How Good Napkin Folding May Get You a Job

Good hospitality is all in the details. The friendliness of your staff, the comfort of the chair, the prompt service, and yes, even the fold of the napkin. A napkin is not just a functional cloth--it's a critical design element. If you're in search of a hospitality career, it's important to remember the little touches that will make your resume (or your restaurant) stand out from the rest. Even something as small as a well-folded napkin brings a gesture of elegance to the table--and makes the dining experience a little different.

Culinary Napkin Arts

Looking for a restaurant management degree? Your hospitality degree program will likely introduce you to the art of refined tablesetting. Carefully designed tabletops are important to the dining experience, observes Joan Marsan, an editor at hospitality magazine Hotels. "The look and feel of china, flatware, and napery pairings should match menu offerings and the intended atmosphere of the establishment."

And napkins are the jewel in this crown. Hospitality career veteran Helmut Schonwalder explains: "The napkin makes all the difference. It creates atmosphere." It's no wonder so many restaurant reviews mention the "napery."

Tricks of the Hospitality Trade

Napkin material and placement are crucial details in creating a pleasant ambience. Napkins can lie flat, stand up, or drape gracefully from a glass. They can be folded to hold cutlery or dinner rolls. Culinary students may encounter these popular folds:

  • Classic. This triangular arrowhead is a common site in banquets and more conservative upscale restaurants.
  • Accordion. This pleated napkin, secured on one side with a napkin ring, resembles a fan.
  • Peacock. The peacock resembles the classic origami crane. It is usually draped over a wine glass for structure.
  • Bird of Paradise. A partially unfolded version of the classic--the four layers of the napkin are pulled out one by one, creating the impression of bird feathers.

The first lesson you'll learn at your culinary school: eating involves all the senses. Napkin folding is just one of the skills that hospitality professionals rely on to delight their guests.

RecipeTips, "Napkin Folds"
Hotels Magazine, "Setting the Mood"