging of some kind, we can’t be sure. But what’s the best choice for your operation? Bulk cutlery is usually machine packed and unwrapped for high volume use, resulting in lower costs and less waste. Kits, including napkin, salt, and pepper, are available in PS or PP. Like Hasselhoff’s Knight Rider car, kits are a convenient and easy way to provide everything needed in one to-go package — ideal for takeout, delivery, casual, and c-stores. They reduce the need to stock multiple products, helping to limit inventory and lower costs.

Individually wrapped cutlery, available from brands like First Mark, may be a cost-effective alternative to kits, which can become wasteful if not all of the components are necessary. Hygiene is a major advantage of wrapped cutlery, which works well with self-serve, takeout, catering, and convenience.

Sustain and Gain

For restaurants with an eye on cutlery that’s environmentally conscious, the bio-blend material uses fewer non-renewable resources. It’s made with a combination of PP and cornstarch or calcium carbonate that’s greener than classic disposables, but at a lower cost than compostable.

Designed to withstand higher heat, compostable material made with CPLA is still your greenest cutlery option. The sturdy substance is commonly made with cornstarch and other vegetables, as well as heat safe crystalized polylactic acid. Not only can this type of cutlery enhance the public’s perception of your restaurant’s values, but guests will appreciate the extra care put into their experience, and it’s beneficial to the planet! Winner, winner, compostable dinner.

Quick review: For best value applications, medium and heavyweight PP is a great choice. With larger productivity in mind, you may to consider bulk or kits. Bulk, boxed, or kits are perfect for c-stores. To promote hygiene, individually wrapped or kits may be preferable. And if sustainability is a core value, then bio-blend or CPLA compostable might be a match.

The right cutlery options can help you save on costs and promote customer loyalty. And soon, you’ll have access to even more selections through the First Mark heavyweight line expansion. Like Forky, the right disposable match can become part of your inventory story.

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