Saturday, February 17, 2018

How To Enjoy Eating Out Alone - Advice from a Solo Dining Veteran

There are many challenges to overcome when you travel solo. One that is usually near the top of the list is eating out alone. The fear of sitting companionless in a busy restaurant is enough to drive the most confident person to the carry-out line.

I enjoy eating out alone even when I'm not traveling. Dining solo lets me concentrate on the atmosphere of the restaurant and savor the taste of the food. When I dine with others, a good deal of time is taken up by conversations and managing that one finicky eater who is never happy with anything on the menu. Eating alone means that I can be in the moment and use all five senses to appreciate the dining experience.

I may be a solo dining veteran and comfortable eating alone now, but that was not always the case. I had to learn how to enjoy eating by myself in public. Here is my advice on how to enjoy eating out alone.

Mindset of the Solo Diner

Time for brutal honesty. Requesting a table for one is intimidating. We are ingrained to believe that dining in public is a communal event. It is difficult to get past that. Even my voice falters a bit when it is time to speak with the hostess.

The key to success when facing any challenge is to get your mind right. Psych yourself up before setting out on your solo dining adventure. Remember that you are probably not the first solo diner to walk through the doors. Second, you're not a unicorn. You're a paying customer, and businesses love a paying customer. Lastly, enter the restaurant with your confidence turned all the way up, even if you don't feel it. Wear something nice, walk with confidence, cast disdainful looks at the other diners who are too weak to eat alone. Act like walking into a restaurant solo is the most normal thing in the world; because it is.

Dining solo at The Buffet at Wynn in Las Vegas

Go Early

This is my #1 tip, especially if you are a newbie. Avoid the dinner rush by making lunch the big meal of the day. In my opinion, there is less of a stigma about eating alone at midday, especially if you are in an area with a lot of workers. Also, most restaurants are less crowded at lunchtime. Finally, many restaurants offer their entrees for a few dollars less at lunch so you'll save money. If lunch is too early for you to eat a big meal, then I recommend an early dinner. Personally, I find the sweet spot to eat solo is mid-afternoon, after lunch but before the dinner crowd shows up.

Location, Location

The Internet makes it easy to find restaurants that are friendly to solo diners. Use websites or apps like TripAdvisor and Yelp to find reviews from other solo diners. What was their experience? Was the staff friendly? Was the restaurant crowded?

Once you’ve chosen a restaurant, think about where you want to sit. Often the hostess will steer you towards the bar, and that has its advantages. There are usually other single people there and you can easily strike up a conversation. I have found some great dinner companions eating at the bar. However, sometimes I don’t want company, or I prefer to sit in the dining room.

The table you sit at in the dining room is crucial. Never accept a table in the center of the room. This happened to me one time. Talk about feeling like a fish in a fishbowl! Now I ask for a table along the perimeter of the restaurant, preferably next to a window. This gives me a couple of different options for people watching and a bit of privacy.

Bring a Distraction

There is no shame in bringing something to occupy your time in the restaurant. Using your phone to check-in on social media or catch up on the news is a good way to get through that awkward time between when you order and when the food arrives. It’s also a good time to scroll through all of the fabulous pictures you took on your camera or review the itinerary for the rest of the day. You can even go old school and bring a book or magazine.

Just do yourself a favor and look up from the phone or book from time to time and be present in the moment. You don’t want to miss out on some good people watching or miss an opportunity to connect with a cute guy or gal.

Enjoy Your Food

Hopefully, you have chosen a restaurant with excellent grub because the greatest reward in dining alone is when the food enters your mouth. Any decent chef spends a great deal of time thinking about how diners will experience the tastes and textures of the food. Dining alone means that you can fully connect with the chef’s vision for the meal. Relax and enjoy each tasty morsel.

Going out to eat alone is one of the best ways to experience a restaurant and one of the best ways to spend quality me time. Let me know how you enjoy eating out alone by leaving a comment below.

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