Monday, January 16, 2012

Communal Dining

As I mentioned previously, my next major project at school is to design a restaurant using a portion of the historic Salt Building

We start from scratch. All we are given is the building, a square footage, and some parameters such as: it has to include a bar/lounge, a casual dining area and a separate fine dining area. This provides us the opportunity to design both a casual and a fine dining experience.

My concept for the restaurant which will be a Seafood + Chop establishment, revolves around the idea of  "communal dining".

Communal dining for me, is not just about sharing food. In fact, I'm not even sure if I'll have a family style menu or not. Communal dining is about sharing the experience of dining. It's about socializing, meeting people and having a serendipitous moment where strangers are encouraged and even expected to converse with each other. 

I was inspired by two things. 

1) I'm the biggest wallflower you'll ever meet. I've even eaten at a large dining table where 3 parties were sharing the same space...yet we all kept to our own clique. It wasn't a place known for communal dining. They just happened to have larger tables rather than a collection of small tables (it's a good space saver). 

When the hostess brought us to the table, she seemed apologetic that we had to take the large table and left a few empty seats between us (yellow squares) and the other party (green squares).

Life: Designed

This not communal dining.

Dining is a social event but you often just socialize with the people you are with. In a compact restaurant you could be sitting inches away from the next party but you do your best to look forward and not make eye contact with the "strangers". 

Then we lament, "Where, oh where do you meet people?" 

The food at the restaurant I went to was great but I left feeling like I had missed out on something. 

Life: Designed

THIS is communal dining. There is no line between one party and the next. 3 separate parties are now 1 large party! And as you can see, now there's room for 6 more guests! 

I understand this type of experience isn't for everyone. Nor is it for everyday dining. Sometimes you'll want to have an intimate dinner. Sometimes you'll want to just socialize with your friends. That's completely okay. 

My restaurant project is merely offering an alternative. It's for that traveling businesswoman who's visiting Vancouver for a few days and doesn't want to dine alone. It's for those friends who are bored and want to meet new people. It's for that shy young man who wants to break out of his shell and try something new.

2) This past summer a classmate of mine attended an alfresco event. Alfresco refers to dining outside. I think this is such a fabulous idea!  

From their website:

In a flash mob fashion, diners meet, set up, share food, and dismantle. The location is kept secret till the evening prior.

We believe good food should not only be shared, but shared in spontaneous "outdoor dining rooms." We hope to inspire all forms of picnicking by organizing pop-up family suppers in unexpected public spaces, connecting community with cuisine.

The event is potluck style where attendees are to bring a small dish to share with a couple of other people. 

What a wonderful idea!

We have a small collection of communal dining restaurants in Vancouver. I have yet to go to one but I should for research purposes!

The Irish Heather
The Irish Heather in Gastown is the most appealing to me. They having something called the "Long Table Series" where you get a meal and great company for just $18!

It's definitely worth a try! 

What are your thoughts on communal dining?
Have you ever participated in one?
WOULD you ever participate in one?


  1. Hey great job Nancy! Woo! You know, today I had lunch at Urban Sushi in Downtown and they have a couple of long tables.. It was rush hour when I came in so there was a lot of people. I had to sit in one of the long tables, which I didn't really like lol. A few people had to sit beside me but as soon as the table on the corner freed up I immediately moved myself there lol. I wishrd to have only have one neighbour to sit beside me and not be surrounded by strangers. I also immediately pulled out my phone to occupy myself w/. Lol.

    I like the idea though! Don't get me wrong I could be chatty when I want to. I've heard of the Irish Heather and I've been wanting to try it for the longest time. Want to make a case study? We could go together w/ a few other people if you like? Lol.

    Great blog btw! So excited for you :) I want to start one too.. But um my writing style is not very good, I think I told you that already. lol

  2. Thanks May! haha. Yes, it's definitely a different experience! Have you been to Commune Cafe? I'll be posting on that experience this week!

    and... YES! to Irish Heather!

    Just start it! My writing style needs MUCH improvement but I figure the more I write, the more I'll improve! (right?)
    You have such good goodies under your belt.. share them with the world!

    PS. Did you see the post with the cake? It's the first post of January. Once you get your website up, I'll update the post and put a link to it!