No Jackets Required: How Fine Dining Is Changing

Fine dining brings together great cuisine, hand-selected wines, and white-glove service for a personalized experience and a fun night out. It also requires a certain dress code that is steeped in tradition. Men typically wear sports jackets; women may wear a dress, a skirt, or a slacks-and-blouse ensemble. In some places, formal jackets and ties are required.

But has COVID changed all of this? Perhaps. Many restaurants, including fine-dining establishments, pivoted to provide outdoor dining and other options to meet social-distancing, capacity mandates, and other pandemic-related requirements, and they may continue to loosen up their rules and forge ahead on the path to innovation brought on by necessity.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Manhattan’s prestigious Le Bernardin recently announced that it’s allowing “male patrons to order its tasting menu or a bottle of Burgundy without wearing a sport coat.” After a seven-month hiatus, when the restaurant reopened this past March, it did away with its “jacket-required” dress code. Loaning a jacket to a patron who neglected to wear one was no longer deemed a sanitary, workable policy to maintain. New Orleans’ fine-dining restaurant Galatoire’s also did away with its jacket-required dress code and stopped giving out loaners.

Other fine-dining restaurants are taking a different approach, requiring jackets inside but ditching this requirement for guests dining outside. Shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, and athletic shoes are still a no-no.

Ironically, as restaurants are loosening up on their dress codes, many diners are opting to dress to the nines. For many individuals, after a year of quarantines, lockdowns, and other restrictions, ditching the sweatpants and leggings for clothes that have been collecting dust in the closet is a welcome change.

Beyond What You Wear

Fine-dining restaurants have also made other changes post-pandemic, including offering limited menus and going more basic with their foods. As one chef puts it in an article in Forbes, “Luxury doesn’t have to mean caviar. It’s about cooking brilliantly and making you feel good.”

Some have done away with à la carte menus while others have pared down their tasting menus.

Additionally, during the pandemic, some fine-dining establishments began offering contactless takeout, third-party delivery, in-house delivery, cocktails to go, meal kits, cocktail kits, and off-premises retail sales to keep their doors open and staff working. These omnichannel options may stick around moving forward.

Touchless is a big thing, too. Sinks, soap dispensers, and doors are being reimagined to incorporate touchless operation. The use of QR codes to read a menu and pay is moving into fine dining as well.

Fine dining has adapted as has the entire restaurant industry with the goal always to provide great food!

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