5 Tips for Eating Out Alone

You’re hardly on your own if you've been eating out alone more recently. Solo dining is on the rise.

Eating out alone a lot more than you used to? You’re hardly on your own there.

Single-party restaurant reservations have climbed 62 percent nationwide over the past two years, according to a recent analysis by the restaurant reservations site OpenTable. In fact, tables for one are now the fastest-growing table request.

Is this a sign of our increasing individual isolation as a culture? Not at all, says OpenTable. Rather, it is an indication that dining alone now carries less of a stigma and that diners are increasingly more willing to embark on solo culinary adventures. We are no longer a nation of solitary people eating takeout at home and room service in hotels. Instead, we’re getting out there and openly enjoying our status as solo eaters, able to savor every bite without the distraction of actually having to converse with another person.

"As dining out has become one of our national pastimes, solo diners are taking every opportunity to visit top restaurants whenever they get the opportunity, much as they might attend a sporting event or show," Caroline Potter, OpenTable’s chief dining officer, said in a press release announcing the analysis results.

The cities with the strongest growth in reservations for one are, in order of rank, Dallas, Miami, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Chicago.

Want to dine out solo, but feel a little anxious? Here are a few tips:

1. Ask for a seat at the bar if you feel self-conscious about sitting at a table by your lonesome. If the place isn’t too busy, you can always chat with the bartender. And if it is, no one will pay much attention to the fact that you’re flying solo.

2. Bring a book or magazine. It’s always nice to have something to fall back on.

3. Don’t be afraid to people-watch. If they notice your gaze, just smile and glance away — maybe turn back to your book or magazine. Whatever. Don’t sweat it. (Eavesdropping can be fun, too.)

4. Try not to rely on your phone. After all, dining out is an experience. You don’t want to miss the whole thing because your eyes are glued to your email. And you definitely don’t want to talk loudly on a call. That’s just not fair to your fellow diners. (Yes, they’re talking loudly to each other. No, it’s not the same.)

5. Relax and enjoy. No one is staring at you and thinking you’re a loser. Really. And if you want to order something adventurous? This is your chance. There’s no one there to judge (or to tell you have to finish it). Go for it.

Photo courtesy of iStock
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