If you are a burger, cheese or charcuterie lover, you may have noticed that the wooden board has become a ubiquitous part of your restaurant experience. It’s hard to find a somewhere that doesn’t use a board for at least one menu item these days: a few weeks ago I looked on in wonder as my favourite local restaurant presented my burger on a regular plate. So retro! It wasn’t long before wood crept onto the table, however, in the form of my companion’s Nordic platter. Ah, there it is.
I don’t have a problem with wooden boards as such; they’ve just become boring. Like Kate Middleton marrying Wills, they’re a bit common (ps I love how people refer to her as if she grew up on an estate or something). So how can you stand out in a sea of woody competitors? Enter in socially responsible serving boards. The last few years have seen a steady rise in the social conscience of consumers, and not only amongst the fearsome Millennials. A third of UK consumers claim to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products. We’ve seen this to a large extent in the provenance of food, so why not the items it’s served on?
If you’re looking for boards with that something extra to stand out from the rest, these three suppliers each have their own inspiring stories:
Marco Merlini is based in God’s Own Country, and every product is handmade in the UK from sustainably sourced timber. This may be in the form of reclaimed timber, wood from fallen and deceased trees or FSC timber. Not only is the wood eco-friendly, it possesses more character and a unique finish every time.
Sytch Farm Studios
I’ve mentioned Sytch Farm Studio plates before, and this is the other half of the husband and wife operation. Boards are handmade by Jon, and feature timber from fallen and deceased trees. A description for one of his boards reads: “This particular tree was a casualty of autumn gales in south shropshire (sic). Beautiful figuring and colour.”
One of my favourite supplier stories, the brilliantly named RoughStuff has a workshop inside The Mount Prison in Hertfordshire. Around 20 inmates are employed, receiving woodwork training and the regularity of a steady job. The Mount is contracted by RoughStuff, with income generated used for the running of the prison. Inmates earn a statutory wage, and the company uses sustainably managed English oak to boot.
Whilst these suppliers may run to longer production times than mass-produced operations, they are nonetheless still commercially viable for those who are willing to wait for quality. RoughStuff, for example, has produced boards for high street restaurants like Carluccio’s. Apart from that warm feeling you’ll get by using socially responsible service-ware, items such as these create stories that can be communicated to your guests, thus becoming an inspirational element of your brand story. Plus the pieces are beautiful. So there’s always that.
By Laura Condon
Cover image credit: RoughStuff