Restaurants that would like to improve food quality and service perception, and charge more per entrée, should strongly consider using cloth napkins, according to a recent study by Milliken & Company, a leading manufacturer of table linen fabrics for the hospitality industry. The study, conducted by a third-party research company, reviewed U.S. consumers’ preferences between paper and cloth napkins at sit-down restaurants.
The study found that a majority of U.S. consumers prefer to dine at sit-down restaurants with a cloth napkin. Aside from basic preference, U.S. consumers who said they preferred cloth napkins reported paying 64 percent more on an entrée than those who preferred paper napkins, and that when dining at a table set with cloth napkins, 50 percent expect to pay more money than if they were seated at a table with paper napkins.
“Finding out that consumers would be more likely to go to your restaurant just because of cloth napkins shows the importance of listening and responding to consumer preferences,” says John Entsuah, general manager of Napery at Milliken & Company. “Cloth napkins also appear to allow restaurants to charge more for their food and increase the associated quality of the food and service.”
The study also found that 77 percent of U.S. consumers notice the way a table is set when visiting a restaurant. Along with noticing the table setting, U.S. consumers highly associate certain aspects of dining at a restaurant with tables set with cloth napkins. Specifically, 82 percent associate it with a better restaurant appearance and ambiance; 75 percent with better food quality; 88 percent with better service; and 84 percent with being environmentally friendly.
Relative to environmental concerns, 54 percent of U.S. consumers said cloth napkins were more environmentally friendly than paper napkins. Only 14 percent felt that paper napkins were more environmentally friendly than cloth napkins.
"We found this part of the study to confirm the energy-saving technologies we have in place to enhance the general reuse benefit of cloth napkins, since they are industrially laundered and used multiple times versus a one-use paper napkin,” says Entsuah. “The study also found that consumers use an average of three paper napkins per meal. This is waste that could be easily avoided by the use of cloth napkins.”