4 Ways Restaurants Can Cater to Solo Diners

There are rarely any meal deals for solo diners and few places where a high quality meal is not synonymous with “date places." Yet, solo diners deserve more options than street food, cafeterias, and takeaway. Here are four ways restaurants can cater to single diners.

Today’s diners seek out great culinary experiences, whether or not they have dining companions. And while you might wish for more revenue for that particular table, a solo diner is a golden opportunity for hospitality. Says restaurateur Danny Meyer in his book Setting the Table, “Solo diners have a straightforward agenda: to treat themselves to a gift of quality, contemplative time, and to do so at our restaurant. I consider that the ultimate compliment, and I’m also hoping that today’s solo diner will host tomorrow’s party of four.”

Without other people at their table, an individual diner will likely be much more aware of your staff, your food, and the atmosphere of your restaurant. If a person enjoys dining at your restaurant solo, they might be more likely to recommend your restaurant to others, to become a regular, or to review your establishment on TripAdvisor, LaFourchette, Yelp, or Facebook.

There are a few simple ways that restaurants can not only be more welcoming of individual diners, but can also better attract them, all without risk of losing groups or couples.

Why single diners may have issue with common dining experiences

For some travellers, eating alone in public is awkward and riddled with potential for social insecurities. They have nowhere to stare without looking rude but are simultaneously assuming everyone is staring at them and judging them for eating alone. For many, home or abroad, eating alone is terrifying, and is even worthy of its own name: solomangarephobia.

Learn how to talk to single guests

It’s condescending to ask a single diner if they are a party of “just one.” There is no need to add the ‘just’. Instead of “Just one?” a simple, more harmless alternative would simply be “Right this way.”

Each solo diner has his or her own preference for conversation. Many are out alone because they are comfortable alone, but others use this time to chat with strangers and make new friends. Do not feel the need to entertain or overly converse with the solo diner. They will do that themselves if they choose, but feel free to follow the diner’s lead if you do have a moment for a quick dialogue exchange.

Utilize social media to bring in solo adventurers

I’ve found that there are two types of solo diners: the adventurer and the comfort lover.

The former comes to your restaurant because he/she wants to try something new. The latter comes because it’s familiar and, when forced to eat alone, will choose to do so in a comfortable setting.

For the adventurer, word of mouth is golden. You can capture their attention with discount sites, which provide a great excuse for diners to try new restaurants simply because there is an available deal. Consider offering deals that are suitable and attractive for individuals and not just for couples, such as a free drink with order of an entrée or half-priced appetizers when you check in on Facebook.

Provide entertainment

Live music makes any restaurant automatically more comfortable for a solo diner in the evening. Anyone can watch a live band alone without looking out of place, and your diner no longer has to worry about being in the spotlight just because he or she is alone.

Not only that, but live music provides your diner with something natural to focus on. Rather than staring at other guests or down at their place during their meal, the traveller can experience some local culture with their local cuisine.

If live music isn’t an option, consider creating a small library of books, hosting a poetry reading, or providing another sort of entertainment that can focus the energy of your room. Getting creative with events or other marketing isn’t just good for solo diners — it can bring in traffic even outside of peak-season times.

Mix up your seating options

The empty space of a big table can make a single guest feel even more aware of the unusualness of eating alone. While you could always offer a few more small tables, the easiest way to reduce this vacant space is for solo diners to sit at the bar.

Yet not every restaurant with a desirable menu also has a suitable bar area. If your restaurant does not have a bar area, try replicating one by putting a long high-top table against a street-facing window. This opportunity for people watching would also solve solo diners’ problem of not knowing where to stare when dining without a companion.

As we see, many methods for attracting and welcoming solo diners would be favorable for groups, as well. With just a few minor changes and additions, your restaurant can make leaps in attracting and welcoming that savvy and aware solo diner. Doing so will welcome an influential niche traveller into your restaurant who will likely appreciate the steps you have taken by telling someone else to try your restaurant as well.

Read more advice on building hospitality, optimising your TripAdvisor listing, and more

Read more advice on building hospitality, optimising your TripAdvisor listing, and more

Last Updated: 17 November 2018