For solo travelers, eating out alone may be second nature, but there is often something (additionally) uncomfortable about eating out alone when not on vacation. It can make even the most brazen of Go Girls reserved and insecure. As someone who often eats out solo as a personal challenge, I’ve come to look for unusual factors when rating my dining experiences, such as staff vocabulary, seating layout, and the size of the windows.
The truth is that while many restaurants may be slowly incorporating seating and menu items specifically for single guests, other joints seem to absentmindedly belittle or avoid the presence of the solo diner altogether.
Here are 3 simple ways restaurants can better serve single diners.
1. Offer more bar seating
The easiest way for a single guest to not accidentally appear stood up is to sit at the bar. But not every place with an attractive menu also has a suitable bar area, whether for drinks or food orders. (Some cities do this much better than others, by the way. New Orleans and San Francisco are my top favorites in this way. Apparently Amsterdam is also doing single seating well.) Restaurant owners: If you don’t have a bar area, make one by adding a long high-top table against a street-facing window.
2. Present live music
Having live music makes any restaurant an automatic solo diner haven for evening eating. Anyone can listen to music alone without looking weird! It also easily solves the “I don’t know where to stare” problem that so heavily plagues solo dining. Of course, live music is a treat for parties of any amount. (Come to think of it, New Orleans tops this category as well, in my mind.)
A good view provides something to look at while dining. Image by Flickr user Jim Pennucci.
3. Respect the guests!
The other two tips for restaurants may be more involved, but the easiest alteration is often the most overlooked: the way restaurant staff talk to solo diners. Hosts may not be aware of their language, but when someone tells you he/she is a party of one, the proper response is not, “Just one?” It is such an automatic response that I find it exceptional when a host does not reply this way. It may seem like a minor tweak, but the implications between “One [with a nod]” and “Just one?” are insulting. I may not be bothered by your careless slip, but that doesn’t mean I don’t judge your professionalism just a tad. Would you say “Just two?” to a party of two? Perhaps. But no one is sensitive about eating in a pair. If you don’t want to accidentally insult or humiliate your guest, the easy response is “Right this way.”
If a person enjoys eating at your restaurant alone, they may be more likely to become a regular. That self-driven customer will be an appreciative customer, likely to bring friends back, more aware of your food, atmosphere, and staff. Impress them.