How to Kick Ass at Dining Solo
When I first started travelling solo, one of the most awkward things to negotiate was meal times. I bed it’s one of the things you worry about too when considering whether to travel solo for the first time or not. I’m going to show you how to see it as an opportunity rather than a punishment.
I used to stick to fast food because it’s not unusual to see people grabbing a quick meal on their own or I could always get take out and bring it to my hotel room. But, when you’re away from home for more than a couple days, fast food gets old really fast. So I had to suck it up and brave the eat-in dining room. I’m so glad that I did.
The Fear of Eating Alone
As first-time solo diners I think a lot of us fear that people will judge us. Twosomes and families will walk in, see us sitting alone, and judge us as having no friends. Worse, they may pity us. Servers will give us a snide smile when we whisper “Table for one” and waiters will make a big show of clearing away the second place setting at our table.
Honestly though…this isn’t the junior high cafeteria. People are generally far more interested in their own stuff and probably don’t even notice you there. When you go out with your friends, how often do you notice the other people in the restaurant? As solo diners I assure you, we don’t have a big target sign over our heads.
And if some backwards arse does silently judge you, it doesn’t matter. You’re still your fabulous self.
The biggest part of successful solo dining is attitude. If you’re insecure and sit there nervously glancing around to see if anyone is paying attention to you, you will actually draw attention your way. If, however, you’re content with your own company and carry yourself as if it’s no big deal, no one will notice your singleness. Like so many things in life, confidence is key.
How to Entertain Yourself
How I occupy the time between placing my order and my food arriving all depends on where I am. If the restaurant is on a busy street, I’ll try to sit near the window since I like to people watch. People are fascinating little creatures. I especially love to see what people are wearing.
When you think about the time you spend alone in your house, how often are you doing nothing at all? Ever? So why should you have to sit quietly, like a toddler in time out, at a restaurant? If a window seat’s not possible I’ll read a book or newspaper, write in a notebook or edit photos on my phone. I try to leave the phone as a last resort since I find it puts up a bigger wall to social interaction than a book or journal does. I’m usually open to conversations with friendly strangers so why put up extra roadblocks?
What About Service?
This is something that I’ve only had issues with once or twice and it’s only manifested itself in being seated at a less than desirable table in the back. Some places just don’t know how to handle a person on their own. Do they worry that a woman on her own will bring down the place? I really don’t know. I’ve never had an issue with food quality or promptness of service on account of my being a table of one. Some restaurants have actually given me better service when I was on my own. Maybe I bring out the nurturing instinct in some servers? They check in to make sure I’m doing alright, make small talk, etc. All in all, quality of service is not something I’ve worried about when dining solo.
“Perks?” you say. Yes, there can be perks to eating alone. One being that, during a busy period, you may not have to wait as long to be seated if the restaurant has communal seating or if there’s a bar you can sit at.
Since you have little else to distract you, you can also savour your meal more. If you’re a foodie, this is a treat. One on one time with your meal.
On the flip side, you may want to spend less time on your meals. Sometimes in the evening I like to linger but for midday meals while travelling I like to get back out sightseeing, beachcombing or shopping.
What is the biggest perk of dining solo though? I get to choose the restaurant with only myself to consider. Love sushi but your friends hate it? Go have that sushi solo. Want to try the new Korean restaurant but your partner can’t handle the spice? More kimchi for you!
Set Yourself Up for Success
When it comes right down to it, you’ve just got to get out there. Don’t let a fear of eating solo stop you from travelling. If you want to ease into it, start with busy, family style restaurants where you can sit at the bar. Then move up to quieter restaurants with booths (they just feel more private). After you’ve taken yourself out to dinner a few times in a few different places you’ll see that it’s not a big deal. Before you know it, you’ll be treating yourself to dinner in the best restaurants and not blinking an eye.
It’s all about attitude, baby.