While strolling into a restaurant and requesting to be seated solo can feel awkward, it isn’t as rare as you’d think. In fact, according to a recent study by Forbes, dining solo has been taking restaurant norms by storm. Statistics show that 46% of all adult eating occasions are completely alone.
While the statistics speak for themselves, and the solo dining trend continues to rise, the question remains: how can you provide a great experience to a single diner?
Here are four ways to craft the perfect “solo dining” experience at your restaurant.
Create Communal Seating Options
Seating a solo diner at a table for four may make them feel painfully aware of the potential awkwardness associated with eating alone. Don’t make a single guest feel like a loner by giving them way more space than they require. Instead, offer a modern approach: communal seating – think long picnic tables, or rows of tables and benches – is always a great option. Communal seating conveys to your lone diners that you aren’t biased as to whether a guest is alone or with a full entourage; every hungry customer – with or without a companion – is welcome.
Barside seating is always a great option too, but not every restaurant is blessed with enough space to pull this off. Replicate the barside experience by pushing a full length, high-top table up against any window with a view. Not only does this seating solution provide lone diners with something to fix their eyes on, it also helps make it less obvious they’re chowing down in solitude.
Serve Small Plates
A sharing menu will be of no use to your solo diners. First, they have no one to split the various plates with, and second, there are far too many items for them to get through for a reasonable price point. Your saving grace? Tasting menus.
A tasting menu is the perfect option for any guest dining solo; the vast selection of small plates allows them to enjoy a full dining experience at your venue, rather than making them feel limited to two apps or one main.
Offer Your Restaurant as a Workspace
Show that your restaurant values convenience by offering your restaurant as an optional workspace with the help of a free Wi-Fi connection.
By offering Wi-Fi to guests, busy-bee business professionals can spread their wings further than cramped cafes and coffee houses. A free Internet connection can do wonders for any down time at your restaurant by easily convincing solo business professionals to pop in and answer emails while enjoying a drink or two.
Additionally, “re-charge” your business with the magical capabilities of portable charging stations. With guests staying longer to charge their devices, your staff have the opportunity to offer additional items. A simple, “would you like to see the dessert menu while you’re waiting?” and your customer becomes more likely to nibble on that piece of carrot cake they previously turned down, while they wait to power up.
By putting the amenities in place for your customers to be able to turn your restaurant into an impromptu workspace, you can expect extended average dining times, and best of all, a new client base.
Watch Your Language
Reevaluating the way you communicate with single diners may seem silly at first, but your way with words can end up either making or breaking their experience at your restaurant. Looking for the perfect articulation of what NOT to say when conversing with your solo diners? Watch this video.
Unlike the video above, there are ways to politely find out if anyone will be dining solo, without your question featuring a side of lone-shaming. When a customer ventures into your venue alone, asking “Just one?”, no matter how innocent the intention, can come off as condescending. Let the guest speak first and ask them if they have a preference over where they are seated. They may choose to sit at the bar, or request a quiet corner to enjoy their alone time, or they might surprise you and ask for a centre table so they can people-watch. Whatever happens, choose your words and tone carefully, and don’t assume anything.
Single patrons have decided to leave their take out menus at home and venture out to your restaurant for food, drinks, or just some good conversation. Encourage your staff to make them feel at home and welcome. By reevaluating how you approach solo diners, and providing them with free wi-fi, commingled seating, and small plates, you can capitalize on the growing trend of single customers.