The ups and downs of nude restaurants

Chances are, if you follow news about naturism at all, you’ve seen stories about the closing of the O’Naturel naturist restaurant in Paris. The reports aren’t greatly exaggerated, unfortunately.

Reports of restaurant failures in year one are apparently exaggerated, however – most likely not close to 90%, as sometimes claimed. But there’s more agreement that over half fail within the first five years. Perhaps the longevity of a new restaurant depends a lot on the size of initial losses a restaurateur is willing to accept. But its pretty clear that starting a new restaurant in a very risky venture.

Studies show that the largest reason for failure is lack of capital (hence inability to sustain initial losses). And the second largest reason is poor choice of location.

The competition among restaurants in Paris is probably fierce. That’s where almost every restauranteur in France must dream of locating. I’ve never been to Paris, so I have no idea whether O’Naturel was poorly situated in the city. On top of that, the French are notorious for being perfectionists about food. An inability to employ (or afford) the best chefs must entail a poor prognosis.

Anyone who wants to open a clothing optional restaurant (anywhere, not just in France) would be well advised to locate it somewhere that has a lower than average abundance of eating places. And, additionally, somewhere close to where naturists are likely to gravitate – not far from the fabled naturist-friendly beaches on the Atlantic coast, for example. But not so close that the market is already saturated.

Most of the news reports shed crocodile tears for the O’Naturel, and they don’t look deeply into the various possible reasons for the restaurant’s failure – aside from the idea the there’s simply no market for a naturist restaurant. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that the situation received so much press coverage if it’s truly only a matter of marginal concern for most people.

Sadly, about the only “cause” that’s considered to be responsible for the restaurant’s demise is the lack of patronage. The analysis above shows there could be a variety of additional contributing factors.

A factor that seems important to me is that the two owners (who are twin brothers) are not naturists (according to this). That doesn’t mean they didn’t really intend to treat naturists respectfully. But one wonders whether they missed some details. Was the restaurant warm enough? Were the owners and staff sufficiently sensitive to naturist values? Was enough effort made to discourage voyeurs or other customers who weren’t sensitive to naturist values?

O’Naturel: The First Naked Restaurant in Paris (10/15/18)

The Naked Wanderers, Nick and Lins, paid a visit to the restaurant last October. Their report is very positive, and concludes:

O’Naturel provided us with an experience of high class dining in a naturist atmosphere and a very interesting thing to see was that just like in many other naturist settings people who had never met before just started talking to each other. This is something you’re very unlikely to encounter in any textile restaurant. The professionalism of the hosts in combination with the friendliness of the other guests created a genuine naturist atmosphere which was only slightly disturbed when one of the kitchen staff peaked one time too much into the dining room.

The only quibble they have is hardly likely to have been responsible for the restaurant’s demise.

The O’Naturel isn’t scheduled to close until February 15, so it will still be in operation on Valentines’s day. In case you are able to check it out before the end, their website is here.

Their Facebook page is here. (The picture there shows the very classy interior quite well.)

Some other links:

The large amount of news coverage on both the opening and closing of the restaurant is surprising. It suggests that this is a concept many people are interested in – seriously or just for laughs. In case you’re annoyed by Schadenfreude or grade-school-quality puns, however, you might not care for many of the reports.

Grassroots naturism I

People who’ve already had positive experiences with social nudity – even something as simple as visiting a clothing optional beach or being naked with others in a backyard swimming pool – may start to think about how they might find other opportunities for it. The chances are they haven’t seen the term “naturist” and may confuse it with “naturalist”. But they’re certainly familiar with the term “nudist”, though without a clear idea of what that actually is. (I’ll use just the term “naturist” here, as there’s little consensus on the distinction.)

In this post I want to describe a process that could lead to many more people understanding what “naturism” is – and perhaps even become personally involved in it. I’ll use the term “grassroots naturism” to refer to this idea. The term certainly isn’t my invention. It has been used by The Naturist Society (TNS), though not frequently, and I’ll discuss that in another post.

The idea of “grassroots” organizing in general – not just as applied to naturism – deinitely isn’t a recent one. It goes back centuries, when certain individuals in a community felt a need to recruit others who shared beliefs that they felt deserved to be communicated more widely in their community in order to gain increased respect from the community, and usually to advocate for social changes.

More recent examples include things like labor unions, the women’s suffrage movement, tolerance for nontraditional lifestyles, and so on. At times in the past century nascent efforts of this kind have arisen to advocate in favor of naturism and to provide opportunities for individuals who enjoy social nudity to organize naturist activities.

The majority of grassroots organizing has had the objective of influencing social or political policies. On many occasions, naturists have also gone this route – for instance in order to promote clothing optional use of a beach. As a byproduct of such activity, the people who become involved in it become acquainted with each other and recognize their activity as an opportunity for socializing together to enjoy the interests they have in common.

It’s quite possible that this byproduct may become the primary objective of the organization. For instance, people interested in amateur sports like softball or soccer may organize to persuade their community to develop a park area that can be used for their sport (as well as different activities of interest to others in the community). Once that objective is achieved, the focus of the organization may become primarily to engage together in their particular sport.

The parallel of this example with naturism should be apparent. While it may be unrealistic in most communities to have public areas designated for clothing optional use, there is a wide range of activities that naturists can enjoy on private property and in individuals’ homes. So the primary purpose of organizing need not be changing opinions in the general community in order to change specific policies. Instead, the purpose may simply be to make contacts with others in the community who may be interested in non-sexual social nudity in order to plan and arrange for suitable activities. Doing that will usually require enlightening open-minded people of the pleasures of social nudity, but the ultimate purpose is to make naturist activities more readily available to anyone who might enjoy them.

There are plenty of naturist activities that may be facilitated. For example:

  • All kinds of parties at individual homes: dinner parties, costume parties, body painting parties, birthday parties, etc.
  • Group hiking and camping trips (in suitable places)
  • Use of swimming pools or other recreational facilities owned by group members
  • Group visits to established naturist clubs and resorts or clothing optional beaches
  • Joint activities with similar naturist groups in nearby communities
  • Group lunches and dinners at local restaurants willing to provide them (in private spaces)
  • Making arrangements (if possible) for clothing optional events at nearby places, such as museums, art galleries, theaters, tourist attractions, etc.
  • Work days helping other group members with gardening work on their property

And anything else group members can think of for enjoying non-sexual social nudity.

So how would this actually work? The first step would be for a small group of perhaps just two or three naturists who know each other and live near each other to prioritize finding open-minded people among their friends and relatives, and make a personal effort to educate them about social nudity and invite them to try it. The effort could conceivably even start with a single person (or family). But there’s no “group” until additional people get involved.

This doesn’t mean the initial people need to tell everyone they know that they’re naturists. Instead, it means educating only other people who are most likely to be receptive to the idea of naturism. Members of the immediate families should, of course, probably be at least tolerant of naturism – that’s just fair to them. Ideally, the initial people should have overcome feelings of shame or embarrassment on account of their interest in social nudity, because at some point it might be difficult to avoid others learning about it.

Members of the initial group should be prepared to do more than just talk to other people about naturism. When they find others who seem to have some interest in the idea, they should invite the others into their homes to demonstrate the naturist lifestyle. In case others have been more than casual acquaintances, there shouldn’t be any hesitation to be naked when they visit. It’s important to set a good example and demonstrate there’s no need to feel any shame or embarrassment about nudity. But others shouldn’t be pressured to become naturists themselves. Let them get used to the idea at their own pace – if at all.

Eventually, the initial group should host gatherings for others, in which some who choose to can be naked in a “safe” environment. The next step is to encourage others who become involved to start spreading the word themselves. The objective is to have regular naturist get-togethers in the local area, at the homes of whoever wants to help. And also, begin having activities, such as group trips to naturist resorts or camping places, and other ideas suggested above.

This process should be a “viral” thing, but one that spreads via personal contacts instead of using the Internet. It will require lots of personal effort by people who want naturism to succeed. Anyone who wants to become more involved in naturism should ask themselves: Why should I remain limited to non-naturist social activities, when I could be spending some of that time in naturist activities I organize myself?

The solution is to take the initiative to identify other people one already knows and who are potentially open-minded enough to become interested in naturism. Don’t expect others to make the effort for you. Be low-key about it, but try to recommend naturism to others. Personal recommendations between friends are known to be a far, far better way than mass advertising to promote many kinds of products and ideas.

In a later post I’ll try to add more details on how this kind of “grassroots naturism” could work.