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Old 01-13-2019, 04:33 PM
Yorkshire Pudding Yorkshire Pudding is offline
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Why do restaurant steak knives look terrible?

I'll begin with a disclaimer: I've no idea how widespread this may be internationally. I'm very well travelled, but I am nevertheless talking about a fundamentally UK based experience.

The steak knife which is provided when ordering steaks frequently looks like a functional utility knife from a domestic kitchen, or something which you'd find on a fishing boat. The nature of the blade is obvious: it's needed to cut the meat. But the handle is almost routinely moulded plastic, often black. Like I say: functional and utilitarian, looking like a basic utility knife. It's as though it's suddenly been noted that the regular table knives won't be adequate, so something has been substituted at the last minute from the kitchen equipment. And that's it: it looks like equipment, not the trappings of the dining room.

Why does the specialist cutlery which accompanies the most expensive thing on the menu so frequently jar with the rest of the flatware, and with the price tag and grandeur of the dish which necessitates it?
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:38 PM
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They probably don't use wooden handles because of the possibility of harboring organisms.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:42 PM
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And the wooden handles, no matter how well they are are varnished and sealed, can't stand up very long to 5-6 washings a day at the force and temps those commercials dishwashers use to sanitize in 10 minutes.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:51 PM
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in addition to hygiene and durability, there is the possibility that nice-looking steak knives would get stolen more frequently than you might suspect. Think of how much is lost to theft in retail or the propensity of some hotel guests to take everything they can get away with.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:52 PM
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The same reason bowling shoes are ugly: if they were nice, people would steal them.

Like 25 years ago my Dad stole two really nice wooden handled steak knives from a long gone steakhouse chain. Members of my family still use them.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:53 PM
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People probably don't care about the cutlery as long as it does the job. I personally don't. I've had steak at a restaurant twice in the UK, amongst other places, and I don't remember anything about the cutlery, good or bad, anywhere I've eaten.
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Old 01-13-2019, 04:58 PM
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They probably don't use wooden handles because of the possibility of harboring organisms.
Wood is generally more resistant to harbouring organisms than is plastic.
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:42 PM
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Many newbies getting into the restaurant business like to get the nice plates and cutlery. Unless one is offering the highest end dining experience, owners quickly realize that anything that can walk out the door will walk out the door. I remember reading a Bobby Flay interview in an industry mag many, many moons ago. He told about catching a customer trying to abscond with a large potted plant. So after the first nice matched set has dwindled to nothing, they get replaced with inexpensive, mass-produced cutlery, which will still walk out the door but won't be as painful a loss.
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
Wood is generally more resistant to harbouring organisms than is plastic.
The seam where the wood meets the metal can harbor organisms. I don't know about table knives, but health codes usually require kitchen knives to have handles that are a single piece, poured around the tang, with a non-porous surface, and with the smallest possible junction between metal and nonmetal.
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:00 PM
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It's the sous chefs and dishwashers playing mumbly-peg out back.

ETA God, I feel guilty if I take and extra coffee stirrer.

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 01-13-2019 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:07 PM
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All the steakhouses we eat at use single-piece, all-metal steak knives. Pretty heavy ones, too. It's the Sizzler level of place that uses the wooden-handled ones. I don't think I've ever been to a place that uses the knives the OP describes.
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:26 PM
Yorkshire Pudding Yorkshire Pudding is offline
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Well, I get that there's an argument for plastic over wood (and potentially another in the opposite direction), but metal? Most restaurant cutlery appears to be metal. And it's not just that a steak knife is plastic: it's that it looks different from everything else, lower quality than everything else. The idea that having nice things is a theft risk seems a bit strange though, my whole point is that if everything else is classy, why do steak knives have to look so crappy? Why single out steak knives? Why not plastic tumblers too? Salt out of the bag and pepper out of a tub? Unbreakable plastic plates?

Because that would be ridiculous, obviously. I'm clearly being flippant, no restaurant would do that. So why isn't it ridiculous with this one item of cutlery?! Why is it normal?
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:29 PM
Yorkshire Pudding Yorkshire Pudding is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
All the steakhouses we eat at use single-piece, all-metal steak knives. Pretty heavy ones, too. It's the Sizzler level of place that uses the wooden-handled ones. I don't think I've ever been to a place that uses the knives the OP describes.
Where are you based? I'm largely talking about UK eateries, though I may be wrong about them too. Maybe I've a skewed view, and maybe the majority of British restaurants do use good quality steak knives after all.

Last edited by Yorkshire Pudding; 01-13-2019 at 06:30 PM.
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:38 PM
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I don't tend to order steaks very often any more. If I talk to my butcher about what's good, then cook it the way I want it, I'm (almost) guaranteed to get a good steak...and that's better odds than going to a decent restaurant with a name for steak, where I'll probably get one. Probably's not bad, but for the price, I want better than probably! So I rarely bother. So maybe it's simply the case that my experience of steak knives is woefully out of date!

Last edited by Yorkshire Pudding; 01-13-2019 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 01-13-2019, 06:52 PM
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I find that it depends on which kind of restaurant- if I'm getting a steak in Outback or someplace like that , I get a knife with a wooden or plastic handle. If I'm at the sort of place where the steak alone ( not including any side dishes) is over $50, then I get an all metal steak knife that matches the rest of the cutlery.
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:22 PM
Yorkshire Pudding Yorkshire Pudding is offline
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It seems we're swinging towards an idea that in a really swanky place, you'll get a good knife.

But still...why is that OK? Why don't you get a knife which is of a piece with everything else, everywhere you go?

This happens with nothing else! Imagine if whenever you ordered scotch, it came in a plastic beaker. Everything else was perfectly acceptable, just that that style of whisky was in a cup that looks like toddlers use it for apple juice. And that was pretty commonplace, unless you went somewhere really upscale.

So, even in less fancy places, it seems weird that the costliest dish has the knife that's so sub-par.
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Old 01-13-2019, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Yorkshire Pudding View Post
It seems we're swinging towards an idea that in a really swanky place, you'll get a good knife.

But still...why is that OK? Why don't you get a knife which is of a piece with everything else, everywhere you go?

This happens with nothing else! Imagine if whenever you ordered scotch, it came in a plastic beaker. Everything else was perfectly acceptable, just that that style of whisky was in a cup that looks like toddlers use it for apple juice. And that was pretty commonplace, unless you went somewhere really upscale.

So, even in less fancy places, it seems weird that the costliest dish has the knife that's so sub-par.
Maybe it's different in the UK, but here in the US I have never bought a set of cutlery that had matching steak knives. Even when you can get knives from the same manufacturer , they don't come in the same pattern and they may still have plastic or wooden handles. Perhaps it doesn't seem odd to me that the steak knife at a restaurant doesn't match the other cutlery because I'm not accustomed to them matching even at people's homes.

But the restaurants with the plastic/wooden handled steak knives - some of them do actually use plastic tumblers for soft drinks. And although the cutlery is metal, it's not generally good enough quality to consider the plastic/wooden handle steak knives inferior.
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Old 01-13-2019, 08:57 PM
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This actually came up as a topic of discussion on another board I frequent. In even some of the best steak houses you get a serrated knife that just tears through the meat instead of slicing it. The consensus is that the best solution is to bring your own knife and as a result of that conversation I now carry a personal folding streak knife with me when I dine out:
https://www.amazon.com/Shun-Nokami-P.../dp/B000FNC5RS
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Old 01-13-2019, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by zoid View Post
This actually came up as a topic of discussion on another board I frequent. In even some of the best steak houses you get a serrated knife that just tears through the meat instead of slicing it. The consensus is that the best solution is to bring your own knife and as a result of that conversation I now carry a personal folding streak knife with me when I dine out:

https://www.amazon.com/Shun-Nokami-P.../dp/B000FNC5RS
That's a nice knife right there! I went with this one.

Kai 5700 Folding Steak Knife, Silver https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FUW6ANI..._wl.oCbQC55JHH

It's not quite as nice, but nice and sharp.
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Old 01-13-2019, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by zoid View Post
This actually came up as a topic of discussion on another board I frequent. In even some of the best steak houses you get a serrated knife that just tears through the meat instead of slicing it. The consensus is that the best solution is to bring your own knife and as a result of that conversation I now carry a personal folding streak knife with me when I dine out:
https://www.amazon.com/Shun-Nokami-P.../dp/B000FNC5RS
Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryM View Post
That's a nice knife right there! I went with this one.

Kai 5700 Folding Steak Knife, Silver https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FUW6ANI..._wl.oCbQC55JHH

It's not quite as nice, but nice and sharp.
Sadly those could get you arrested in New York.
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Old 01-13-2019, 09:46 PM
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??? It's not a gravity knife - it has to be manually unfolded.
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:10 PM
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On the Cutting Edge: These Restaurants Allow You to Choose Your Knife https://www.10best.com/interests/foo...se-your-knife/
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:14 PM
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??? It's not a gravity knife - it has to be manually unfolded.
From the link.
Quote:
N.Y. Penal Law § 265.15(4). (Emphasis added.) This provision is aggravated by the fact that, while the terms “dagger,” “dirk,” and “razor” afford some minimal guidance as to what must be avoided, the term “dangerous knife” could mean anything.

The New York courts have established judicial guidelines as to what constitutes a dangerous knife. First, it may be any knife which, by reason of its design or other characteristics, “is primarily intended for use as a weapon.” Second, it may be a common utilitarian utensil “converted into a weapon.” Third, it may be a common utilitarian knife unmodified or not designed as a weapon, but deemed dangerous by reason of the circumstances of possession and/or the “context of activity.” In Matter of Jamie D., 59 N. Y. 2d 589 (1983). In this particular case, a “steak knife” was determined to be a dangerous weapon.

Last edited by running coach; 01-13-2019 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:27 PM
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LOL - that does appear to be purposely vague but I still don't see how any of that applies to bringing that knife to a restaurant. It's not "primarily intended for use as a weapon", nor is it “converted into a weapon”, I suppose some moron could say it's "deemed dangerous by reason of the circumstances of possession and/or the “context of activity.” but using it a restaurant wouldn't fall under that category either.
A re the police in New York willing to be purposely obtuse in order to arrest an innocent person for a minor "crime"?
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoid View Post
This actually came up as a topic of discussion on another board I frequent. In even some of the best steak houses you get a serrated knife that just tears through the meat instead of slicing it. The consensus is that the best solution is to bring your own knife and as a result of that conversation I now carry a personal folding streak knife with me when I dine out:
https://www.amazon.com/Shun-Nokami-P.../dp/B000FNC5RS
Hah! I thought Mr.Wrekker was the only one who did that.
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:42 PM
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I grew up in NYC, OK back in the 50s,and always carried a folding pocket knife. I now live in Missouri and still carry a knife everyday.
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:54 PM
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LOL - that does appear to be purposely vague but I still don't see how any of that applies to bringing that knife to a restaurant. It's not "primarily intended for use as a weapon", nor is it “converted into a weapon”, I suppose some moron could say it's "deemed dangerous by reason of the circumstances of possession and/or the “context of activity.” but using it a restaurant wouldn't fall under that category either.
A re the police in New York willing to be purposely obtuse in order to arrest an innocent person for a minor "crime"?
How a ’50s-Era New York Knife Law Has Landed Thousands in Jail
Quote:
But about 80 percent of weapons recovered under stop-and-frisk were knives, according to an analysis of the department’s own statistics. And experts say the vast majority of those were likely misclassified as “gravity knives.” Whether deliberate or not, dramatically expanding the definition of an illegal knife has not only landed thousands of innocent people in jail — it also had the effect of making stop-and-frisk appear far more effective than it actually was.
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Old 01-14-2019, 12:50 AM
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I agree most restaurant steak knives are really cheap. I spend more time looking at the flatware. 95% of the restaurants I go to all use the same crappy pattern, Choice Dominion:

https://www.webstaurantstore.com/545...ware-18-0.html

But not Longhorn Steakhouse - they use the nicest flatware I have ever seen. Mind you, my tastes do not run to the fancy floral designs of vintage silver. Not at all. I like modern, clean designs.

But Longhorn uses World Tableware's "Aspire" and it is terrific. Very heavy with a hammered pattern. It is very lustrous and looks as nice as real silver. You really have to feel it to appreciate it.

https://www.katom.com/192-994027.html

And - the Longhorn steak knives are so good they sell them in sets.

https://www.amazon.com/LONGHORN-STEA...Z1BMFE0VABEHN6
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:58 AM
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One of my uncle's claimed "back in the day" (60s and 70s) steak houses would actually have nice custom branded steak knives with the name of the restaurant embroidered or otherwise marked on the handle. So he did what everyone else would do and took to collecting steak knives from these restaurants and displaying them in one of his kitchen knife blocks.
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Yorkshire Pudding View Post
I don't tend to order steaks very often any more. If I talk to my butcher about what's good, then cook it the way I want it, I'm (almost) guaranteed to get a good steak...and that's better odds than going to a decent restaurant with a name for steak, where I'll probably get one. Probably's not bad, but for the price, I want better than probably! So I rarely bother. So maybe it's simply the case that my experience of steak knives is woefully out of date!
Nah, I've worked in a few places that did steaks recently, and our steak knives were just as you describe.

One partial reason, at least for mid-level places, might be that it's far easier for the waitstaff and KP to separate out the obviously different handle. You're not going to accidentally hand a plastic handled steak knife to a 5 year old if the rest of the cutlery is solid steel, but if you're busy and not paying full attention, you might give them this instead of that. That doesn't tend to go down well.

Plus, looking round that site, which is one of the larger UK suppliers of restaurant cutlery, a lot of the cutlery sets don't have matching steak knifes. If you're going to not match, you're better going for very different than kinda similar.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:26 AM
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For a steak knife, you can't really beat a Swann Morton No 4 handle with either a #20 or #23 surgical scalpel blade. Hobbyists and artists have known about them for years.

And a box of 100 blades is only 20 odd dollars, so no sharpening required.

Of course, someone finally got around to a ritzy expensive version - Skalpel.
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:29 PM
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I still use my Cutco Cutlery steak knives given to me in 1972 when my brother sold Cutco. Still works flawlessly and the serrated edge cuts great. And who was complaining a serrated knife saws the meat instead of making a smooth cut? What!? You are going to place that smoothly severed cut of sirloin in your mouth and macerate the bejesus out if it, not put it under a microscope.

Dennis
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Old 01-14-2019, 05:37 PM
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6/half dozen IMO. I like the serrated effect of knives if there is plenty of juice/dip on the plate with which to rub my steak, but if not, I like a clean cut because it is less likely to go haywire especially on a small plate.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:06 PM
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Thanks for following up for me. Certain types of cops (aka racists) specifically practice opening any knife like a gravity knife, leading to the outcomes in that article. Allowed lots of contractors and construction workers carrying utility knives to be criminalized. Usually not a problem if one was white and not homeless/unemployed though.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Yorkshire Pudding View Post
Why does the specialist cutlery which accompanies the most expensive thing on the menu so frequently jar with the rest of the flatware, and with the price tag and grandeur of the dish which necessitates it?
So people don't steal them.

ETA: I see Quimby got here first; good job.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 01-14-2019 at 07:52 PM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:55 PM
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The same reason bowling shoes are ugly: if they were nice, people would steal them.

Like 25 years ago my Dad stole two really nice wooden handled steak knives from a long gone steakhouse chain. Members of my family still use them.
My grandmother had, IIRC, 12 steak knives from Black Angus in Kissimmee, FL. She basically stole 1 every year they visited Kissimmee until the whole family told her to freaking stop already. In her defense, we spent upwards of $200 every time we were there and my grandfather was a notoriously big tipper, so hopefully they still came out ahead in dealing with my grandmother.
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:31 PM
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People probably don't care about the cutlery as long as it does the job. I personally don't. I've had steak at a restaurant twice in the UK, amongst other places, and I don't remember anything about the cutlery, good or bad, anywhere I've eaten.
Y'know I've just tried to summon up in my memory my last half dozen visits to a higher-end restaurant where a steak knife was involved, as to the type and form of the knife and handle... and I can't, beyond a generic "steak knife" image.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 01-14-2019 at 08:32 PM.
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Old 01-15-2019, 08:40 AM
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This happens with nothing else! Imagine if whenever you ordered scotch, it came in a plastic beaker. Everything else was perfectly acceptable, just that that style of whisky was in a cup that looks like toddlers use it for apple juice. And that was pretty commonplace, unless you went somewhere really upscale.
99% of customers will notice, and be offended by, being served good drinks in plastic cups.

99% of customers don't care if the steak knives are a little cheap.

As to WHY that is, well, it's likely because your lips actually touch the cup, and the type of cup a drink is in changes your perception of the taste. The material of the handle of a steak knife never comes to your mouth, and it doesn't change how the steak tastes.
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