Report: 47% of Meals Are Eaten Alone at Restaurants
Your restaurant may get large parties of families, friends, coworkers, and sports fans, but do you also occasionally serve a party of one? Whether your solo diners are travelers, business people, or just people who like to eat alone for the experience, 47% of meals are eaten alone at restaurants. That’s a huge percentage, and your restaurant needs to take advantage of solo eaters! You might not go quite as far as Moomin Café in Tokyo, where diners are seated across from huge stuffed animals, but there are some steps you can take to encourage parties of one to visit your restaurant.
Focus on your bar.
Solitary diners don’t necessarily want to be the only one at a table for two. Many of them prefer to sit at the bar. As a bonus, this also helps your restaurant avoid having an empty seat. Many diners like to eat at the bar because it’s lively and fun, with the opportunity to see what’s going on and chat with the bartender. Make sure your bar is big enough to accommodate more than just a cocktail and ask single diners if they’d like to be seated there.
When it comes to communal tables, it doesn’t matter if people came in one party or not—they’re all seated together. Some people enjoy the opportunity to rub elbows with new people and chat up strangers, which can be perfect if your solo diners are feeling talkative.
Don’t make it a big deal.
Remember the scene in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall when Jason Segal’s character is humiliated for dining alone? Try not to do that. Eating alone isn’t embarrassing—remember, 47% of restaurant meals are eaten alone! Do your best to make diners feel comfortable, not awkward.
Make it entertaining.
Just think of Japanese steak houses, where diners are seated around a grill so that they can watch their chefs prepare their dinners. Giving customers something to watch—like preparations in the kitchen, especially if they’re dramatic—can add some fun into the solo dining experience.
Make it quick.
Remember, many solo diners are at your restaurant because they’re traveling for business. This means they may not have a ton of time to spend on a meal before they have to get back to work. Offer some meals, like soups, salads, and sandwiches, that are served quickly to encourage time-crunched solo diners.
Solo dining isn’t going anywhere, so your restaurant needs to be able to accommodate customers who are eating alone. What does your restaurant do to take advantage of solo customers?