TABLE LINEN FOR RESTAURANTS: A GUIDE TO THE DIFFERENT TYPES
The choice of table linen is an extremely important aspect for a restaurant. Indeed, it is also through its choice of tablecloths and serviettes that a restaurant can outline its style, the type of clientele it is aiming to attract and its reputation.
The first question that a restaurant has to tackle when it chooses its table linen therefore lies in the message that they want to the restaurant to convey. In a restaurant serving ethnic food, for example, in place of traditional tablecloths, place mats could be used; in a refined bistro with a minimalist chic style, the table could have a simple runner, whereas in an elite restaurant, the choice is usually a classic tablecloth, perhaps embellished with original decorative details or specially made up.
In addition to adapting itself to the style of the restaurant, the table linen must be consistent with the predominant colours featured in the space. For example, if the different rooms have walls painted white or other neutral tones, the tablecloths and serviettes should be in a similar shade. One alternative could be to liven up environments by playing with colours in the same colour palette: in a restaurant with sage green walls, tablecloths and serviettes in a darker shade of green would not be at all out of place, especially if enhanced by stylish detailing such as a raffia table centre piece or made up of delicate wildflowers.
Another option is to play with contrasts, but we must pay attention to the combinations: learn more in our article How much of an influence are colours in catering?
Types of table linen
For restaurants, table linen can be broken down into different products, each with well-defined characteristics and therefore suitable for various types of restaurants.
Let’s start with the classic tablecloth, the basis for the rest of the setting. In some restaurants it can be embellished by, for example, runners (even in a different colour) to give a sense of movement and elegance to the table.
Many restaurants also choose to use an overlay to protect the tablecloth from stains or any damage. Restaurants that choose to cover a tablecloth with an overlay usually only replace the latter when preparing the table for the next customer, thereby obtaining a dual benefit: quicker and more simple cleaning and preventing the underlying tablecloth from stains. The use of overlays also allows the opportunity to play with colours, creating – with the correct combinations – delightfully contrasting colours with the covered tablecloth and which generally hang more heavily over the sides of the table.
As we have mentioned, runners (particularly long and narrow tablecloths) are an increasingly popular choice (the width of which does not usually exceed 50 cm) for minimalist-style table settings as a single ornament in place of an overlay – of which it is a more refined alternative – over a classic tablecloth. Runners actually enhance the space between two diners who are sitting opposite each other, enriching the table from an aesthetic point of view and, furthermore, preserving the tablecloth beneath from stains. The only restriction with runners is that they cannot be used on round tables.
In the end, we must not forget the place mat, an extremely versatile piece of table linen that can be found in many different types of restaurant, from the classic trattoria to chicer establishments. The difference lies in the choice of materials: for an elegant restaurant, indeed, the tablecloth will be made from higher-quality fabric with a more sophisticated finish.
In support of the different types of tablecloth, the related serviettes should not be neglected. Strictly fabric, as etiquette dictates, serviettes can be the same as the classic tablecloth or, if used in combination with a runner or an elegant overlay, as the latter.
Fabric serviettes bestow an elegance to the setting and comfort to the diners. In relation to their paper counterpart – recommended more for other contexts, such as fast-food outlets or a children’s party – fabric serviettes are extremely pleasant to the touch, confirming itself as an essential element for any elegant table. Indeed, it is also thanks to fabric serviettes that the setting acquires style and personality, becoming an important admission ticket for any restaurant.