What Are C-Folds In A Restaurant, As Seen In The Bear?

This article contains spoilers for FX's "The Bear" Season 3.

All professional kitchens, from humble neighborhood diners to Michelin-starred restaurants, have at least one thing in common — cleanliness is paramount. Soaps, degreasers, and sanitizers are all somewhere behind the scenes accompanied by absorbent materials to wash away the grime. While using a cloth towel is the most efficient way to make countertops sparkle, a disposable C-fold works best for drying your hands.

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Unlike quilted Bounty-style paper towels, good for keeping salad greens fresh, C-folds are paper towels that have been folded in half and have their edges pinched underneath, so they fit perfectly into dispensers. Season 3, Episode 7 of "The Bear" displays a harrowing scene where Carmy's pregnant sister Natalie drops by Restaurant Depot to pick up C-folds before going into labor in the parking lot, showing that even fancier establishments utilize these disposable towels to various ends. When Neil mentions to Natalie that the restaurant needs C-folds, he may be recalling a shortage in the restrooms in the front of the house, as that's his domain in Season 3. Sydney also mentions a need for C-folds, but her observation is likely in reference to the kitchen requiring more supplies.

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How C-folds are used

When you visit a fine dining restaurant one of the first things you'll notice as you are escorted to your table is a meticulously positioned setting of polished utensils, crystal clear goblets, and cloth napkins. A diner can get away with giving customers a silverware roll housed in a paper wipe, but in a more lavish establishment, cloth napkins are a must. However, maintaining clean linen can be expensive as laundry services aren't always cheap, especially when those elegant napkins need to be thoroughly cleaned so they look brand new every time they are laid out fastidiously on a table. Because restaurants typically operate with small profit margins, they don't often use their best linen to take care of simple jobs that have to be repeated many times throughout a shift.

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Chefs make recurring trips to a hand-washing sink during the workday to ensure every bit of food they touch is safe for consumption. Cloth materials can transfer bacteria if used more than once, but every cook using a fresh towel to dry their hands throughout the day could astronomically increase the outfit's laundry bill. To save money, restaurants opt for C-folds in the back of the house so cooks can dry their hands efficiently without it costing more than necessary. They are also placed in restrooms for customers for similar reasons, though it could be more cost-effective to use other single-use paper towels that are better at reducing waste.

V-folds and Z-folds are more economical for restaurants

A C-fold stack serves its purpose as an economical and sanitary way to dry the hands of workers and patrons alike, but they aren't the only single-use paper towels available to restaurateurs. V-folds are pleated in half and interlocked with one another, causing them to open up when dispensed. This encourages people to use the whole product to dry, differing from a C-fold that usually comes out still folded up and often doesn't get used to its full potential before it gets tossed into the wastebasket.

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There are also Z-folds — paper towels folded like an accordion in three layers. These variations intertwine the same way V-folds do and open up when they're dispensed. They are generally more absorbent than C-folds, meaning less product is required to complete the same task. Z-folds can be a cheaper option for a restaurant's bottom line, but this is an issue Carmy seems to have little interest in concerning himself with, despite the constant berating he receives from the establishment's main investor, Uncle Jimmy. While making sure the restaurant has the best ingredients like expensive Wagyu beef and pricey Hamachi, the savings to be had stocking the kitchen with cost-efficient paper towels is probably not crossing Carmy's mind anytime soon.

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