Can your table tops dare to go bare—or will you need table cloths or placemats? Or do you want to present both ways?
Plan for how you will present your meals when you decide on table tops. Will you need a wipe-clean surface that can withstand disinfectant cleaners, wet glasses, spilled coffee, hot or cold dishes, and flatware banged down in a hurry? Or are you aiming to have table pads and fine linens? Maybe you need the in-between style so popular these days—European-style paper-covered tables that change out with each new party. Your menu may be more casual at daytime and more elegant for dinners and late-night desserts.
Whatever your plan, choose low-maintenance, versatile surfaces that can serve-double duty—presentable bare. Flexibility is always a good idea in the restaurant biz. And if you lease out your place for private parties, you should be prepared for special design needs as well.