Tablescapes at restaurants, weddings, galas, and other special occasions aren’t complete without a perfectly-folded napkin alongside cutlery and tableware. If you are a restaurateur or own a catering company, you should know the importance of providing guests with high-quality napkins that fit the look and feel of your events.

When shopping for napkins, there are several buying points to consider. The style, size, and material of a napkin all determine what kinds of events they suit best. Whether you’re looking for beverage napkins, disposable paper napkins, or luxurious linen napkins, this buying guide provides helpful information so your business can make the most out of your purchase.

Different Kinds Of Napkins

There is a wide variety of napkins, broken down by size, style, color, and material. Cocktail or beverage napkins are ideal for placing underneath drinks to prevent condensation as guests enjoy their beverages. For a pop of color, choose brightly printed napkins that complement the overall aesthetic of your restaurant or event. For more formal gatherings like weddings or galas, using napkins with muted earth tones works best.

Depending on what occasion you are currently shopping for, you might want to choose a disposable or reusable napkin. Disposable napkins are usually made from paper or recycled materials, while reusable napkins are typically made from various cloths, like linen which has a soft and high-quality feel. Below is a breakdown of the different types of paper and cloth napkins.

Paper Napkins

Great for casual events, foodservice establishments, and large gatherings, paper napkins are conveniently disposable and single-use. Depending on the ply-count and softness you are looking for in a napkin, there are several options to choose from. It’s important to keep in mind that absorbency in napkins matters most, so if any spills happen, the napkin can quickly clean up any messy accident. The way napkins are manufactured also determines their quality and softness.

Disposable napkins usually come in 1-ply, 2-ply, or 3-ply, and the higher the ply-count, the more absorbent and high-quality they are. While 1-ply paper napkins might be more affordable, you will miss out on the soft, absorbent qualities of 2-ply or 3-ply napkins. Paper napkins are also ideal for printing beautiful designs to add the perfect touch to luncheons, birthday parties, and other occasions.

Micropoint Paper Napkins

Micropoint paper napkins are napkins that are manufactured with an embossed pattern on their edges, usually made up of tiny dots. These disposable napkins have a subtle elegance and are great for casual events or restaurants. Micropoint paper napkins typically are only made in high ply-counts like 3-ply, as the embossing requires the napkin to be a thicker material.

micropoint paper napkin with utensils

Airlaid Paper Napkins

Airlaid paper napkins are napkins that are manufactured by using air to transfer and bond wood pulp fibers. Typically the process for creating paper napkins involves water to bond fibers together, but by using air, the overall quality and feel of the napkins become much softer. Airlaid napkins are known for their linen-like feel and are extremely absorbent. If you’re looking for printed napkins, choose airlaid napkins with your desired print, as they are ideal for capturing bright dyes and patterns while manufacturing.

Recycled Paper Napkins

Recycled paper napkins are napkins that are made from sustainably sourced materials and can be recycled after use. If your restaurant or catering company is looking for eco-friendly supplies, replacing disposable napkins with recyclable ones is a great step in the right direction. Recycled paper napkins are typically made either from sugarcane fibers or a blend of reused wood pulp fibers. 

Cloth Napkins

For formal events like dinner parties, galas, and wedding receptions, using cloth napkins is almost always requested by guests. Cloth napkins are soft to the touch, highly absorbent, and unique. Depending on the fabric from which your cloth napkin is made, they also tend to be more expensive than paper napkins.

If your customers are looking for a memorable dining experience, simply replacing disposable napkins with high-quality cloth napkins can upgrade the look of your tablescapes. When purchasing cloth napkins for your establishment, keep in mind that they need to be thoroughly washed and sanitized between uses.

striped cloth napkin

Cotton Napkins

Cotton napkins can be unbleached, bleached, or dyed with your desired color, depending on the accents and overall aesthetics of your venue or restaurant. Cotton napkins are extremely thick and absorbent, so keep them handy for guests as they dine. These kinds of reusable napkins tend to be more flexible and softer than linen napkins, as well as hypoallergenic, making them great for guests with allergies.

If you’re looking for the quality, look, and feel of cotton napkins without the hassle of cleanup, consider choosing disposable cotton napkins. While these kinds of napkins can’t withstand several washes like traditional cotton napkins, they are the perfect high-end and conveniently disposable option for catered events.

Linen Napkins

Linen napkins are a lightweight, breathable alternative to cotton napkins. Although linen napkins are typically less absorbent than cotton ones, they have water-resistant qualities and the ability to dry quickly once they have been wet. Linen napkins are soft but have a stiffer feel compared to cotton napkins, which is beneficial as they wrinkle less and maintain their appearance over time. Linen napkins have an organic, textured feel to them and are extremely breathable which makes them perfect for outdoor events or summer weddings.

linen napkin with hearts and flowers

Napkin Folding Styles

When it comes to determining what size napkin works best for your business, it's important to take into consideration the way they are folded. Napkin folding styles are important because they create a backdrop for your table setting’s cutlery. Based on the occasion or size of the table you are currently arranging, you might reach for a specific style of fold that best suits your place setting.

Napkins Are Typically Folded Into:

  • Pocket fold or 1/2 fold napkins: Napkins that are pre-folded with a pocket for storing cutlery.
  • Flat pack napkins: Napkins that are not pre-folded and arrive flat and crease-free.
  • 1/4 fold napkins: Flat napkins that are folded in half vertically and then horizontally.
  • 1/8 fold napkins: Flat napkins that are folded in half vertically, then horizontally, then folded in half twice.

What Kind Of Napkins Should I Use At My Event?

If you run a catering business, you might want to reach out to your clients and ask if they have any preferences for napkins. Depending on the kind of foodservice establishment you own, you might find that both disposable or reusable napkins could suit your restaurants’ needs. Before making a final purchase, consider the kinds of factors and restrictions that you might face at your catered event or restaurant.

  • Formal events: Use high-quality cotton or linen napkins to impress guests
  • Casual events or dining: Choose disposable paper napkins for a convenient cleanup
  • Outdoor events: Try using breathable napkins made from linen or air-laid paper
  • Indoor events: Cotton or mircopoint napkins work best, due to their thick and absorbent qualities

Which Napkin Fits Your Needs?

As always choosing a sustainable option, like napkins made from recyclable materials, is a great way to show customers you care about your business’s environmental impact.

No matter what the occasion, there is a style and size of napkin that works best for you. Feel free to get creative and create memorable place settings by choosing high-quality napkins that best complement your catered events or restaurant.