As the Hospitality/Food and Beverage Industries rebound from the pandemic shutdown, it's time to check on supplies. Do you have enough stock on hand to meet surging demand? Even more importantly, do those table linens really meet your needs?
In this article, we'll examine the 5 factors of tablecloths and napkins that make them a good — or bad — fit for restaurants, caterers, linen rental companies, and other types of the hospitality business.
Fiber is the raw material that textiles are made from. In general, the different types of fiber fall into two categories: natural and synthetic. Table linens are nearly always made of cotton (a natural fiber), polyester (a synthetic), or a blend of the two.
Cotton's desirable characteristics include a softer "hand" or feel, which in customers' minds equates with higher quality, plus superior absorbency and breathability. On the downside, cotton is more susceptible to wear-and-tear, wrinkling, fading, and staining.
Polyester provides increased durability in the high frequency and stresses of commercial laundering, as well as wrinkle-resistance and color-fastness. Bear in mind, too, that huge advancements in polyester technology have been made over the past 20 years, with softer, spun polyester replacing the earlier filament yarns. Today's tablecloth is not your father's leisure suit.
Blends of cotton and polyester give you the best of both worlds: softness and strength. It is also possible to choose components that match visually but have different fiber content, for example, 100% polyester tablecloths and polyester/cotton napkins. This would give customers that quality feel in the item that most often touches their face and hands, and longer life in the item that's more expensive to replace.
But, before you make a decision on fiber content, you must know the answers to our second determining factor.
Where will your table linens be laundered, who will be doing it, and how much control will you have over the process? There are three possibilities:
- In-house laundry
- Outside party laundering your goods
- Outside party renting you their goods
To launder in-house, you must have the right equipment and trained staff. This is especially true if your table linens contain any cotton, which is prone to wrinkling. They need to be taken out of the washer and dried or ironed as soon as possible.
Dryer-to-immediate hand-folding can yield acceptable results; but all products, whether all polyester, all cotton, or a blend, will look their best when processed through a commercial-grade ironer. Proper maintenance and settings are necessary on these ironers to yield the best results. Some smaller operations may have a hand press for napkins, it would be very tedious to use for large tablecloths.
If you count on an outside laundry service for your table linens, make sure they can handle the fiber content you have in mind. We've actually seen hospitality businesses buy a product and then have no luck in finding a laundry to process them.
Laundries that wash their customers' goods are called COG (Customer Owned Goods) or NOG (Not Our Goods). For inventory control and quality purposes, you should arrange for your table linens to be "batch washed" separately from other customers' goods.
Table linen rental companies will deliver products from a pool of standard core items which they launder all together. There is nothing wrong with this, as they are maintaining the same level of quality control that you would expect from the other options. Their most common offering is 100% polyester, because of its durability and greater return on their investment.
The next consideration which will influence your table linen selection is the type of environment or property your table linens will be used in. This is especially important in relation to fiber content. A high volume, high turn business would probably want polyester, while a lower volume, higher ticket location would choose cotton or a blend.
Don't forget any other special conditions which might come into play. For example, at an outdoor venue, the weather, sun, and humidity levels might have a more detrimental effect on cotton table linens than on polyester.
For this factor, you will be considering what color(s) you need, how vibrant they are and how long they will last. Here again, the fiber content will affect how the dyes perform.
The widest color selection is available in Premier 100% spun polyester. This material is jet-dyed under high temperatures and pressure for the maximum depth of color and resistance to fading. Cotton is offered in fewer color options than spun polyester, but in more yarn-dyed options and patterns like Pique, MicroCheck and MiniCheck. Blended cotton and polyester napery allows more color options than cotton, but less than our Premier spun polyester seen below.
This consideration is mainly for tablecloths. Square, rectangular and round shapes come in a range of sizes that are standardized across all manufacturers. Although you can have custom sizes made for your tables, do yourself a favor and save a lot of money by going with standard sizes.
The largest round tablecloths are likely to be sewn with seams since they are wider than textiles are usually manufactured. However, we do offer seamless 120” and 132" rounds made of 100% polyester in white, black, and ivory.
Another money-saving option to investigate is the new standard sizes that negate the need for skirting, such as 90"x132" or 90"x156". You'll save money upfront in purchasing, as well as down the line in processing (especially since skirts typically need to be dry-cleaned).
WE CAN HELP YOU CHOOSE THE PERFECT TABLE LINENS
We hope you've found this information helpful in thinking about your next table linens purchase. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us! Riegel / T-Y Group & Harbor Linen is the hospitality industry's one-stop-shop for the dining venue and beyond.