One of the few things I dislike about being single is eating out alone. I have no issues with going to the cinema or theatre by myself, or visiting art galleries or museums, but for some reason walking into a restaurant by myself and asking for a table for one really freaks me out!
Talking to single friends about this, it seems that it’s not just me. It’s an issue for a great many people. One person even confided that during a 5 night stay at a hotel for a conference, the hotel restaurant staff hid her behind pillars, balustrades and curtains every night. She eventually confronted them. Unbelievably, they said that they had presumed that she’d rather not be seen eating alone!
With more and more people each year choosing to live by themselves, it seems that it’s not just the single diners who have something to learn. Perhaps the waiting staff of the restaurants also needs to be a bit more in tune with new ways of living too!
While we are sipping our pre-dinner cocktails and perusing the menus waiting for this change in the behaviours of waiting staff in cafes and restaurants to take place, here are some tips to help you to make eating alone an enjoyable experience.
Don’t go straight for the full Michelin experience in your first shot at eating alone. Some of those places can be intimidating enough when you’re with someone! Start with a single course in a small, local restaurant and work your way up from there. In addition, check out cafes and canteen type restaurants which often offer counter service, or buffet style eating so you can get food without having to wait.
Browse a book shop or newsagents before you go to eat and treat yourself to some quality reading material. Taking a magazine, newspaper or book with you can help to alleviate the stress of eating alone. It also gives you something to hide behind when spying on your fellow diners! Just be aware that reading does put up a barrier between you and the world around you, so it’s not the best option if you feel that you want to interact.
This will give you something to do while you are waiting for your food. If you are a budding novelist or blogger, just think of all the choice ‘people watching’ notes you can make whilst waiting for your main course to turn up. In addition, if the waiters see you making notes, they’ll probably think you’re writing a review for a local paper and give you extra food and attention!
Eat early or late or make a reservation!
- Start small.
- Take a distraction.
- Make notes.
- Eat early or late or make a reservation! Many places deem it uneconomical to give away a table for two at prime time to a lone diner. To save you from the ignominy of being turned away, or offered a table by the kitchen entrance or toilets, go to eat early or late in the restaurant’s opening hours. The restaurant will be more likely to make space for you at these times. Also the staff will have a little more time for engaging in chat between courses (if that’s what you want). A pleasant way to meet new people and get some insider information on what’s good to eat. If for some reason you can’t eat early or late, ring ahead and make a reservation so that they are aware and are expecting a lone diner.
- Take a different view. Think of it as taking yourself out to dinner. You deserve it! All too often in this day and age we are with others and don’t have quality time to ourselves. Use the time to consider some of the thorny issues you may be facing in your life. Talk them over with yourself in your head, make notes and use the time to come up with creative solutions – ask what would X do in my position? Ask yourself the questions you wouldn’t normally ask; answer them and then put the answers into practice.
- Relax. When you are out dining with friends, how often do you notice a lone diner in a restaurant? Not many, I’ll bet! And even if you do notice them, it’s probably not with any negativity. So why would you be any more obvious when you eat alone? It’s absolutely no one else’s business but your’s why you are eating alone. And by the same token, other people’s thoughts on why you are eating alone are none of your business. The chances are you are never going to see these people again; they will have no lasting influence on your life. So why are you giving them permission to influence how, where and when you have your meals? Now we have that out of the way – what are you worried about? Relax and enjoy your meal. Savour each mouthful. Chew well. Put down your fork between times. Breathe in the aromas and the atmosphere and enjoy!