Saturday, February 19, 2011

Table For One: Tips for Solo Dining

(image: VinneT)
One of the perks of traveling solo is the itinerary is yours alone. You have only yourself to argue with on what to see and do. But eating out especially in a restaurant atmosphere can be challenging even for the seasoned traveler. Everyone has to eat and its no vacation to have all meals within the confines of a hotel room or to constantly eat on the go. So here are some tips that may come in handy if you find yourself as the solo traveler.

(image: -Lea-)
Check the time. The wait for a server, the food and the bill adds to the awkwardness of solo dining. Think about eating earlier or later to beat the crowds. Some restaurants do not close after lunch or open early for dinner. During off-peak times, a restaurant tends to be less crowded and the wait staff will likely be more attentive. Plus there are less people around to make you feel awkward. I've always find it more comfortable to have the crowds build after placing my order or while I'm already eating rather than walking in a dining room full of people.

Use the Smart Phone. I find it disrespectful when someone is constantly using or answering their phone when dining in a group. But when you're on your own, use your phone to your heart's content. It's your entertainment to keep from being bored and takes your attention from the couples or groups dining around you.

Bring a book or newspaper. Like using a smart phone to entertain yourself, reading an actual paper or book should help to pass the time. If it's a buffet the paper or book left on the table lets the staff know you're still eating when returning to the buffet line. But think about keeping up with the time and pick up a Kindle or iPad to always have electronic reading material always ready.

(image: mintio)
Be purposeful. Walk into the restaurant confidently as you deserve to be there and want to be there and that the staff should be happy to have your business. The more you let any embarrassment about dining alone set in, the longer it will take to get over it.

Pony up to the bar. Many patrons who are on the go dine at the bar. Ask for a menu to let the bartender know you plan to eat and drink at the bar. Use this as a last resort or if the restaurant is crowded. Otherwise everyone deserves a table and chair.

Be a food critic. Because I usually take notes while traveling so I remember the "where, when and what" to document my travels, I just make believe I'm a critic reviewing the restaurant. It makes me feel less awkward once I start photographing the food.

(image: *Jeremia's*)
Sit by the window. The nice thing about window seating is you can stare out the window rather than staring at everyone else in the restaurant.

See solo diners abound. If you see the restaurant is catering to solo diners, then by all means you know you know you won't be the only one.

Keep it pleasurable. A solo diner's business is as good as any other patron's so relax and enjoy the experience. Choose a restaurant because you want to dine there. The service should not waver just because you're a party of one. Remember the restaurant wants to earn your business and the servers a tip.


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