The Tyranny of Chairs

Photo by Don Harder via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

To eat in public while fat is to invite stares, judgement, and commentary — and that’s assuming you can be comfortably seated at your restaurant of choice. For larger people, picking a place to eat doesn’t just involve looking online for menus or reviews, but for pictures of the chairs. In the New York Times, Kim Severson explores the pains (often physical) and challenges of trying to spend an evening in a place that was not built to accommodate you, in an industry where even the king of hospitality has a fat-person sized blind spot.

Danny Meyer, 60, whose restaurants include the Shake Shack chain and high-end destinations like Union Square Cafe, said customers’ size is a new consideration. “I don’t believe we have ever designed a restaurant saying, ‘Let’s make sure there are two tables that can accommodate someone who is larger,’” he said.

And when you don’t? This happens.

Traci Armstrong, 46, who runs Specialty Catering in Bluffton, S.C., travels to eat at the nation’s best restaurants as a hobby. She is 5-foot-4 and about 335 pounds. She always books two airline seats.

She flew to Washington, D.C., over a holiday weekend to eat at Pineapple and Pearls, which has two Michelin stars. When she got there, her reserved seat was at a stationary bar stool at the chef’s counter. She didn’t fit. The staff offered to seat her outside or accommodate her at a sister restaurant, but she declined and left.

“I was mortified,” she said.

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