One uses a charger to add decorative appeal to a place setting, often adding an accent color, texture or pattern. Chargers are made out of a variety of different materials, including metal, glass or ceramics.
Foods are never served directly on the charger. According to Martha Stewart, the salad plate or soup bowl for the first course is set on top of the charger. When the bowl or plate is cleared at the end of the first course, the charger is cleared along with it.
The color can coordinate with the other dishes in the place setting, add an accent color or display a seasonal theme for a holiday meal. Some china sets come with matching chargers. A charger can also serve as the base for a centerpiece, such as a group of candles or a floral arrangement.