Imagine reading a review of that brand-new Italian bistro on the other side of town. You are fully prepared to read about the wine list and how the appetizers flowed seamlessly into the entrées. You’re expecting to read about an exquisite tortellini topped off by the best tiramisu ever made. But suddenly, without warning, there is a sentence about the table linens.
What’s up with that? Why on earth would a restaurant reviewer talk about table linens when readers only want to know about the food? Moreover, why do some restaurant reviews mention table linens while others don’t? In a word, it’s all about perception and experience.
Describing the Experience
If you pay very close attention to what restaurant reviewers say and write, you’ll notice that what they are really describing is the experience. That makes sense. After all, any successful restaurateur can tell you that what diners want most of all is a memorable experience.
For purposes of illustration, consider this text from a NewportRI.com review posted on February 20, 2019:
“The décor is top notch with fine Frette table linens, Riedel glass stemware, Bernardaud dishware and Baccarat centerpiece table lamps. The designers kept the integrity of the early 1900s architecture but added a modern feel with custom European chandeliers and American illustrated art from the 1920s and ’30s.”
Here’s another quote from a 1991 review of a local restaurant in Sarasota, FL:
“Artists’ scenes of Italy, a few plants and crisp linens create a relaxed atmosphere.”
Though the two reviews are separated by nearly 30 years, they both have something in common. Table linens were mentioned as part of the overall ambiance of the reviewed restaurants. This gives us some insight into why restaurant reviewers may or may not mention table linens.
It is worth noting that both articles quoted above reviewed multiple restaurants. But in each case, only one restaurant’s table linens made enough of an impression on the reviewers to warrant a mention. That’s pretty striking.
When Linens Make an Impression
The reality of restaurant reviews is that they are very limited in scope. Not only is it impossible to give a fully accurate and detailed description and still contain a restaurant review to a readable length, it’s also not reasonable to expect a reviewer to retain that much information long enough to formally write it down. As a result, only what truly impresses reviewers actually makes it into their reviews.
Alsco, a nationally known provider of linen services and uniform rentals, says that table linens only make it into restaurant reviews when they make a lasting impression on reviewers. In the case of the previously mentioned Newport restaurant, it’s clear that the table linens fit perfectly with the early 20th-century theme. In the case of the Sarasota restaurant, the table linens made the reviewer feel relaxed.
The lesson to learn here is that table linens are an important part of the complete dining experience. They may even be a deciding factor for some patrons. Whether they know it or not, restaurant guests are influenced in their overall opinions of a restaurant by their perceptions of the table linens.
This suggests that formal restaurants think long and hard about their linen choices. They should be paying attention to the quality of those linens, how they fit in with the ambiance and theme of the restaurant, how they make customers feel, and so forth. For better or worse, restaurant linens can make a lasting impression on guests and restaurant critics alike. We see it in restaurant reviews all the time.