John Maeda recently had a remarkable experience in a restaurant in Minneapolis. Here’s a photo of what happened, followed by this commentary:
When sitting down at a restaurant in Minneapolis, I noticed the waiter
replaced my white napkin with a black one. Apparently the tradition
here is that if you are wearing black trousers or a dark skirt, the
reasoning is that a white linen napkin might leave visible lint on your
clothing so they immediately swap it for a black one. Such careful
attention to detail surely develops trust.
A black napkin for black-robed laps feels just right, and is a world away from a crummy-looking nacelle on a passenger jet. It makes an empathic (and emphatic) statement; we care about the way you’ll look when you leave our restaurant. And by making that statement, we say everything that needs to be said about the level of care poured in to the meal itself.
Good experiences — the drivers of good brands — are fractal, and everything matters.
Noticing what people are wearing and adjusting the table is good evidence of thoughtful service. I like their observation but I wander about their response…a black napkin on black pants (or white/white) could make it slightly more difficult to see whether the napkin is covering what it should be, so the tradeoff may be less lint but more pasta sauce. Perhaps a contrast (black napkin for white pants) and the use of a lint remover would go further. I wonder what other customers have experienced?