Written by AJ Durtschi

The Basics of Restaurant Linens

Austin Linen Service | Restaurant tablecloths

A tablecloth is defined in the dictionary as “a cloth for covering the top of a table, especially during a meal”. While this is a basic description, a tablecloth is much more than just a covering for your restaurant tables. The right tablecloth, along with place mats, napkins and runners, or a combination of these items, can help you create a look that gives a great first impression. Tablecloths and restaurant linens come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. From fine dining to a simple cafe style restaurant, linens add flavor and contribute to the ambience of any restaurant.

The Setting

Simple decorations can make or break a restaurant’s setting, and the linens used are no exception. Here are a few types of restaurant settings and the typical linens that go with them:

  • Cafe – A cafe setting is typically one of a more cheerful and happy atmosphere, and a more casual decor. Linens with bright colors, and flowers in a vase on the table are nice editions to any cafe restaurant.
  • Al Fresco – Also known as outside dining, Al Fresco style dining should either incorporate a heavy fringed linen tablecloth or no tablecloth at all. Napkin rings are also a nice edition as well as heavy linen napkins to ensure they don’t blow away.
  • Fine dining – An elegant atmosphere should feature crisp white linens made of heavy premium cotton, as well as extra layering and elegant cloth napkins.

Texture, Quality, and Color

Like bed linens, restaurant linens vary in thread count. Typically, restaurant linens come in thread counts numbering up to 1,000 threads per square inch. Linens that are of a high thread count are made with finer threads, thus creating a soft and smooth fabric. However, the finer threads are also thinner and not as durable. The high thread count results in a smoother texture, while the lower thread counts, typically 180 to 400, will have more durability. Since your table linens need to be durable and long-lasting as well as attractive, a thread count of around 400 provides a good balance between softness and durability.

Though white is widely used as the primary color of restaurant linens, they can come in any variety of colors. The important factor when it comes to color though isn’t the main choice, but how well all of the corresponding linens – towels, tablecloths, napkins, etc – match the decor of your restaurant.


Restaurant tables come in many different shapes and sizes. Here are a few tips for buying the right size tablecloth for different sizes of tables:

  • The size of the table determines the dimensions and shape of the linens that will be covering it.
  • Rectangular tables should have rectangular tablecloths, with the linen size determined by measuring both the length and width and then adding the desired “drop” to both measurements. A good rule of thumb for the drop is between 9 and 15 inches, with casual settings having a shorter drop.
  • Square tables simply require square linens that have the same length and width, and adding the appropriate drop.
  • When sizing round tables simply measure the diameter and add the desired drop to the measurement to get the correct round size.
  • For non-traditional table shapes, simply add 15 inches to both the length and the width to find the correct size.

For more information check out our blog and be sure to read our manifesto, Setting the Table to find out who we are and what makes us different.