Solo Dining: 15 tips to comfortably enjoy eating out alone
15 Tips To enjoy your table for one!
15 Tips To enjoy your table for one!
Solo dining, it’s well and truly one of my favourite perks of solo-travel. To put it simply: it’s super freeing. Solo travelling can be a little intimidating for sure and it always brings up a few questions. Although funnily enough, one of the most frequently asked questions I usually get from friends and family when it comes to traveling solo is always regarding the food arrangement.
That question can be anything along the lines of: Where do you eat? Do you just sit at a restaurant alone or do you head back to the hotel? How do you approach that, eating out alone? Isn’t it scary or boring to eat out by yourself?
Well, if these thoughts have been running through your head at some point, let me answer some of those for you. Even though eating out alone can be quite daunting, to me it has become the perfect example of some nice me-time. Better yet, I recently stumbled on this article on why dining solo is surprisingly good for you, who would’ve thought? Does this sounds intriguing to you and have you been wondering how solo dining can be enjoyable? Here are my 15 solo dining tips to enjoy a table for one on your adventures.
...First and foremost...
TIP 1 - Change your mindset on Solo dining.
First and foremost, this first solo dining tip is crucial! One of the biggest barriers to me personally was always: “What will people think of me sitting here alone? I probably look like I was just ditched by a date.” The first hurdle to jump is those exact thoughts. I always cared way too much about what people would be thinking of me sitting there alone in a restaurant. If you recognize this, let me ease your mind. No one really cares about that stranger, let them think whatever they want. I promise you it doesn’t matter one bit. Either they are probably wishing they were brave enough to do that themselves or they are just in admiration or they haven’t even noticed. Most likely the latter. Just feel like a boss for being so independent!
TIP 2 - Confidence is key!
BE CONFIDENT! Let me tell you, going out for food by yourself is such a power move. You essentially already showed everyone you are independent and you enjoy some well deserved me-time. Why wouldn’t you feel confident? I read about this interesting thing in another blogpost. It said something along the lines of: when asking for a table never say ‘It’s just me’, because that immediately sounds as if you would rather not be alone. Instead go in and say: ‘Table for one, please.’
Are you feeling it yet? That instant change in personality? Just because of how you phrase things. It sounds a bit cliché, and it’s definitely easier said than done, but it’s true. Rather than feeling like someone who got ditched by a date, you’ll be that person who really doesn’t need a date to enjoy themselves. Sidenote: you will become much more approachable for people to come up to you and have a chat as well.
The Practical tips for Solo dining
As I have mentioned, there are plenty of tips I want to share, but let’s start with the essentials: how to feel at ease dining solo. Here are a few tips that will make the process a lot easier and will wash away all your doubts on the practicalities of eating out by yourself.
TIP 3 - Ease into it with Breakfast or lunch
Going for dinner in the evening is the most daunting of all when it comes to eating alone. It’s when everyone comes out to find some lovely food and you can feel like it is a bit crowdy. At first, I used to feel like I was taking someone else’s spot by sitting at a table by myself. Obviously, I know now that that is totally not something to worry about. I am saying that I definitely get that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you aren’t quite ready to step into a restaurant for dinner all by yourself, no worries: go for breakfast or lunch.
It will feel a lot more nonchalant and way less intimidating. Just writing about this makes me want to go out for brunch, I won’t lie. Many solo travellers will actually make their lunch their bigger meal of the day and find something smaller to eat for dinner, simply because dinner is a tiny bit more formal. Café-like businesses are way more easy going.
TIP 4 - Pick your place wisely
Another piece of advice that I can give you, is to pick your spot wisely. Do the necessary research and find a place to get food that can provide a true experience. In other words, pick a nice place where you’ll feel at ease. I like to find inspiration by googling some spots that are welcoming to solo-visitors, or possibly even better. If you are staying in a hotel, ask the hotel staff. Often the staff are locals with a lot of experience themselves or they might have picked up on some recommendations from previous guests. They have great intel and it is definitely worth asking.
TIP 5 - Found a place? Make reservations!
Making reservations in advance is a sensible thing to do, no matter how big or small the group is. It gives the restaurant you picked a chance to be prepared. But trust me, for us solo travelers, it is the way to avoid many unforeseen change of plans that could make you feel lost. Here are a few perks to booking in advance:
- The restaurant knows that it’s a table for one, avoiding the discomfort of having to explain it at the door.
- You can ask for your preferred seating arrangement. Maybe you prefer sitting at the window, or you like sitting at the bar. Ask and you may receive.
- Gives you the reassurance that you won’t need to go and find a plan B when the time comes.
TIP 6 - Time your dining well, Avoid rush hours.
It seems quite obvious, but having dinner in London city on a Friday evening for example, … you can count on it being busy. Even as a seasoned solo-traveler, I will not go into a crowded restaurant when it’s this packed. It is one of the most intimidating situations. If you are not sure about going out for food alone in general, then try to avoid these peak hours. You might not feel at ease and then you most likely will not enjoy it at all. You can easily avoid this by simply going a little earlier or even a little later. To put it simply, avoid the rush.
TIP 7 - The art of enjoying your time alone.
You might be wondering: “Well okay, but what do I even do all this time on my own?” Here is my advice: take some props to keep you entertained. I am thinking books, travel guides, magazines and local newspapers, your camera,… Maybe now is the time to look through your travel guide and look for your next stop on the trip. Or give your family and friends a call to update them on your adventures. Maybe this is the perfect time to roughly go through and sort out the hundreds of pictures you have taken that day and finish that book you have been neglecting. Honestly, whatever you like doing most, now is the time to do exactly that.
TIP 8 - Talk To the waiters & Ask for recommendations
In a good business, the staff will usually always try to make small talk. They obviously want their customers to feel at ease. Especially as a customer alone, I have often noticed that waiters are a lot more inclined to start a genuine conversation. Go along with it; be spontaneous. I for example love to ask for any recommendations that they might have. It gets the conversation going and they usually enjoy customers that are genuinely a bit curious. When it’s super busy, the staff might not always have time to get into full conversations, but the next two tips might help you with that.
TIP 9 - HAve Cash on hand
Honestly, travelling alone makes paying for the bill a little easier. There are no calculations to be done on who actually ate what and you don’t have to have the discussion whether or not to split the bill. All in all fairly easy. No matter what though, I always have that tiny bit of anxiety when it comes to settling the check. You know when your mind is just racing and suddenly there are about 1000 worst case scenarios? Will my card work? Maybe I can only pay cash? Seriously, what if my card doesn’t work and I have no cash?
Well listen, it’s always good to come prepared. No matter where, when I am alone and there is no one to quickly take cover for me and say: “Hey, I got cash”, I always make sure to have enough cash on me. Because you just never know. It does sound a bit old school, but it has definitely saved me before.
Protip: ask for the check early so that you don’t have to hang around waiting if you don’t want to.
The seating arrangements
This is, again, a whole chapter I could give you some tips on. Seating arrangements and the place where you are sitting in the restaurant can completely change your experience when eating out alone. Here are several tips on how to pick a perfect spot for your me-time. This is why tip #6 is an important one. If you go out when it’s not too busy you’ll have a bigger choice to pick the best seat in the house.
TIP 10 - Stand your ground
When eating out alone, taking advantage of a good seating arrangements is crucial. First of all, be brave enough to stand your ground. If you made reservations, mention where you would preferably like to sit. If you are just rocking up, don’t let yourself be pushed in the corner at the bathroom door. It’s your good right to ask for a nice seat.
TIP 11 - saving your seat
This is another one of those things to consider when you are out alone. Imagine, you are enjoying your me-time, you are all set but you need to go to the bathroom. First of all, you want to make sure your stuff is safe, so I wouldn’t recommend to leave it behind. But then also, you don’t want waiters to take away whatever drink you just ordered, which btw, is far from finished. So here is what I suggest you can do to ‘claim your territory’ if you will. Make sure your seat is saved by leaving a less valuable item like a book or maybe something small like a hat. If possible, alert the waiter or even leave a small note, just in case they were wondering if you just ran off or not.
TIP 12 - Sit at the bar
Where I like to sit depends very much on my mood. Generally, I do love sitting at the bar, if there is that option. It’s perfect when you are on your own and the staff will be able to start a conversation with you every now and then. But also, I am so curious I actually just love seeing what is going on at the bar. Plenty of people come and go, and the staff is always up to something.
TIP 13 - Sit outside or by the window
To be honest, to me one of the most enjoyable ways to spend your time out eating alone is just by looking around. I just love to people watch! That’s exactly why I really like sitting either outside, if the weather is kind, or otherwise by the window.
... AND FINALLY...
TIP 14 - Treat Yourself
Now, you know what? Take another good look at the menu and treat yourself. Maybe you are up for one of the amazing desserts or there is another drink that you would love to try. In that case, I would just say ‘do it’. If you were feeling unsure about eating out alone, you just overcame a huge hurdle and that deserves a reward! So enjoy the fact that you did it with a treat! No one is stopping you. Quite the opposite, I am literally right here cheering you on.
TIP 15 - Take it in, Enjoy yourself!
Finally, and this is an important one, don’t forget to actually be present and take it in. So many people have the urge to dive into their phone and not look up when they feel uncomfortable. I beg you to not do exactly that. Look around, take in the decor, the smells, the music. Solo dining should be relaxing and exciting, so make sure that whatever you do, you come out of that café, restaurant or bar smiling!
Ready to conquer the Solo dining experience?
Voila, these are the tips I managed to gather from my own personal experience of solo dining. I truly do think it takes some experience to feel fully comfortable. Maybe it’s not your thing, and that is totally fine! However, I like to live by the idea of: don’t knock it till you try it! I wholeheartedly hope that I was able to inspire some of you who might have been hesitant on the solo dining experience and maybe this was just the little push that you needed to go for it.
Do you have any tips or stories yourself? Feel free to share them with me right here in the comments. For those of you feeling inspired to go on a solo dining adventure, keep an eye on my page “Foodies Faves”. Foodies Faves is where I share all of my favourite “must visits” from my trips. Hope to see you there!