People usually dine in groups. Whether it’s family, a group of friends, or a group of office workers, eating out is often as social an experience as trying new flavors and dishes.
However, there are many reasons why one can avoid the group experience and dine alone. Maybe you are single and your friends are busy. You may be on a business trip and tired of room service food. Maybe you have some paperwork or computing to do and are tired of sitting in your office / cubicle. Or you may have the day off and just want to relax without having to worry about cooking and cleaning.
While restaurants should serve everyone, in many cases larger groups are preferred. Busy restaurants don’t like offering tables for four or one person while keeping a group of three waiting. The servers will naturally flock to larger crowds as they generally result in higher tips and in some cases they are automatically added to the bill! Also, restaurants located near high foot traffic areas may want to place larger groups near doors and windows to make it appear more crowded from the outside, knowing that busy restaurants tend to attract more diners. However, by following the tips below, you should have a more enjoyable dining experience when there is no company to accompany you.
- Avoid rush hours
Although it’s not always possible due to your schedule or dietary needs, consider dining at restaurants outside of peak hours. If restaurants are not crowded with many customers, you are more likely to receive the desired table. In addition, this increases the chances of holding a server’s attention, as during peak hours they will most likely gravitate towards larger parties due to tips.
Of course, there are potential downsides. Restaurants can plan to have fewer customers by hiring fewer servers. If you eat late, the food may not be as fresh. And you don’t want to eat too late – ordering dinner a quarter of an hour before a restaurant closes won’t make you too popular with cooks.
- Don’t be too disappointed with your seat
Don’t expect a prime seat during rush hour. However, if a restaurant has a lot of open tables, it should be okay to ask for a better location, especially if it’s located next to bathroom or kitchen doors (high-traffic areas). However, unless the restaurant is almost empty, do not ask to be moved to a large table, as they will be reserved for larger groups.
- Look at the bar
Even if you don’t plan on having a cocktail or other alcoholic snack, consider eating in the bar area whenever the full menu is available. Not only can this result in faster service, it can also receive additional attention, such as faster refills, more napkins when ordering, extra sauce, etc. Also, there is the possibility of socializing a bit, and perhaps a fellow customer can leave a newspaper to read (they still exist).
Note that in some municipalities, non-smokers may want to stay away from the bar area to avoid secondhand smoke. However, many areas have rules prohibiting smoking in restaurants or other public places (even bars within restaurants), making the bar area an acceptable place to eat.
- Be nice
Smile when talking to your host / hostess / waiter / waitress / bartender. Start a conversation unless they are very busy. Look up when spoken to and don’t keep your face down on a newspaper, cell phone, or iPad. Don’t treat restaurant workers like servants, but like real people working and trying to get through the day. Good manners, good humor, and respect can be contagious.
- Tip well
If the food is good, the service at least acceptable, and you plan to return to a restaurant frequently, tip well. This doesn’t mean you have to tip a whopping 30% every time, but don’t skimp and tip 10% or even exactly 15% on every meal. Believe me, waiters and waiters remember faces and names. Stories of bad tips are shared, and conversely, in some places, you might be surprised at how better you are treated if you are known for tipping generously or even fairly. Being known as a “regular” could result in additional benefits, such as removing a drink from your account or an occasional free snack.
If you want the best service in a restaurant when you dine alone, be friendly and flexible. Eating out of peak hours can result in increased attention from waiters. Be willing to sit near high-traffic areas, but don’t be afraid to speak up for a seat change if the restaurant isn’t too busy. Consider the bar for faster service and even more attention. He has a smile and a friendly personality. And probably the most important thing for regulars is a good tip. If you stand out as a friendly customer who treats staff with respect, you are more likely to have better experiences eating alone.