You are single so that means you will at some point (if not always) be eating by yourself in a restaurant. “Oh no,” you say. “I’d never do that! How mortifying!”
You’d rather get carryout than sit down in a restaurant all by your lonesome. I do it all the time. I enjoy eating out and have no qualms about trying a new restaurant or grabbing something while out alone. It is no biggie to me anymore, although I must admit that I used to feel weird while traveling and having to dine out alone. I thought people would pity me or think I was weird, even though the truth was I was out of town and didn’t know anyone. Here are some tips by a few different authors to help you get over the ‘eating alone’ phobia.
1. Choose your restaurant. It’s probably best to avoid overly romantic places that cater to courting couples. (You know the ones.) I also prefer to avoid the kind of spot where an unruly child is apt to climb over from the neighboring booth into my personal space, but some people enjoy that kind of thing. Cuisine, location, price, and atmosphere are all factors in this obvious but necessary step.
2. Choose your time. In my neck of the woods, 7:00 on a Saturday night is prime time for dates. That may or may not bother you, but if you’re easing into the world of solo dining you might want to start with a less crowded hour, if only to reduce the time spent waiting for a table.
3. Choose your props. You may not actually need any … I like to eavesdrop on those around me, make up stories about the other diners, and so on, all of which can be done without paraphernalia. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a book, magazine, or phone along so you can look busy. (But PLEASE do not spend the entire evening talking on the phone. The rest of the restaurant does not want to hear your conversation. And they will. Oh yes, they will.)
4. Choose your seat. If you’re a people watcher or nature lover, ask for a table with a view. Ashley says people frequently do just that at Coast, which boasts a fountain view as well as some great spots for spying on others. Some restaurants have open kitchens with space where you can sit and watch the chefs at work. If you’d prefer to blend into the woodwork, ask for a table in a corner. It’s completely up to you: this is your experience and you’re paying for it. Do what makes you happy.
5. Choose to enjoy yourself. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be” and he was right. A good attitude makes all the difference. Look on your evening out as an adventure. If all goes well, terrific! If it all goes horribly wrong you’ll have a great story to tell.
Kevin Finch, executive director of Big Table (www.big-table.com), is also a restaurant critic in the Northwest (U.S.), which makes him a frequent diner familiar with the restaurant biz. He offered the following suggestions for becoming a successful solo diner:
1. Become a regular at a couple places you really like and fit your budget. Get to know the names of those there and tip well. You’ll become an honored guest and often be included in the ‘family’ that develops in the restaurant.
2. Pay attention and compliment the wait staff/chef on the food or details of the service. Over time you might well get extra attention rather than less. Restaurant folks tend to love people who are truly interested in what they work so hard to provide.
3. If a restaurant is popular and hard to get reservations, go early or late when the wait staff is less pushed and would have time to interact.
4. Consider taking a seat in the bar—not necessarily to drink, but to eat. Many restaurants now have bars that are the center of the action and overlook the kitchen. Other single diners might be there as well as other regulars.
5. Consider using social network sites like Facebook to post a plan to dine out and seek others who might want to join in. I’ve done this several times while traveling and connected with family/friends I wouldn’t have thought to invite out for a meal.
By Susan Ellingburg for Crosswalk Singles
1. Be Bookish. Always come armed with reading material. Having something to read not only keeps you from getting bored but also serves as a shield against waitstaff pity or unwanted conversational overtures from fellow patrons. Keep in mind that certain reading choices are better than others due to their portability and fold-ability (good: Sports Illustrated bad: War and Peace). In fact, frequent dining alone might be the real motivation for investing in a Kindle – although be wary of spilled beverages!
2. Try The Bar. For many would-be solo diners, the fear of being surrounded by lovey-dovey couples or raucous groups can be prohibitive. Requesting a seat at the bar is a good solution: Most restaurants will serve the full menu, bar seating is casual and low-profile, and you’re likely to be surrounded by other content singletons.
3. Exude Confidence. Stride up to the host or hostess and proudly request your table. Never shrug or say, “just me” as though you’re apologizing. It takes guts to eat alone, and you should command the respect you deserve.
4. Eavesdrop. People in restaurants tend to be drinking, which often results in loud talking, over-sharing, bawdy jokes, or bitter marital brawls. Either way you can (discreetly) listen in on proximate tables and gain valuable insight into the human condition. Bonus points for detecting awkward first-time Internet dates.
5. Befriend Your Blackberry. Most of us are borderline addicted to checking our Blackberries or mobile phones. While it’s impolite to do this in the company of others, it’s an absolutely acceptable activity when you’re dining alone: Reading the news, checking your Twitter feed, fondly reading old emails from loved ones, or scanning your secret crush’s Facebook page…the wireless possibilities are endless.
6. Go, Team! Even if you’re not terribly into sports, if there’s a game playing, become a fan for the evening. You’ll be surprised how an entranced gaze up at the screen now and then will give you a sense of purpose, as will a well-timed groan of defeat or hearty fist-pumping “Yes!”
7. Think Like A Food Critic. Pretend you are reviewing the restaurant. Observe the nuances of each course, take in the presentation, note the faults and strengths of the décor and keep a sharp eye on the service. This puts you in a position of judgment – always empowering.
8. Life Is Short, Enjoy The Steak. Finally, remember to relax, enjoy yourself, and focus on the positives of solo dining. Just think: There will be no quibbling over who pays, no awkward pauses, and no drawn-out discussions about your companion’s relationship or work problems. You really can be your own best dinner date.
By Heather W. from Better Homes & Gardens
Reservations: When you call ahead for a reservation, you don’t have to wait by yourself and then hear the words, “Party of One” after your name. Sometimes people even think you’re famous when you walk in and are seated right away. Pamper yourself.
• Get Dressed Up: For those of you who love a little entertainment with dinner, I suggest dressing up when you dine alone. It’s always entertaining to watch as those around you try to put “the story” together as they observe you dining alone with style. It can be quite amusing.
• Timing: It is best to avoid the high times. If you were to dine around 4:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. and on, you will usually miss the crowds. Additionally, if you choose a local restaurant instead of a chain, you are also less likely to run into crowds. The local restaurant owners also will appreciate the business. Sometimes you can even get to know the storeowners, and when you have this relationship, they tend to treat you well.
• Work/Journal Writing: Many people bring work to the table for one. Some restaurants are nice because they have the table space you can lay your work out (you’ll have to check because in some restaurants this won’t be appropriate). It explains to everyone that you are most likely on the road traveling for work, which most people these days can relate to. Often times you’ll even get comments from people walking by, saying things like, “Don’t you love working on the road?” Those types of comments made me feel at home and understood.
By Camille Funk
And my tips:
Look around and see who else is alone. If you see someone cute, flirt! You could actually get a date out of the experience!
If it is another member of the opposite sex, consider asking if they want to join you, if they look friendly. There is nothing wrong with making a new friend while out at a restaurant. I’ve done this at lunch time frequently.
What are your tips?