Many of us equate dining out with sharing time with friends and family over a good meal. While the idea of going out to eat alone may sound solitary, depressing and more than a little lonely, it doesn’t have to be that way. Eating out is often viewed as a social activity and a way to reunite and rekindle our relationships with friends and family but, let’s not forget, taking nourishment is also a basic function of survival. We all do it, usually two or three times a day, and we can’t always make it into a special event.
If you find, either by circumstance, necessity or choice, that you are dining out alone, there are several ways to make the experience acceptable, enjoyable or even desirable.
Plan to arrive at the restaurant early. If you arrive during the peak of the dinner rush, you may feel the wait staff resents having to seat a single person at a table, thereby minimizing their tip potential during prime time. If you arrive when the restaurant is half empty, you are likely to find the wait staff more receptive to anyone who might fill their table.
Bring a magazine, book or your e-reader along to entertain yourself. If you’re eating alone because you’re on a business trip and you have been traveling alone, use this time to review pertinent paperwork for your business meeting. Many business travellers use this time alone at the restaurant table to check messages on their Blackberry. The activity of message checking may be unobtrusive, but you should really leave the voice mail and call backs for another time after you leave the restaurant and are not likely to intrude on the dining pleasure of others in the restaurant.
Make it a habit to be a generous tipper when you dine out alone. Your wait staff will have to make nearly as many trips back and forth to your table for just you as they do for a party of two or more. Be a part of the population that makes a good name for solo diners by making servicing you worthwhile for the servers.
Dining out alone does not have to be a commentary on your sad and lonely existence. Approach each experience as an opportunity to enjoy good food and your own good company without regret. Walk into the restaurant with your head held high and politely request a table, preferably in the corner, for one. You will almost certainly find that the restaurant staff will treat you will courtesy and maybe even a little extra attention while you enjoy your meal.