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Guide to Flatware: Basics & Definitions | FSW Restaurant Supply

Guide to Flatware: Basics & Definitions | FSW Restaurant Supply

Cutlery in napkin

The perfect tabletop presentation sets the tone for your restaurant. Whether you are preparing for a casual breakfast, lunch or a formal dinner, it’s important to understand what each piece of flatware is used for.

Below we've identified the most common pieces of commercial flatware on the market, along with brief descriptions to guide you along the way.

Flatware Definitions


dinner knife

Dinner Knife

Dinner knives are standard in a traditional five-piece flatware setting. They’re primarily used to cut food, but they can also be used to serve butter or spread jam in a pinch.

butter knife

Butter Knife

This common table knife features a dull edge and rounded point - perfect for spreading butter or jam onto softer foods, such as muffins or toast.

fish knife

Fish Knife

Intended for eating fish, this small knife is designed with a spatula blade. The spatula blade aides the diner in separating the fish’s skeleton from the body.

European dinner knife

European Dinner Knife

European dinner knives are nearly a third larger and a third heavier than traditional dinner knives. They’re intended for formal occasions and are most commonly found in high-class restaurants.


salad fork

Dinner Fork

This all-purpose fork is another member of the traditional five-piece flatware setting. It is used during the main course.

Salad Fork

Salad forks are smaller than traditional dinner forks and are used for eating salads, sliced fruit and other small items prior to the main course.

fish fork

Fish Fork

Small in stature, like the salad fork, the fish fork often only features three prongs instead of four. Its design enables users to easily separate fish meat from the bone.

dessert fork

Dessert Fork

Although dessert forks closely resemble the salad fork, this utensil is smaller and has a slightly thinner build. Dessert forks are typically used for eating items such as cake or pie.

European dinner fork

European Dinner Fork

European dinner forks are larger and heavier than traditional dinner forks. They are generally used during formal occasions.

cocktail fork

Cocktail Fork

Cocktail forks, also known as oyster forks, are another component to a classic five-piece place setting. Originally, the three tine construction was designed for separating the oyster membrane from the shell. They’re often used for eating small appetizers, such as cheese cubes or olives, too.




A classic teaspoon is great for coffee, tea, desserts, cereal, soups and more. Like the dinner knife and fork, the teaspoon is a standard member of a five-piece place setting.

soup spoon

Soup Spoon

You guessed it! This spoon is used for eating soup. Generally, soup spoons have a wider, deeper, oval-shaped bowl designed to hold more liquid. It is similar in shape to the teaspoon.

dessert spoon

Dessert Spoon

The term “dessert spoon” indicates a bowl measurement of two teaspoons. These spoons are generally used as soup spoons because they feature wider and deeper bowls that hold more liquid.



Tablespoons are generally used as serving spoons, but in some situations, they may also be used for eating from a bowl. They resemble teaspoons, but their bowl size is much larger.

bouillon spoon

Bouillon Spoon

Bouillon spoons are the smallest of the soup spoons. Designed for eating thin broths, these spoons have a round shallow bowl.

demitasse spoon

Demitasse Spoon

Similar to a standard teaspoon in bowl size, the demitasse spoon has a longer handle for stirring coffee. This spoon was designed to be in proportion to the demitasse cups and saucers typically found in formal dining.

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