Talk About Downsizing: Restaurant Napkins Are Getting Smaller

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REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

It’s a small world after all, at least, apparently, in the world of napkins.

In what was once considered a benchmark for a restaurant’s poshness level—yes, all restaurants should have some poshness meter, similar to a Zagat rating—the oversized napkin is a thing of the past. And different-sized napkins for lunch and dinner? Too much work anymore.

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As William L. Hamilton discovered in his Wall Street Journal column, our world is that of the shrinking napkin. Whereas the 30-inch square was once standard fare, now you can expect no more than 22 inches square at a restaurant and maybe a touch smaller for your home dining pleasure. Of course, with the ever-dwindling dinner napkin comes the growing lunch napkin in a one-size-fits-all type of situation. How convenient. See, our society is going sustainable.

Cathy Kaufman, a food historian, credits the change to the fact we don’t dress all that nice anymore. Okay, so she really says we don’t dress “elaborately” for dinner, diminishing the need to cover our expensive clothes. Others say it really is the mere ease of having one set of restaurant napkins for lunch and dinner or even the trend toward smaller tables and more intimate place settings calls for a proportionate napkin size.

And can’t you now hear the whip of tape measures everywhere, as we all have a sudden curiosity over the size of our napkins at home or favorite restaurant? And, hey, at least with the amount of food we all still eat, no matter the size of our napkins, our movie theater seats—among others—keep getting bigger.

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