Have we as a society become complacent in our dining habits? Dining out with friends and family used to be a treat, something we put in our diaries, planned and looked forward to. Not having to put the oven on or crank up the gas hob has changed the way we viewed the day, not having to set the table, clear the table and wash the dishes created a glow in every home and of course sampling taste delights from across the world is something shared around office water coolers all over the country on most mornings.
A large part of the dining out experience is leaving home and enjoying a new environment full of atmosphere that will create a new and unique sensory experience for our taste buds. The excitement and energy of a busy restaurant and the associated buzz it creates for those who have decided to eat or dine in it differs from establishment to establishment. The western outback feel of a steak house accompanied by the strong BBQ aromas rising from the open grill or the oriental charm of Thai or Chinese with staff in traditional dress and the challenge of chopsticks has always added to the factors taken into consideration when considering where to eat. Is it the medium rare fillet or the chicken chow mein, do we opt for flame grilled chicken over chicken green curry? Going out offered a variety of choices and convenience.
Have the events of the last year changed our behavior? Is it too easy to use an app to bring our favorite cuisine, right to our front door? In some instances, not only is food delivered but the atmosphere too. One cannot turn on the television without having well known rapper Snoop Dog extol the benefits of eating at home. At the same time digital taxi firms have switched to now offering food delivery too, along with text updates on how the food is progressing in the kitchen, an SMS to notify you where the driver is, and finally a further text message letting you know the meal is on your doorstep. Who would have thought this convenience, which to be fair has been available for over twenty years, would now impact our dining choices? Have we enjoyed eating at home with Netflix a little too much?
The hospitality sector has suffered immeasurably and continues to suffer, everyone from government ministers to charitable foundations have tried to come up with creative ways to keep restaurants, takeaways, coffee shops and pubs in business and yet now that we can once again return to our favorite dining establishments why is it that after one visit we return to the convenience of eating at home, swapping Prime grill for Amazon Prime. In essence the fact we have been unable to eat in restaurants for over a year, will not make us eat in restaurants more frequently now that we can, we are creatures of habit and returning to a lifestyle of convenience was always on the cards if not now with a little more of a conscience and dining dilemma.
Of course, being able to return to indoor dining also comes with caveats nowadays that complicate and confuse our choices. Limitations on numbers, inhibited opening and closing times, Covid compliance and protocols all contribute to the consideration process. It's not as simple as getting in the car and heading to our local or booking a table on Open table or online via a restaurant website. Who to eat with so as to comply with the rule of 6 , will I need to wear a mask, and if I check in might I be tracked and traced leading to further isolation and restriction.
At least now we do have real dining choices and whether it's uber eats or an uber to the pub there is choice and dilemma as to what route to take. Supporting local businesses, remaining true to our local communities and helping the country get back on its feet should make this dilemma an easy one to deal with. The choice should really be steak or Thai, Italian or Chinese but not whether to dine out or to dine at home.