The Atlantic

The Death of the American Restaurant

The dining experience is becoming less sociable and more atomized, even as old conceptions of public life wear away.
Source: Rafa Elias / Getty

Ever since the first ones opened in 18th-century Paris, restaurants have been paradoxical spaces. Unlike private clubs, restaurants do not require membership; they thrive when they attract a growing and varied set of customers; published reviews are crucial to their success. In these and other respects, restaurants are public institutions. Yet few consider restaurants part of the “public sphere,” a concept that emerged around the same, politically tumultuous time.

That in-between status may now be changing. The restaurant experience is becoming less sociable, more atomized, even as old conceptions of public life wear away.

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