Do you need space in restaurants in Restaurant Life Posted March 27, 2002 I couldn't agree more, especially in restaurants which allow smoking. My wife and I feel so strongly about it that, whenever the schedule permits, we always book in the evening for opening time. (That's why most of the interior shots on my website are of empty spaces.)The problem is, rent per square meter in desirable locations has gone through the roof, and so restaurateurs cram as many people as possible into the space. Kitchens are getting smaller too, with recipes being adapted to those which require a minimum of preparation and therefore a minimum of staff. How many restaurants, except those in enormous hotels, can afford staffing levels like Chez Panisse, which has about 120 on the payroll?! In other words, in our new minimalist world we are compressed in space, time (multiple servings per night) and preparation. In Paris I sometimes go deliberately to unspectacular but competant old bistros that no one is making a fuss about, just to enjoy the relaxation and the ability to stretch without inadvertently assaulting a stranger.