A quick survey of the flatware market would show incredible differences between the prices of the low-end consumer flatware, and the high-end commercial flatware. The high-end commercial flatware can be up to 60 times more expensive that the low-end consumer flatware, if looked at the sets with the exact same number of pieces, and made from stainless steel. And sure, the prices should vary, but 60 times? Is there a particular reason behind such prices of commercial grade flatware?
You need to take a look at the low-end consumer flatware. These sets are really cheap to make because their manufacturers don’t invest a lot in their design, use materials of a lower quality, and use the cheapest manufacturing process. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – not everyone can afford the really expensive designer sets, and it’s not like everyone needs or wants them.
How do the makers of the cheaper flatwear cut corners to keep their price down? First of all, they probably don’t use the stainless steel of the highest quality. Stainless steel comes in different grades which designate the amount of nickel the alloy contains, with nickel being responsible for the rust resistance. Low rust resistance steel is designated with the numbers 18/0, which means it has 18% of chromium and 0% of nickel. Higher quality steel is designated with the numbers 18/8 or 18/10, which means it has 18% of chromium and 8 or 10% of nickel, making it more rust resistant. The low-end consumer stainless steel cutlery will have 18/0 steel, while the high-end will have 18/8 or 18/10. In fact, the best knives are actually made by combining two types of steel with different arrangements of molecules that give them different traits, which is something that’s never seen in low-end knives. And all that quality costs.
Second, as opposed to the high-end commercial-grade cutlery, low-end flatware manufacturers are less likely to invest into branding and design. If you take a look at Aava, which is a very high-end cutlery brand, you’ll see the value that emanates from the very shapes of the utensils. Someone has to make high-end cutlery look that good, and having that someone do it raises the cost of the product. Lastly, the manufacturing process – low-end flatware is usually manufactured by stamping it from sheets of stainless steel. This allows the manufacturers to produce a larger number of utensils in less time, at a lower cost. It also makes a product of a lesser quality than it would be if it was made by forging, which is how high-end cutlery is made.
While the regular consumer flatware sets will serve a regular household fine for years, it wouldn’t stand more than a couple of months of the abuse commercial-grade flatware has to take every day in restaurants. So, the real reason why high-end, commercial-grade flatware is that expensive is because it has to be, in order to achieve the level of quality that will allow it to perform well in the environment for which it was designed.