Communal Eating Is About to Become Your New Favorite Way to Dine Out

People are eager for new dining experiences—and to meet new people along the way.

Back in 2020, the idea of communal anything became completely unrealistic—and the effects of that are still being felt. You don’t realize how delightful it is to make small talk with strangers at the grocery store or say hi to your favorite barista until you can’t do it anymore, and many people around the country are now longing to try new things and break down the walls the pandemic created between them and their community. 

Group of people dining together outdoors

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Whether that means visiting your local coffee shop to do some work instead of sitting on your couch all day (although there’s no shame in that), hanging with a group of friends at your local park, or getting together with loved ones for a shared meal, the idea of gathering is high on everyone’s priority list for 2023. Open Table, an online restaurant-reservation service, found that diners are craving connection based on data collected in 2022, creating more of a desire for experimental and communal experiences. For restaurateurs and foodies, that idea is certainly making its way back into the mainstream.

What Is Communal Eating?

If you’ve ever been to a Hibachi restaurant, you’ve experienced communal dining. Essentially, it’s all about sitting and dining with people you didn’t arrive with. For certain food experiences, fitting more people into an intimate setting can be beneficial for chef’s tastings, a dinner theater, or even just restaurants that have a small space and limited tables. 

But more and more restaurants are opening communal spaces with the goal of bringing people together. Restaurants like U Omask in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, seat strangers in an intimate space at a single rectangle or U-shaped table for a chef's tasting experience that lasts multiple courses. Another Brooklyn restaurant called Dinner Party in Fort Greene has a statement on their website that reads: “We might seat you with strangers, or squeeze you onto a bench alongside all the friends you brought.” 

You’re meant to leave the meal feeling like you just spent a special evening with close friends, even if you showed up alone. Whether you consider yourself an extrovert or not, after years of isolation and social distancing, it could be just what you need.

Can You Partake in Communal Dining at Home?

Another form of communal dining is family-style eating, or sharing large platters and boards that guests can pass around while sitting at a table together. Basically, communal eating can be whatever it means to you.

So if you love a potluck with friends or getting your entire family together to eat dinner and share the same dishes, you’re already ahead of the trend. The newness of it comes from doing it with strangers, which might be outside of your comfort zone—but if you can lean into the unfamiliarity and stay open to conversation, communal eating definitely has staying power.

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