How To Expertly Set A Table: Cutlery, Table Linen & More

How To Expertly Set A Table: Cutlery, Table Linen & More

Table settings can help to transform a restaurant interior and set the tone for a meal - read on for our in depth guide on how to adorn your table.

The consumption of food and beverages is a continuous necessity, where we must all consider how we will achieve a suitable intake of nutrients on a daily basis. But food consumption can also be enjoyed as a leisure activity, with the help of the hospitality industry. Restaurants create a whole experience based around dining out, where the basic need to consume food is transformed into a form of entertainment for all the senses.


These eating establishments are dedicated to serving food in enticing and creative ways, where everything from the restaurant furniture to the table settings are chosen for the pleasure of the diner. The way in which a table is set can set the tone for the meal, whether it is formal or informal, gourmet or familiar. As such, table setting has developed into a fine art, where utensils, linens, ornaments and crockery are combined to cultivate a memorable dining experience for every customer.


You can help your restaurant to stand out from the crowd with a thoughtful table layout, where even the smallest details can make a big difference. Read on for our comprehensive guide to setting your tables,  with the goal of creating the right tone for your interior.

Table Settings: A Brief History

The history of cutlery, napkins and table settings is a long and varied one. Simply understanding the origins of the dining fork can be difficult, with archaeological evidence tracing this invention back to Ancient China or to the Eastern Roman Empire. In ancient times, some trailblazing members of the nobility were reported to use utensils to eat, whilst this practice did not become commonplace until much later. Most utensils were originally used only to cook and prepare food, where diners would rely on sharp knives and their fingers at the dinner table.


But by the 17th century, cutlery was becoming the norm in England, although elaborate table settings and the concept of having multiple utensils for one meal was still a practice reserved for the upper classes. By the Victorian era, strict rules for high society dining had become ingrained in everyday life, where the Industrial Revolution facilitated the manufacturing of utensils on a massive scale.


Today, formal place settings are seen as more of a novelty, reserved for special occasions or fine dining in a restaurant. As such, establishments today have free reign when it comes to their table layout, where design decisions all depend on the desired atmosphere they are trying to create for their customers.

Formal Table Settings


When the occasion or atmosphere calls for it, a formal table setting can be a great way to elevate the dining experience and create an attractive interior. According to traditional rules, there is an established way of laying a table, where cutlery, plates and glasses all have their place.


This begins with a serving plate in the centre of the plate setting, with a smaller bread plate to the top left. The bread plate should be accompanied by a butter knife placed blade down with the handle on the right.


As a rule, utensils are used from the outside in with each course that’s brought out. From the outside in, cutlery on the right is ordered: tea spoon, soup spoon, salad knife, dinner knife. On the left, the salad fork is on the outside, the dinner fork on the inside. A desert spoon is typically placed horizontally above the plate.


Everything should be evenly spaced, with the bottom of each utensil lining up with the bottom edge of the large serving plate.

How To Choose Your -


When it comes to choosing your cutlery, this all depends on the formality of your table setting. Traditionally, utensils are made of polished silver, where these can easily be substituted for stainless steel for a similar appearance. Uniformity should be a top priority for a restaurant, where this can help to set apart a commercial table setting from a domestic one.


White is a popular choice for restaurant crockery, as this allows the colours of the food to be presented in an appetising way. As for the material, you can choose from porcelain or china for a sophisticated look, whilst more unconventional wood or metal options can be used to help your interior to stand out.


Your glasses should be arranged as part of a formal table setting, with two wine glasses and a water glass usually making up the set. Simple glasses are a popular choice for busy restaurants, where breakages are common. But for fine dining, finely cut glass or crystal champagne flutes can really help to cultivate a luxury feel.


As with cutlery, in a formal restaurant, there will be a specific glass for the beverage that is being served. Tall fluted glasses help to maintain the bubbles in sparkling drinks and shorter glasses are used for dessert wines. Red wine can also be served in a larger, more bulbous glass to allow the drink to breathe, whilst white wine can come in a smaller vessel.

Informal Table Settings

Some restaurants may find that a formal table setting doesn’t quite fit their brand. This traditional setup can be labour intensive and inappropriate if only one or two courses are being served, whereas a relaxed alternative can help to make diners feel more comfortable.


A help-yourself approach to table settings is a popular choice for budget friendly restaurants, where cutlery can be offered in a pot or basket at the centre of the table. Some venues may also use a family style or buffet format as an alternative to table service, where this allows diners to eat in their own way without traditional etiquette restrictions.


Our top tips for your informal table setting:


Randomised Effect - Setting a table with randomisation in mind can help you to achieve an effortless, casual finish. This may include an apparently random placement of serving spoons, refillable water vessels or floral arrangements, all of which should be positioned with the convenience of diners in mind.


Natural Materials - Consider investing in alternative materials to combat the formal look of a table setting. Swap crystal glasses and bone china plates for wood, metal and paper to achieve an earthy, modern feel that your customers will love.


Ease & Practicality - It is important to ensure that your table layout is still convenient, where it should be able to rival the careful arrangement of a formal place setting. Make sure that everything your diners need is in reach


Relaxed But Appealing - When curating an informal table setting, it’s important to ensure that your layout is attractive, despite the appearance of random placement. There’s a fine line between informal and messy, so it’s vital that your decor still looks curated and appealing.


Seating Options - If you want to break free from formal dining, you may wish to consider rearranging your restaurant’s table layout. Offer a mixture of bench seating, group tables, booths and tables for two in order to appeal to every customer that might wish to eat at your establishment.

Table Accessories

Once you’ve decided on how you’re going to arrange your cutlery and crockery, it may be time to consider accessories. Well chosen and placed table ornaments can help to bring together the overall look of your interior, whilst contributing to the all important tone you’re trying to assert for your restaurant.


Table linens are an important part of the accessorising process, where you may wish to consider linen tablecloths, placemats and napkins to bring together your place settings. You may wish to choose linen in particular because it can be laundered and reused, helping to make your restaurant more environmentally friendly than if you were using disposable alternatives.


Beyond this, smaller details such as napkin rings and name cards can help to make your table feel more formal. These kinds of accessories will complement a sophisticated table setting that has been designed to accommodate business dinners or meals of multiple courses.


Florals are another staple of an attractive table setting, where your arrangement can be varied to suit the level of formality you’re attempting to achieve. Small vases are ideal for creating a romantic feel on tables for two, whilst more extravagant centrepieces can help to bring together a vast dining experience with lots of place settings.

Stalbridge Linen Services: Restaurant Linen Hire & Laundry Services

At Stalbridge, we can provide everything you need to curate the perfect table setting, whether you’re looking for napkin and table cloth hire or brand new chef uniforms. Our napkin range currently includes rustic, satin and elite options, so you can find the perfect accessory for your interior.

Beyond this, we also offer a comprehensive laundry service, where our team can collect and drop off your restaurant linens according to your schedule. With us, you can ensure that all your linens are deep cleaned and pressed to our professional standards, helping you to impress your diners with every table setting. So get in touch with us today to find out more about our catering linen hire services.

Published on: March 21, 2024

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