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27. December 2022, 5 min read

A table for one: become one of the best restaurants for solo dining

Author: Birgitte Brøndum
Smiling woman eating alone at an outdoor restaurant table
Smiling woman eating alone at an outdoor restaurant table
Photo: Canva

Solo dining, what’s that all about? Dining in a restaurant is often associated with two or more people sharing a meal. But according to several studies, there are more and more solo diners out there. That means there’s a new guest group to consider. Learn why making solo diners feel welcome in your restaurant is good for business.

According to a US market survey conducted by NPD 15.4 billion restaurant visits in 2019 were made by solo diners. That was a 1% increase from 2018. Solo dining isn’t only a growing trend in the US. Another report, also by NPD, shows that UK solo diners were spending more on food and drinks at restaurants in 2019.

While some of these diners opt for takeaway or delivery, many solo diners have an appetite for the full restaurant experience.

A quick online search for “solo dining” turns up multiple blogs and guides that help solo diners find the most suitable and welcoming restaurants. The focus in many of these is restaurants with communal tables, bookable seats at a bar or counter, and walk-in-friendly restaurants.

Let’s explore why some guests choose solo dining and how your restaurant business can profit from the trend.

Why do some restaurant guests prefer to dine alone?

A personal preference

Guests who consider themselves introverts are likely to choose to dine on their own. Some might read a book or listen to a podcast while eating. Others will simply enjoy the food and a pleasant feeling of solitude and independence.

Solo dining to match a busy schedule

Guests with a busy work schedule will drop in for a fast bite before heading to a meeting or catching a flight. In these instances, it can be difficult for the guest to dine with someone else, because their schedule or a deadline demands that they can leave exactly when they need to leave.

Solo travellers are solo diners

Travelling alone is another growing trend. Guests who are solo travellers will appreciate restaurants that offer them a welcoming atmosphere and a tasty meal, before they continue exploring sights, museums and narrow streets.

Foodie adventures

Foodies who are more adventurous than their friends and families might sometimes opt for solo dining. Dining alone makes it easier for them to eat exactly where they want and try new kitchen types without having to compromise.

Solo dining as self-care and relaxation

We’re all busy most of the time. Having a nice meal alone can be a good way to wind down and relax after a busy week. A luxurious brunch plate, a good cup of coffee, and a book or magazine as table company…sounds pretty good, right?

A plate of food on a restaurant table. Next to the plate is a laptop with stickers, a cup of coffee and a restaurant menu.
Photo: Julie Aagaard

Welcoming solo diners is good for business

For most restaurants, the goal is to fill all tables to capacity. Then how can solo diners be good for business when they only occupy a single chair? It makes sense to welcome solo diners in your restaurant for multiple reasons. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Solo diners from single households

Statistics from Eurostat show that the number of single-person households without children in the EU increased by 28.5 % between 2009 and 2021. Naturally, the people in these households don’t eat alone at restaurants all the time. Nevertheless, solo diners make up a big portion of potential restaurant guests. This is one reason why attracting and retaining these guests is good for business.

Fill seats in your restaurant at off-peak times

Solo diners can help fill seats in your restaurant during slower times, such as weekdays between lunch and dinner, during holidays, and at other times when your restaurant isn’t that crowded. For this reason, actively making solo diners aware of this opportunity, for instance via your restaurant’s social media channels, can be a good strategy.

Turn solo diners into loyal regulars

If you make solo diners feel welcome, they’re likely to return again and again. They might even become regulars you can count on for years to come. Moreover, solo diners don’t always eat alone. If they really love your restaurant, they’re likely to bring friends and family on some of their visits. In turn, this creates rings in the water and brings you more guests than that one solo diner who fell in love with your food and atmosphere on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

Welcome the solo-dining crowd before your competitors

Many restaurants don’t pay much attention to solo diners, and because of that, they don’t make any real effort to ensure that they feel welcome. That also means they’re missing out on potential revenue and new guests. You can do better than your competitors in this area, and have the solo diners choose your restaurant instead!

Get mentioned online

Looking up the keyword search volume for ‘solo dining’ in the SEO keyword tool Ahrefs shows that many people are searching for the best restaurants for solo dining. Additionally, there are blogs, articles, online guest reviews and forum discussions dedicated to the subject. If you get a reputation as a restaurant that welcomes solo diners, there are good chances you’ll get mentioned online and by word of mouth.

Solo diner looking at a restaurant menu
Photo: Alva Pratt

How to make solo diners feel welcome

Up until very recently, there has been a stigma around dining alone. It’s still there, but after the pandemic things are starting to change.

We’re often fast to assume that solo diners are dining without company because they don’t have a choice. People who decide to eat on their own are well aware of this. That’s why restaurants can help improve things by openly stating that solo diners are welcome. These guests have a better experience when they’re feeling acknowledged as customers and made aware that they’re part of a larger group of guests who also enjoy solo dining.

Create seating that offers good options for solo diners: a few small tables for one or two people, seating at the bar or near the window.

Give solo diners the same service as you would a larger group of guests. Check in on them, ask if they’re enjoying the meal, and suggest dishes and drinks.

Why not use social media to make solo diners aware that they’re welcome at your restaurant? List reasons why your restaurant is perfect for solo dining, such as the small tables, the relaxed atmosphere, comfortable bar chairs, room for a book on the table or a special offer for solo diners at off-peak times.

As we have seen, there are a myriad of reasons why some guests choose solo dining. And these guests are growing in numbers. Right now is a good time to catch the opportunity to become a go-to restaurant for solo diners. Make them feel welcome and get loyal regulars and good reviews in return!

Read more about current trends in the restaurant industry.