The Different Types of Tableware and Drinkware

The Different Types of Tableware and Drinkware

The Different Types of Tableware and Drinkware

Shopping for dishes sometimes seems more complicated than it needs to be. Between dinnerware, silverware, glassware, earthenware, and serveware, you can find yourself confronted by so many “wares” that it can really “ware” you out. But you needn’t be intimidated by these formal classifications. The different types of tableware and drinkware, as you’ll see, are more intuitive than you may think.


Any meal begins with serving the food; thus we’ll begin with serveware. These are the vessels from which we serve meals, rather than those we eat from directly. For those casual weeknight dinners, we tend to omit serveware—we simply serve ourselves straight from the casserole pan, the pasta pot, or the pizza box. However, pots and pans are only serveware under the broadest definition. More specifically, this term refers to items such as the salad bowl, serving bowls, soup ladles, pitchers and carafes, and platters. Fine serveware bridges the gap between kitchen and table for more formal occasions when aesthetics matter just as much as taste and nourishment.


While serveware is meant to bring food to the entire table, dinnerware is for serving the individuals seated there. Dinnerware is the bowls, saucers, and plates each person eats from. Dinnerware comes in many materials, as we’ll examine later. (And when china is the material of choice, we also refer to this classification of tableware as chinaware.)


Just as important as the dinnerware is the flatware—another name for the forks, spoons, and knives that flank each plate and bowl at the table. We often use the term “silverware” for “flatware” (owing to the historical primacy of silver as the ideal material for dinner cutlery) no matter what the actual material in question is. This leads to people using strange and contradictory phrases such as “plastic silverware.” The term “flatware” bypasses this and encompasses cutlery of all compositions.



The fourth classification of tableware is drinkware, which complements the dinnerware and flatware at each diner’s setting. Drinkware includes teacups, coffee cups, glasses, champagne flutes, and anything else from which we drink our beverages of choice. As with silverware that isn’t necessarily silver, drinkware needn’t be glass. Our plastic drinkware offers a durable and elegant alternative to fragile glass drinkware.

Tableware by Material

We can break down the different types of tableware and drinkware not only by phases of service and usage, but also by their construction. All four classifications of tableware can come in a variety of materials, many being variations on ceramic. Earthenware is fired clay that tends to be in unpainted earth tones, giving the setting a rustic feel. Stoneware is the everyday standard for dinnerware. It builds upon earthenware by incorporating glass into the composition, making it more durable and decorative. Porcelain, or china, is made of a high-quality clay, and despite its reputation for delicacy, resists chipping better than earthenware.

With any of our single-use plastic or palm leaf tableware and drinkware options, you can avoid chipping, shattering (and a sizable up-front investment) all while opening avenues for complementary customization at each event. Give us a call today.

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