One of the most important yet undervalued components of the dining experience is the table. At this point, you know table setting basics from silverware placement to having the classic white linen neatly draped over. But from restaurants to catered events, there is always a way to take it a step further to enhance your customer’s experience. After all, taking some extra time to liven up the setting could bring in more money somewhere along the line.
This week we came up with a few ideas along with Michael Williams (Product Consultant, Central Restaurant Products), Laura Bedilion (Category Manager, Central Restaurant Products) and Stacy Blanton (Director of Marketing and Communications, IUPUI Food Service) to create 10 ways to make your table setting go above and beyond your guest’s expectations.
- Color: It’s scary, but if you know your guests and your atmosphere, which you do, you can play with color to find one that best represents your establishment or catered event. This applies to more than the table cloth; it applies to napkins as well. During Williams’ catering days, he used multiple colors for napkins to liven his setting. For example, in the fall he used a burnt orange and a rich brown.
- Upgrade your Tableware: If you have fairly new dinnerware, skip this number. But if your plates are scratched, your glasses are murky or your knives are dull, Bedilion recommends updating. Today there are a variety of shapes, colors and styles of plates—including those that don’t scratch or break easily. Also, when upgrading, you can look at your current dinnerware set to decide if you need more durability. Same thing goes with drinkware and flatware.
- Napkins: Sure, you can roll your silverware in a napkin—but why not take some extra time to enhance the experience by folding the napkin in a way your guests have never seen? Find one and try it. It could become a signature part of your establishment.
- Go Natural: Everyone has seen gemstones in centerpieces; why not use something natural instead? Blanton recommends using natural items for centerpieces and details such as leafy greens instead of greenery, pine cones and rocks instead of clear gems.
- Candle Lamps: For low-lighted settings, a large or bright lamp can be distracting or in your customers way—especially if they can’t cover or move the light. Bedilion suggests candle lamps, which create just the right amount of light and are available in a variety of styles. They are also available in LED that simulates traditional candlelight if you’re staying away from fire.
- Make it Personal: If you run a busy establishment and are constantly turning tables, your server will make the experience personal. But for a catered event, many times the most interaction between the wait staff and guests is filling drinks and clearing plates. Blanton suggests taking a few extra minutes to create individual menu cards for a plated meal. It can make a difference.
- Fruit: Fresh fruit can be used in many ways other than for consumption. Williams would slice fresh fruit into water pitchers to liven the setting which would also infuse the water with flavor. Some of his most commonly used fruits were blueberries, honeydew and cucumbers.
- Height: This is one of the very simple yet excellent ways to make a food presentation pop. Instead of laying everything flat, Blanton says to use a variety of heights (especially on a buffet, but it’s possible with a table too). There are many different ways to display food with height from risers to tiered displays. Williams adds that height can even be added with cardboard boxes and linen.
- Condiment Display: Instead of throwing the ketchup and mustard on the far end of the table with the sugar and sweetener packets crammed into a small square container, find a condiment holder or organizer to conveniently hold all items for your guests. There are even holders that include a coil for table numbers or menu items, such as daily specials.
- Ice sculptures: Okay, so this one may be taking it a bit further than just creatively folding a napkin or using bold red linens. However; you may find them to be the wow factor you’ve been searching for to make an event extremely memorable. Check out these ice sculpture molds.
Let us know ways you have changed your table setting to enhance the experience for your guests in our comment section!