Communal tables are all the rage in Munich and Dusseldorf, particularly in the beer halls, with or without food. Even the beer tents in Belfast had them last Christmas. The banter was tremendous. But do we sociable Irish like them, or do we hate them? And if we are faced with an eatery of this type, what should the etiquette be? Ignore the people next to you, or let your guard down and have a laugh (or a cry)?
I’m the sort of person who feels less awkward by being sociable, so I’ll rarely ignore a stranger when I sit next to them. The same applies on long bus, train or plane journeys as it would in a restaurant with communal tables. Make eye contact, say hello, crack a friendly grin and get on with it. It’s only polite, I think. Most of the time, the person will reply with a friendly hello, then you may or may not breath another word to each other. The odd time they will go all shy and look the other direction. That’s totally cool with me, as I assure myself that I’m not the one who’s socially inept.
The Asian restaurant chain Wagamama is kitted out with communal tables. I like it. There’s a nice atmosphere and it’s even more enjoyable with a group of four people or more. In saying that, if I’m looking for some “us” time, my fiancee (it still gives me the shakes) and I will look for somewhere with the regular set-up. If it really isn’t your scene, just don’t go there, but I think the fact that Wagamama has been such a success in Ireland shows that most of us are very happy to be sat at communal tables most of the time. The fact that the chain has been so successful in transferring its model internationally might show we have something in common with the rest of the world, and as a whole we are a friendly people.
Zagat recently counted the communal table among the 10 most annoying restaurant trends. Other things that made the top 10 list were bread baskets you have to pay for, ice-less table water and mustachioed bartenders. Any restaurateurs want to throw in their tuppence worth? Is Ireland ready for widespread table sharing? Personally, as long as they don’t go for my food or wine (I growl and bite when feeding, especially over chocolate desserts), I love the idea. For further reading, see The Etiquette of Communal Tables and The 10 Most Annoying Restaurant Trends.
Credit and thanks to @enormous for tweeting the articles in the first place!