Table linens - a must for the fine dining experience, but the bane of restauranteurs. When we first started, we did our own linens. It wasn't so bad at the beginning when we were in a mall, with a tiny 7 table tea room. We would just take them home each night, wash and dry them, doing our best to grab them out of the dryer as soon as they were no longer damp, and folded each one carefully, to avoid having to iron them. Same thing with the napkins, although they were a lot easier to keep from wrinkling. Tedious, and definitely not a fun part of the job, but doable.
A few months after opening, we went out to dinner while on a long weekend trip. I cannot remember what we ate, but it was an amazing experience. Their method for doing table linens was life-changing! We immediately copied this idea, and have since seen it used in a variety of settings.
Basically, we use napkins to cover our tablecloth. These are swapped out between guests, so each place setting has a fresh, clean, and most importantly in today's world, Covid-free covering. Stains from tea drops, jam blobs, and crumbs just disappear with the used napkin!
Cover table with a table cloth as usual.
Use the same color napkins, and cover the table, with napkins on the diagonal. Use one at each place setting, with the point hanging down, just to the edge of the tablecloth.
Fill in any gaps with additional napkins, trying to avoid "bumpy" overlaps
We do go through a lot of napkins, and found it's well worth the money to pay for a linen service to keep us supplied with pristine white napkins (about $.15 each). Each afternoon, the servers go around the dining room looking for stains on the tablecloths, armed with a clean white rag and a bottle of "Grandma's Secret Spot Remover" . (Amazon.com: Grandma's Secret Spot Remover, 2 Ounce (Pack of 3): Home & Kitchen). Other than major spills, each cloth gets changed on a bi-weekly rotation, which keeps our linen costs down, since tablecloths are much more expensive than napkins.
We also love that we don't have to strip the table down between guests, which is always a disruption to other nearby tables, and also because we have a variety of "antique" tables, some of which have scratched, chipped, or just plain ugly tops! Our dirty little secret is safe!
So there you have it...a fast, easy way to save some time, money and energy on your table linens. If you have other tips or tricks for linens, please share in the comments.