A few years ago, faced with the option of dining out alone, I would have opted to pick up a heart-attack-in-a-sack and retreated into privacy to consume my meal. Lately, however, I have realized that dining alone doesn’t have to be lonely.
Here are a few helpful tips for the “table for one” diner:
1) Sit at the bar. This leaves tables open for multiple guests, and servers appreciate that. Plus, there are usually other ‘single’ diners, so you have conversation options or don’t feel like the odd man out.
2) Be friendly. If you’re looking for conversation during dinner, don’t keep your eyes glued to the tv above the bar or down at your food. Make eye contact, and say hello. If you don’t want to talk to strangers, pull out your phone and try to look important as you check spam mail.
3) Don’t be in a hurry. Take the time to relax and enjoy the experience. It’s not often you get a chance to just sit and taste your food.
4) Become a regular. If possible, try to frequent the same place on a regular basis; bonus points if you make friends with the manager.
5) Tip generously. Especially if you think you might ever come back. I promise, servers remember both lousy and generous tippers. Trust me, you want your server to remember you in a positive light.
I’ve made a little tradition for myself here lately. Every month during drill weekend, I go out to eat one night by myself at the same restaurant. The first time I went, I started conversations with the wait staff and got to know the manager. The second time, the manager remembered me, and this last time, he actually brought out my food to me and stopped to chat for a minute. I sit at the same spot at the bar everytime–close enough to the tv I can watch it if no one is around, and right beside where the wait staff comes to pick up their drinks for customers. I get just enough conversation and recognition that I don’t feel lonely, but not so much that I miss out on the opportunity to enjoy my meal. And if all else fails? Take a notepad and jot notes periodically–they’ll think you’re a food critic, and if nothing else, you’ll get the service of your life!