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Good restaurant seating could improve mental health and reduce anxiety

17 February 2016 by

Restaurants could play a role in reducing social anxiety if they seat guests sensitively, especially those who request tables for one, or tables in specific areas.

That's according to award-winning comedian Sofie Hagen, who spoke to the BBC

This is in stark contrast to the arguably more usual requests from diners to have a table away from a wall or not at the back of the room.

Hagen's condition can leave her feeling anxious and panicked in loud or very public situations, causing her to hyperventilate, sweat, or dig her nails into her hands. She also said that some mistake her condition for being over demanding, weird, arrogant, anti-social or lazy.

According to charity Anxiety UK, the condition can also cause nausea, a dry mouth, tremors, a racing heartbeat, and pins and needles.

This is not the first time restaurant seating has been in the spotlight of late: in January news broke of a new Channel 4 TV show, Tricks of the Restaurant Trade, controversially claiming that more attractive people were given better tables, and less traditionally attractive ones seated by the toilets or the back of the room.

Similarly, it is becoming more and more common for diners to visit restaurants alone, with a July 2015 report from booking site OpenTable suggesting that its reservations for parties of one had doubled in the previous two years, and 87% of the public saying they would have no problem dining out alone.

Mental health charity Mind advised that staff don't have to be an expert in anxiety to help; they can simply empathise by imagining how they feel when they are nervous themselves, and asking what they can do to help.

Commenting on her issue, Hagen said that she often requested tables in corners or the back of the room, but that restaurants rarely comply, recalling a time when she was seated alone in a table closely surrounded by full tables of two or four.

She wrote: "'It's a table for one,' [the waiter] said, 'but it's not in a corner.' He laughed a bit and placed the menu on it. 'Enjoy and let me know if you need anything.' 'A table in a corner is what I need,' I almost shouted. And maybe I would have, had I not been at a high level of social angst."

She added: "I remember that day as the day I learned to insist on corner tables. Those you ask will all look at you like you are weird."

Hagen, whose work as a stand-up comic and comedian regularly refers to her mental health, was the 2015 winner of the Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer.

Restaurants give attractive diners better tables, TV show claims >>

Open Minds - how good is hospitality's mental health? >>Caterer and Hotelkeeper mental health campaign shortlisted for Mind Media Award >>

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