By Lorie Kleiner Eckert
My friend, Nancy, is a self-proclaimed wishy-washy person, but there is one thing about which she is certain – she doesn’t eat in restaurants alone. We live near a major grocery store with a dining area that boasts three cuisines. So, I ask her, “If you have been out all day running errands, and you are starving, but you still need to stop at Kroger, would you eat in one of the restaurants there?” Her answer is emphatically, “No.” Even when I ask her about McDonald’s the answer is the same. Clearly, if food courts and fast food are off-limits to her, the opportunity for fine dining is also gone.
As for me, I have no trouble eating out alone. There are two amendments to this statement. First, I do not go out on prime date nights, Friday and Saturday evenings. Second, I refrain from eating at five-star restaurants alone. However, if you bet me a hundred bucks, I’m sure I could do these things. My basic philosophy is that there are a lot of things in life that I do not wish to do alone, but since I am single, there is no Plan B, so like a Nike commercial, I “Just Do It!”
I have been divorced for more than twenty years, plus I traveled as a motivational speaker for ten, so I have a lot of experience eating out alone. As I put a few tricks up your sleeve for a successful dining adventure please remember that this is merely a new skill and that you can learn it. All the pleasure of dining out can be yours whenever you wish it.
Tips for Eating Out Alone:
If you are afraid of who might see you dining alone, go to a restaurant in a neighboring community or practice when you are out of town.
Dress up. The better you look, the better you feel, so give yourself that extra emotional boost by putting your best foot forward.
Don’t go to places where you have to wait for a table. Either make a reservation in advance or go at a non-busy time.
The bar area often has open tables that are available to anyone who wants them. Taking such a table means that you will never have to speak those dreaded words to the hostess: “Table for one.”
Bring something to do but please know that WIFI does not always work in restaurants so reading email or checking social media is often impossible. Thus, bring a book, or all those catalogs that stack up at home, or a crossword puzzle, or the like.
If it is a new restaurant for you, the menu is often posted online. Study it in advance so you can order the first time the waitress comes around.
Knowing that in the early days of practicing this skill you may not want to linger after the bill has been presented, make sure to carry cash in various denominations. That way, you can leave exact change and be merrily on your way.
Trust me that practice makes perfect so all of these points will soon be non-issues. I can honestly say that I am as comfortable dining out alone as I am dining out with friends and indeed there are two reasons I love it:
This definitely beats eating alone at home where my go-to meal is a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, and a handful of carrot sticks. (And let’s face it, no wine pairs well with this meal.)
There is no compromise involved, I get to go where I want, when I want, and I get to come home as soon as I am ready.
My usual activity in a restaurant is to write in my journal or play Sudoku. But somedays I am tired of being alone and so I am branching out. Using the “it’s easy to talk to a stranger on a plane” philosophy, I recently started chatting with my server. After getting practice with that, I moved on to sitting AT the bar instead of sitting IN the bar. Opening my eyes further, I have noticed that many restaurants offer community tables. In fact, they are becoming ubiquitous. Clearly, solo diners must be a growing population or restaurants would not give up precious table space to cater to this group. So, there you have it, instead of there being a stigma to solo dining, there now seems to be an open invitation. Oh my!
Circling back to my friend Nancy, she is a very accomplished woman. She has a degree in speech pathology. She successfully raised her two children from teenage to adulthood after the death or her husband/their father. She has handled life as a widow for over a decade. She manages a home, a car, a computer, and a smartphone. She ably drives herself from Cincinnati to Myrtle Beach and/or Oklahoma City to visit family. In short, she is a very capable woman. If she chooses not to eat out alone because it’s more economical or something like that, I support her fully. But, if she makes this choice out of fear of dining alone, I know better. After years of flying solo, she has strong wings. I KNOW she can do this!
About the Author
Lorie Kleiner Eckert thinks of herself as a cheerleader with the message, life is difficult, but you can do it! She has cheered people on through her work as a motivational speaker, as an award-winning columnist, and as an artist who makes quilts with words and symbols pieced into the design. She also has three books in print through Pelican Publishing Company. To learn more about Lorie, check out her website/blog/newsletter; or see her motivational artwork printed out on giftware on Etsy; or follow her or Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.