The “how to” series continues this week with a lesson on how to fold a napkin.  I will start with the standard triangle “stand up” fold and then the more interesting “pouch” fold.  This may be very remedial to some, but most restaurants in America still use the standard “roll up.”  For the benefit of those looking for something a bit more formal than the roll up, I am covering some basics of how to fold a nakin.  This also provides a great opportunity to reconsider the value of the “roll up.”

I have done my share of rollups.  I have even written about them in the past.  My issue with the rollup is the lack of quality control.  Servers are supposed to polish the silverware before rolling it, but this is not always the case.  At the end of a long shift and with very little accountability, servers will often turn a blind eye to water spots.  Others will not inspect the silverware for food remnants as well as they should.  The end result is a guest that is dissatisfied before they even have a chance to take their first bite. 

My other complaint about rollups is that everyone is using them.  If you want to be perceived as a higher end restaurant, you must stop copying the casual dining chains.  Guests will pay more for a higher quality experience.  Providing the same table setting as your less expensive competition causes your guests to immediately question the perception of value.  Using these types of folds will immediately raise the value perception with minimum effort.

Here is how to fold a napkin into the basic stand up triangle fold:

Step One: Set the napkin out in front of you with the seams facing up.  Turn it until it is in the shape of a diamond with a point aimed directly at you.

fold a napkin

Step Two: Fold the top corner to the bottom corner.

fold a napkin

Step Three: Fold both side corners to the bottom corner.

folding napkins

Step Four: Firmly grab both side corners and allow the bottom points to fall underneath and meet the top corner.


napkin restaurant

Step Five: Turn the napkin 180 degrees and lift the center of the long side (the hypotenuse) and it will stand on its own.

waiter napkin fold

The silverware should be polished and laid out to either side of the napkin.  This does require the silverware to be set on the table.  Restaurants without tablecloths or placemats may find this troublesome.  Many restaurants still use rollups because of this.  I would argue that a superior option in this case would be the “pouch” fold.  It allows the silverware to be visible without resting on the table.

How to fold a napkin into a silverware pouch:

Step One: Set the napkin square in front of you with the seams facing down.

fold a napkin

Step Two: Fold the bottom side up to meet the top side.

fold a napkin

Step Three: Fold the upper layer back down to the bottom.

fold a napkinStep Four: Lift from the center of the top and bottom sides to allow the napkin to fold in half.

how to fold napkins

Step Five: Lift again from the center of the top and bottom sides to fold the napkin in half.

alternative to rollups

Step Six: Place your silverware.

restaurant napkin

I am a big fan of this fold.  It is convenient.  It creates a value perception.  I don’t see it every time I go to a restaurant.  It allows the server to check the silverware at their table to prevent any initial complaints from the table.  It is not nearly as cool as this new fold I learned from the Crazy Waiter blog, but is easier to fold in advance.  As with any new skill, the speed you can execute these folds will increase with practice.  Take some time to consider if learning how to fold a napkin into one of these options might be a better fit for your restaurant.


Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips is the new book from the author of The Hospitality Formula Network. It contains the 52 essential skills of the exceptional server. This book teaches the philosophy to turn average service into an exceptional guest experience that will rapidly increase your tips. This book shows how you can provide better customer service and dramatically improve your tips. Enter the coupon code “squared” to receive 20% off your copy today.