More and more I’ve been seeing restaurants in San Francisco pop up the “communal sitting” trend. Communal sitting is where there’s a big table that can hold about 6-8+ people and you may sit with strangers. You may possibly share your actual meal but that depends on the restaurant style. The restaurants we’ve been going to have communal seating but you order your own food. You just get seated next to people so that the table is filled up for space purposes. You are sharing your space with strangers. Space sharing causes a communal-style feel and it can connect us to the idea of eating with your “big Italian family.”
The idea of eating really close to strangers wasn’t too bad. Here are some positives about the communal dining experience.
- Communal dining brought awareness of my social cues because I wanted to be courteous to my new neighbors.
- I was conscious of how loud I was talking and kept my voice more intimate.
- We were able to see what other people were ordering and ask their opinions on their dishes. Personal opinions can be great sometimes from strangers!
- One of our new neighbors even gave us a bite of their dish, so we got a taste! (I’ve always wanted to go over to a table and ask to try an amazing looking dish, but I’ve never done it….the person actually offered me a taste, so I felt like I was able to cross this off of my “bucket” list of eating off a strangers plate! So cool!)
- Communal sitting reminds me of eating with my huge Croatian family where there are over 15 of us eating, drinking, and talking. Since I’m not always with my family (just my husband), it brought back that feeling of being together.
Communal seating can have downfalls such as sitting next to obnoxious people or wanting to talk about something personal/private with your partner and not being able to since you’re sitting so close to strangers. However, the overall feel isn’t too bad.
The main take-away from the communal seating: Remember that Food is all about Family & Fiesta. When we eat together, we have time to talk, bond, and share memories. As much as possible, take time to eat with others. I do always enjoy eating meals with my family.
Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN