The start of the new year––nay, the new decade––tends to invite a reevaluation of one’s habits, lifestyle, and attitudes. For many, this positive shift includes a focus on self-care, and living life to the fullest in spite of minor obstacles. Finding excuses for not doing what you want to do is so 2019!

This includes the growing demographic of solo diners––people who want to experience the finer things in life or simply eat out at their favorite restaurant but may be short on someone to invite. This group of people should be encouraged to treat themselves no matter what, despite the stigma of eating alone. Besides being an empowering act, accommodating solo diners can actually prove to be beneficial to your restaurant. 

The action of going out to eat is an event, not just a means to a full stomach. Customers choose to dress up, spend money, and venture out of the comfort of their homes in order to enjoy whatever it is your restaurant provides. They go for the ambiance, the service, the comprehensive experience. If the restaurant-customer relationship was merely about the food, diners could opt for the same meals via Seamless, Grubhub, or UberEats––proving the importance of every aspect of the restaurant-going journey.

And yet, many restaurants shy from welcoming solo diners in fear that they will lose space for larger parties or that it will detract from a lively atmosphere. The ambition to fill every seat, in order to achieve the highest financial return, demonstrates a lack of conscientiousness on behalf of many restaurants. Prioritizing revenue over all else is a recipe for short term profits at the cost of loyal, lifelong customers.

In fact, restaurant owners should take solo dining as a huge compliment. Someone wants to eat at your establishment so badly that they face discomfort and embarrassment in order to try your food. Return the favor by treating them with the highest degree of respect and hospitality! For folks willing to venture out alone, it’s likely that a potentially-uncomfortable experience made seamless and enjoyable by the restaurant will inspire such diners to spread the word or return with a larger party down the line.

For restaurants that are not used to hosting single-party diners, there are certain ways to make it an effortless experience for everyone involved. Waiters should be able to read their audience, determining early on whether their customers would prefer an engaging, conversive meal or be left to their own thoughts. Perhaps the setup of the restaurant could be rearranged, creating a spatial emphasis for one-seater tables. Consciously putting a diner placement strategy in place is one way to make the energy flow seamlessly throughout both boisterous loud tables and quiet solo ones.

The addition of solo diners in your restaurant also offers a different atmosphere, almost an air of mystery. In fact, you never know who you are serving––they could be anyone from a regular person needing a night of independence or an undercover reviewer with the power to make or break the success of your establishment. To make these guests feel welcome, regardless of their status, surprise them by offering complimentary hors d’oeuvres or a small dessert to elevate their experience even further. A meal alone is unique––capitalize on the personal connection you can establish between your restaurant and the customers who keep it thriving. 

There is a reason that restaurants fall under the category of “hospitality.” Solo diners are a great way to demonstrate your ability to welcome any type of diner, creating a memorable experience no matter what. Table for one, please!