The plan to make Vancouver a friendlier city includes a recommendation to encourage the use of more communal or conversation tables in public spaces and restaurants.
The suggestion is one of 19 included in a final report by the Engaged City Task Force that aims to improve Vancouverites' sense of belonging and engagement.
The task force was set up in 2012, following a Vancouver Foundation survey that showed one-third of Metro Vancouver residents have a hard time making friends in this city.
"The conversation tables idea really just builds on what's already happening in a lot of restaurants — this idea of a long table, where you sit next to strangers and you share a meal. And the idea being that we've got to change culture," said task force spokesperson Lyndsay Poaps.
"We suggest that city staff look at sort of collaborations with [Business Improvement Associations] and other organizations that have direct connections with restaurants, and try and foster interest in it that way."
Keep your elbows to yourself
Despite the fact that several popular Vancouver restaurants already use long tables, including the Alibi Room and the Salty Tongue, the suggestion to use more is being greeted with mixed reaction.
Ian Tostenson of the B.C. Restaurant Association says it's a nice idea but doubts it will change much.
"What the mayor needs to realize — and he's a business guy — is that that's a supply and demand issue. And so, if there was a demand for those types of seating configurations in a restaurant then that will happen," he said.
"But, quite honestly, I think most people like to go to a restaurant with the people they know and talk to the people they know."
Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer insists the city will be supporting, but not forcing, restaurants to use communal tables.
"That's something that we're looking for community leadership on. It's not a recommendation that city council would debate because it's not suggesting that the city would be in a leadership role on it," she said.
The city is encouraging Vancouverites to read the Engaged City Task Force report, which can be found on its website, before the recommendations go before council this spring.