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How Solo Dining Can Help Your Restaurant

When most people think of going out to dinner, they likely imagine the company of a date, family members, or a group of friends. Solo dining might not come to mind for a number of reasons. To some, it can feel taboo or uncomfortable, and many restaurants are simply not set up to cater to dinner for one. Restaurants themselves might see those eating alone as a smaller bill or a hindrance to turning over tables to larger parties. However, restaurants should cater to patrons eating alone. Every guest is an opportunity to demonstrate your restaurant’s ability and to continually bring in business down the line, and below we explain how.

Why Restaurants Should Welcome Guests Dining Solo

pouring white wine into glass with elegant food behind it for a solo diner

If your motivation is to provide a fulfilling and satisfying experience for your guests, all of them should be regarded as equally valuable and worthy of exceptional service, even if they have a small bill.

Solo Guests Can Still Enjoy Your Food and Service

Restaurants create the space for many types of social gatherings, including family celebrations, anniversaries, and reunions with friends. Most fundamental to success, however, is not the space itself but a restaurant’s delectable dishes and great service, which even those dining alone can relish in.

Restaurants Can Be Captivating for Groups and Solo Diners Alike

Much like going to the movies or an exhibition, good restaurants are also sources of entertainment with artful qualities. If restaurateurs have captured a unique concept or brand with commendable cuisine and outstanding, personable service, then the sole experience of dining at a restaurant can be an enchanting experience. Solo diners are a reminder of the full-fledged potential of a restaurant to provide intellectual and entertainment value even without the additional conversation and laughter that a shared social experience might bring.

Benefits of Solo Diners in Your Restaurant

In the short run, some restaurants might view those eating alone as a smaller check or a lost opportunity for a larger table, especially during a busy shift. In the long run, however, treating solo diners with the utmost hospitality can be a meaningful and lucrative experience.

  • Providing consistently accommodating service is a sign of integrity in your business practice. The restaurant industry creates intimate environments and connection among people, including between staff and customers. As such, the emphasis should not solely be on how to yield the most profit but rather on practical planning as well as your food and hospitable qualities. The profit will naturally arise from a healthy balance of the two.
  • You never know who you are serving. This means an inspector or reviewer may be attending your restaurant. This also means you could be serving a new resident scoping out the restaurant scene or a prospective guest deciding where to take his/her next date.
  • Solo diners may return either by themselves or with company. They may also recommend your spot to others. Repeat business can comprise much of your market, but diners will only return if a restaurant creates a welcoming experience for them.
  • A table with one person can be an easy table. Service can be a busy and occasionally chaotic experience, so when a server has a table of one, it may add a relaxing note to the dining rush. It’s easy to have the attention of the guest when taking orders, and you only have to cater to the needs of one guest as opposed to two, four, six, or more.
  • It’s a compliment. It shows that your restaurant is simply worth eating at. Rather than a vehicle for a social experience, perhaps this individual merely wants to enjoy your food and hospitality.

How to Cater to Guests Eating Alone

chef pouring syrup onto dessert for a guest dining solo

Due to cultural stigma, it’s possible that solo diners already feel somewhat uncomfortable, which is why you might want to put even more thought into catering to them. Because these are only tables of one, you can take the opportunity to offer special treatment at a minimal cost.

  • Read the table. As with all guests, staff should know how to alter their approach to create a seamless, comfortable interaction. Based on a guest's demeanor, servers can gauge if a person is looking for solitude or an involved experience. If they seem more engaged, consider how you can make the meal more special and experiential for them.
  • Offer a special treat. Because this is only a table of one, you can easily offer a complementary glass of champagne, an extra amuse bouche, or a dessert.
  • Alter your setup for those who want to eat alone. Some contemporary restaurants are incorporating seating and service styles to create an inviting space for those eating out alone.
    • Fast casual restaurants –– Some eateries cater to solo diners through ambiance and service style. Automated systems make it so guests can quickly order from a mobile POS system and pick up their food to go or stay. The atmosphere is typically a hybrid between a casual cafeteria and a cafe, which makes customers feel comfortable eating alone.
    • Medium-fancy restaurants –– Consider incorporating individual walled booths or small tables. Or, simply pay attention to where you seat solo guests. They might prefer a seat by a window or in a quiet area. You might even devise a ticket system that minimizes interaction with servers. This allows guests to focus on the food rather than the surroundings or social encounters.
  • Create a social space for solo guests to interact with each other. Consider having an area with group seating or long tables to encourage interaction. Solo guests can choose if they'd prefer your individual seating or your collaborative concept area. Your restaurant could help foster connection between people.
  • Provide books or paper. Depending on the formality of your restaurant, you can include an organized bookcase or paper for writing.

Solo Guests Are a Reminder of a Restaurant’s Purpose

a woman solo dining holding fork over a plate of spaghetti

The hospitality industry boasts a unique opportunity to provide an outlier experience in people’s day-to-day lives. In an age where iPhones and laptops are a frequent source of entertainment (or distraction), a restaurant is a place where people can simply engage with what is literally right in front of them, whether that be a plate of food, a server, or the person across from them.

Recent studies show that the restaurant industry itself will continue to grow because consumers increasingly want to spend money on experiences, such as dining out. As solo diners are more likely to have undivided attention to dedicate to your food and environment, you have the chance to create a fully encompassing and satisfying experience for these guests. This will not only benefit you and your guests, but it brings the focus back to the simple yet profound core of the industry: great food and wonderful hospitality.

Posted in: Foodservice Trends | Management & Operation | By Hannah Herrera
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