Everything You Need to Know About Catering Linens
Everybody knows that a TON of prep goes into catering an event, but what exactly are caterers expected to provide for an event? This is a question without an all-encompassing “right” answer, as the expected duties of caterers varies from business to business. Although it may not seem as important as preparing fancy hor d’oeuvres and enough buffet food to satisfy a swarm of hungry guests, catering linens are oftentimes expect to be provided by caterers. Knowing your options and selecting the best catering linens for an event will dramatically help the aesthetic of your catering ensemble. From the extravagant to the basics, here is everything you need to know about choosing your catering linens.
1) Under-The-Table Storage: Caterers often need to bring a lot of equipment to an event, and this makes storage an issue that many caterers face. Storing equipment under the table is your best bet for hiding what may be unsightly industrial equipment. In order to mask the equipment, a tablecloth that drops all the way to the floor is a must. Try finding tablecloths that feature a way to easily store and remove catering equipment from behind the table, like the vertical slit feature of LinenTablecloth’s fitted tablecloths.
2) Fabric Choice: It may be tempting to use elaborate sequin linens or soft and delicate cotton linens for buffet tables, but as important as it is for a buffet table to look great, a functional buffet table is imperative. In a buffet scenario, a high frequency of guests will be serving themselves, and this means that spills and accidents are almost guaranteed. Sequin and other linens featuring a three-dimensional surface, as well as cotton and other delicate linens, will likely deteriorate throughout the event if there are enough guests at the event. It’s generally recommended to stick with durable polyester tablecloths for buffet tables because poly is the easiest fabric type to clean. A great choice is to use poly-spun linens because they’re made with durable polyester fabric, but are manufactured to feel as soft as cotton. Remember to be kind to your guests’ elbows and never use linens below 160 GSM!
3) Napkins: Along with designing table settings for buffet and cake tables, caterers are oftentimes expected to provide napkins for the event. As mentioned in point 2, ambassador or poly-spun napkins are ideal for providing guests with high quality napkins–the last thing you want is for your guests to feel like they’re wiping their mouths with sandpaper! To prevent guests and servers from scalding themselves from using chafing dishes, simply tie a napkin around the handle to absorb the heat. If you’re providing the napkins for event tables, check out this handy napkin folding guide to wow guests at the event!
4) Covering Extra-Long Tables: Unless you’re custom ordering extra long tablecloths for occasions when wedding planners push a long line of rectangular tables together, you’re going to need a tablecloth on each individual table. The trick to making a nice display with an extra-long table is create the appearance of one long, seamless tablecloth. If you’re combining several 6-foot or 8-foot tables together, make sure that the end of each tablecloth is hidden under the tablecloth at the adjacent table. If the table is extra wide, use two rectangular tablecloths together, and arrange them so they both meet dead center. Then, cover the central line marking where the tablecloths meet with a table runner.
5) Tablecloth Drop: The drop of your catering linens (distance from the linen to the floor) is something that can easily be overlooked by caterers, but the visual impact is very noticeable. Almost always, a full drop for buffet tables is the right choice. A full-drop is a cleaner, more elegant look than a half drop, but a half-drop can look great, depending on the setting. Take a look at our post, “Everything you need to know about tablecloth sizes,” for a comprehensive sizing guide.
6) Multi-Tiered Buffet Setup: Designing an elegant buffet table set up is vital for the overall look of the event. You could simply place a series of chafing dishes in a line, or you can make a stunning set up by staggering the heights of your serving dishes. Parties for Pennies has a great article about dessert and buffet tables using a triangle design concept. The picture below was taken at our retail showroom grand opening event, and was made, incidentally, by ex-caterer and CEO of LinenTablecloth, Ron Berrett. Ron used simple dishes flipped upside down with a tablecloth on top to create a multi-tiered buffet setup.
7) Table Skirts: Many caterers these days opt for table skirts to cover the sides of buffet and cake tables. Table skirts and the accompanying table skirt clips are a must-have for any caterer’s arsenal of catering linens. A table skirt is wrapped around a table, and is held secure by velcro on table skirt clips. It’s a very elegant addition to any buffet table, and there are a wide variety of table skirts available ranging from pleated to tulle.
8) Table Overlays: What’s the easiest and simplest way to enhance the beauty of a buffet table? Table overlays. Caterers tend to either use satin square overlays or round, scalloped overlays. What does it mean to “scallop” an overlay. It’s that elegant SWOOSH of a table linen held together with a clip as pictured below. Want to learn how to scallop a tablecloth/overlay? Check out this Scalloped Table Skirting DIY Tutorial.
Do you have any questions or additional tips? Leave them in the comment section below!