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How to Set a Delightful Café Table: Breakfast to Dinner

How to Set a Delightful Café Table: Breakfast to Dinner

Table setting is an art. And your café should be associated with the most artfully executed place settings.

Many health enthusiasts may say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But that won’t stop your customers from coming to your café at all hours, whether its for afternoon tea, lunch or even dinner, depending on your opening hours.

For you, that means more and more table setting throughout the day - every day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you learned a few easy ways of setting delightful café tables?

Keep reading and we’ll show you the correct table settings for breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch, and dinner.

How Do You Set a Café Table for Breakfast?

As your customers troop to your café each morning, they have one mission in mind - to indulge in a delicious breakfast.

And chances are, they are famished - having had their last meal the previous night. And hungry customers will enjoy their yummy breakfast even more on beautifully laid breakfast tables.

Here’s how to make it happen...

What You Will Need for Breakfast Place Setting

Condiments: jams, honey, lemon slices, butter, salt and pepper

Plates: dinner plate on the table, cereal plate on the buffet, salad plate on the buffet

Cutlery: knife and fork, dessert spoon, butter spreader, teaspoon, extra cereal spoons for the buffet, service tongs for the buffet

Glasses: water tumblers, juice glass, extra water, and juice glasses for buffet, coffee cup and saucer

Table linen: table cloths, place mats, and table runner of choice. Plus, coloured napkins of your choice

Sample these:

Breakfast Table Setting Decoration

A breakfast table plainly laid with cutlery won’t look as amazing as a table that’s decorated.

  • Go for a light and fresh theme when decorating
  • Use bright coloured table linen
  • Ensure that the table linen colours coordinate
  • Don’t overcrowd the table
  • Place suitable centrepieces; floral arrangements, fruits, etc.

How Do You Set a Café Table for Afternoon Tea?

Traditional afternoon tea is mostly associated with the English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t serve afternoon tea (AKA tea reception or soiree) in Australia. Ideally, afternoon tea is served between two and five o'clock.

Most of your customers will come for afternoon tea because they are celebrating a special event such as a birthday, pre-wedding, baby shower, etc. Others may prefer afternoon tea to stave off hunger before dinner.

Setting the table for afternoon tea is easy. Here’s how:

What Should a Tea Set Include?

We’re about to list the items that you will need to set a delightful afternoon tea table at your café. But don’t let this list limit you. If there are other items you would love to include (inspired by personal experience), don’t shy away from laying them on the table.

With that in mind, here’s what a tea set should include:

Distinct courses
  • Choices of tea
  • Tea or finger sandwiches (served first)
  • Scones (served second)
  • Pastries (served last)

Table setting requirements
  • The perfect table cloth: white, off-white, lacy, or appliqued
  • Small creamers and sugar bowls conveniently placed around the table
  • Serveware: teapots, teacups, teaspoons, saucers, snack plates, etc.
  • Table napkins: durable and versatile
  • Floral centrepieces: short enough for guests to see each other across the table
  • Pitcher of hot water,
  • Sliced lemons on a plate

Teal Towels Are a Must-Have

To impress your customers, you need to make good tasting afternoon tea. And serve it in style. So far, so good. You know how to set your café tables for afternoon tea.

But hang on a minute...

There is something else that you can’t afford to overlook - tea towels.

But don’t go for mediocre tea towels. Instead, get commercial grade tea towels that are absorbent and durable and look classy.

Here are some suitable suggestions:

How to do Table Settings for Lunch and Dinner

Setting a table for lunch or dinner shouldn’t be a daunting task. Not after you read how to do it right, the easy way.

First off, you need to decide between a formal table setting or an informal table setting.

Let’s take a closer look at these two table setting options to help you decide.

Formal Table Setting

This table setting option is also known as fine dining. Here, you have to use the finest of everything you present;

How to Set a Formal Lunch or Dinner Café Table

The most important thing to master is the cutlery placement. Keep reading to learn where to place each piece of your table setting cutlery.

Formal Place Setting

table illustration of formal table setting

As you can see, lunch and dinner require that you use assorted spoons, knives, and forks - it can get confusing. But, the image below will help you understand how each one of them looks.

Take a look:

picture of different types of spoon, forks, and knives
Image source

Before we go on to the informal table setting section, you need to keep in mind some helpful tips:

  • Don’t forget the table napkins
  • Knife blades should always face the plate
  • Table manners - the server should clear every dish after each course
  • Don’t serve up any utensils that won’t be used
  • Have everything available on the table - your guests shouldn’t have to request anything during their meals
  • Red and white wine each have their specific glasses throughout the lunch or dinner
  • Knife and fork etiquette - place them in the order the guest will use them, starting from the outside
  • Ensure that all salad dishes arrive at the table on a salad plate - the server should place them on top of the dinner plate

How to Set a Table for Informal Lunch or Dinner

To set a delightful informal table (also known as casual table setting), you need to get creative. Read on for tips to help you decorate your café tables as desired:

  • Make your own menu holder
  • Get creative with your centrepieces
  • Purchase tablecloths and ornaments that match your theme
  • Be the fun and welcoming restaurant that serves interactive foods
  • Establish a restaurant, lunch or dinner feel with a casual, inviting theme
  • No need to use fine china and silverware but ensure your table looks attractive

With table decorations sorted, next, you need cutlery suitable for informal dining.

Here’s your list:

  • Dinner plate: The first item to be set on the table
  • Two forks: Placed on the left side of the plate. Large fork for the main course and small fork for first course or salad
  • Large knife: Placed immediate to the right of the plate, the sharp edge facing inwards
  • Spoons: place them to the right of the knife and in the order that they will be used 
  • Glasses: place them at the top right of the dinner plate above knives and spoons
  • Table napkin: Fold and place it in a napkin ring or;
    • Place it to the left of the forks
    • Fold and place it into a glass
    • Place it under forks
    • Place it at the centre of the dinner table

Check out this video to learn creative ways of folding your table napkins.

Before We Wrap Up: Important Tips to Remember

So far, you’ve learned how to set a table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Congratulations. You’re probably already a step ahead of your competitors.

But hang on...

Is there anything else you can do to make your guests happy dinners?

The answer is YES. And here are the things you should keep in mind:

  • Ladies are always served first
  • Don’t engage in informal conversations with guests
  • During formal functions, employees should only use employee entrances and exits
  • Do not eat, drink, or chew gum in front of the guests
  • Exhibit proper posture at all times: don’t slouch, fold arms, or place your hands in your pockets while in service
  • Your uniforms should be pressed to remove wrinkles, they should be stain free, and spotlessly clean
  • When removing plates from the table, start from the right of the guest (it’s an industry standard)
  • When serving multiple courses, clear empty glasses and plates prior to the arrival of the next course
  • When serving wine hold the wine glass by the stem, never by the bowl
  • Always use a cloth napkin when pouring wine - to wipe the excess drips from the mouth of the bottle
  • Always make sure tablecloths are free of wrinkles and stains. Their seams should face down. Allow the same amount of overhang on each side of the table.
  • When setting the table, hold glasses by the stem and cutlery from the middle to minimise the appearance of fingerprints


Now table setting is child’s play to you, right? Go ahead and impress your customers. Let them wine and dine on the prettiest most delightful cafe tables.

For food and beverage linen; tea towels, table napkins, tablecloths, and more, head over to Australian Linen Supply now.

You’ll love their superior quality and pocket-friendly prices. Get in touch today.

Photo courtesy from by Jason Leung