A guest post by Laura Meyers.
If you’re not used to it or if you haven’t done it before, solo dining may feel a bit awkward and intimidating. It was the same for me. This, however, shouldn’t stop you from stepping out of your comfort zone and trying it out. It’s something you will have to learn to do if you’re a solo traveller, for example, and it doesn’t have to be difficult!
In this post, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning dining out alone, as well as some useful tips for first-timers.
As a full-time solo traveller, I’ve eaten out alone more times than I can count, and I’ve learned to feel completely comfortable doing so. Frankly, I enjoy my own company. It did feel a bit awkward the first few times, so don’t be discouraged if this is the case for you too!
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Eating solo in a restaurant: Everything you should know
Is it weird to eat in a restaurant alone?
Dining alone is not weird and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. So don’t worry about what others think; just try it. That’s the only way you will find out if you like it or not.
It’s true that going to a restaurant alone may not be for everyone but it will definitely expand your comfort zone and teach you that it’s okay to do things by yourself. Knowing that you feel comfortable eating in a restaurant alone comes with huge advantages!
Tips for eating out alone
When it comes to going to a restaurant alone, many people are scared of what people might think of them. In reality, however, no one will think you’re a loser just because you’re eating by yourself.
If you feel a bit nervous about eating out alone for the first time, the following tips will help you cope:
1. Have lunch or coffee alone first.
A good way to practice eating out alone is to start small and go to a coffee shop for a snack or a coffee by yourself first. This tends to be more common and less daunting than dining out alone and it will give you a confidence boost too. Once you get used to this, you can take the next step and go out for dinner by yourself. It’ll be easier now that you’ve practised in advance!
2. Try it in your own city first.
If you’re planning on solo travelling, but you feel a certain social anxiety about dining alone, try it first in familiar territory: your hometown. Yes, you might end up making small talk with people you run into, but I guarantee that if you can do that, you’ll find that eating out by yourself in a foreign country where you don’t know anyone will be much easier.
3. Choose the right type of restaurant.
The type of restaurant you choose for your first solo dining experience can make or break your experience. Try looking up some places before heading out. Make sure it’s a place where you will feel comfortable. Even though I’ve been to restaurants by myself numerous times, there are places where I feel less comfortable. Think of a romantic, candle-lit restaurant full of couples, for instance.
4. Bring a book, a smartphone, a notebook or a laptop.
You will feel much more comfortable during your solo meals if you have something to do while you’re waiting for your food to arrive. I often bring my laptop, a good book or a travel journal to keep myself busy. The trick is to make the most of your time and keep yourself distracted. This way, you’ll be able to simply enjoy the moment without worrying about what people may think of you…
… which brings me to my next point:
5. Know that people are self-absorbed.
This is the thing that concerns many people about eating alone in public. We tend to be afraid of what other people think. We’re scared that our fellow diners are going to think we don’t have any friends when we’re eating out alone, for example. Or we feel like everyone is staring at us. The truth, however, is that most people are too busy minding their own business. They might look at you as you walk in, but they’re just checking if you’re anyone they know. When they don’t know you, they turn back to their conversation and forget you exist. If they notice you at all, they might actually look up to you because you’re confident enough to dine out alone! But let’s face it – even if there were haters, it wouldn’t really matter. You most likely won’t ever see these people again anyway, especially if you’re travelling.
6. Choose your timing right.
Restaurants tend to be less busy in the early or late evening, which, I think, is the best time to go when you’re by yourself. Ask at your hotel when the peak meal time is and go earlier or later than that. Although I’ve eaten out alone during peak hours many times, I don’t enjoy it that much. It can be more stressful and intimidating to enter a crowded restaurant where tables are scarce and ask for a table for one.
7. Remember that people eat out alone all the time.
It’s not weird to have dinner alone, and many people have done it before you. I see people dining by themselves all the time when I’m travelling, and it’s getting more and more common. So remember that just because you’re the only solo diner at the restaurant where you’re eating, it doesn’t make solo dining weird as people do it all the time!
8. Choose a good table.
It’s important to choose your table wisely. For example, sitting by the window, from where you can watch what’s happening outside, may make you feel more comfortable than sitting in the middle of the restaurant. On the other hand, if you’d like to strike up a conversation with someone, it makes more sense to take a bar stool and eat at the bar. I like to scan the restaurant before choosing a table and pick the one where I will feel the most comfortable. This usually tends to be in a more quiet area of the restaurant where I won’t be surrounded by groups of friends eating together.
9. Don’t feel pressured.
Don’t let the wait staff pressure you into sitting at an undesirable table. Some restaurants will put single people out of the way, out of sight of the rest of the diners. Or they’ll stick you in the least pleasant spot: next to the bathroom or the kitchen, for example. Resist that. Say that you’d like a table with a view of the room or in the window or whatever. If they won’t provide what you want – assuming it’s available – you might consider just leaving and trying somewhere else.
10. Take your time.
Don’t feel rushed: you have as much of a right to savor your meal as anyone else. Have a glass of wine. Order a three-course meal. Eat at your own pace. Often for a lone diner the service will be quite quick, but that doesn’t mean you have to hurry. Think of it as a form of self-care, especially if you’ve had a busy day sightseeing.
11. Practice helps.
Like most things, eating in a restaurant alone gets easier the more you do it. It might be a little scary at first, but it’s so liberating once you get the hang of it. It will give you the freedom to eat where and whenever you want when you’re travelling or doing something else by yourself. On top of that, it will expand your comfort zone and make you a more confident person. It might even open the door for you to try doing other things by yourself too, like going to the movies, for example.
Alternatives to eating out alone
Are you not feeling like eating in a restaurant alone all the time? I get it. It’s nice to mix things up from time to time. That’s why I put together a list of alternatives to a sit-down restaurant, which you will find below. Don’t use these as an excuse not to try dining out alone, though! It will be so liberating to know you’re able to do so.
1. Order food online.
This one may not work if you’re in a small village, for example, but in most cities, it’s possible to order food online. There are plenty of apps like Zomato, Uber Eats, etc. that will allow you to order food from the comfort of your hotel room. These are easy to use and it usually takes just 30 minutes to an hour for your food to arrive.
2. Order room service.
Many hotels offer room service, and the menu is usually a smaller version of their in-house restaurant’s menu. It’ll cost you a bit more, but it’s great once in a while to get a nice meal delivered so that it’s still hot on arrival.
3. Try street food.
Eating street food is another great way to discover local dishes and to eat on the way. Eating from street stalls or food trucks is a nice alternative to eating in a restaurant alone and it will make you discover plenty of new flavours. Depending on where in the world you are, you will find delicious dishes. Belgium, for example, is famous for its French fries (and Belgian chocolates if you want a dessert), while you will find momos in Nepal, bhelpuri in India or tostadas in Guatemala. Some countries, like Singapore and China, have outdoor food courts with amazing food where you can enjoy a good meal at communal tables.
4. Join a food tour.
If you’re a foodie, you will love this one. Joining a food tour is one of the best ways to make new friends and indulge yourself in local cuisine at the same time. Food tours are available in many cities across the world but some of the cities that are most famous for their food tours are Paris, Hong Kong, and Delhi.
Want more travel tips? Read these articles:
5. Sign up for a cooking class.
This is not something you’ll want to do every day (well, unless you really, REALLY love cooking), but joining a cooking class is a great way to learn something, meet new people and enjoy some delicious food – all at the same time! It all depends on the class you choose, but most cooking classes will teach you how to cook a country’s most famous dishes in a couple of hours.
How to find a place to eat
Google Maps has a useful feature to help you find restaurants. Just tap the “restaurants” tab at the top and it wll show you all the nearby restaurants to wherever you are. You can also filter by price, distance or rating. For each one, it shows an aggregate rating on a scale of 0-5. While they’re not the most dependable reviews, they’re a decent guide. The Yelp app does similar.
Solo dining FAQs
Eating solo: Final thoughts
Eating out alone may feel a little awkward at first. It was the same for me, but it does get better the more you do it! Once you start eating out alone, you will notice other solo diners too, and you will realize that eating in a restaurant by yourself doesn’t have to be taboo.
The most important thing to know is that you can do this. It doesn’t matter what people think, and once you start doing things alone, you will expand your comfort zone.
About the author: Laura Meyers is the founder of Laure Wanders, a cultural travel and adventure blog. She has been travelling solo for over 5 years and loves exploring unique destinations worldwide.
My travel recommendations
- Skyscanner is where I always start my flight searches.
- Booking.com is the company I use most for finding accommodations. If you prefer, Expedia offers more or less the same.
- Discover Cars offers an easy way to compare prices from all of the major car-rental companies in one place.
- Use Viator or GetYourGuide to find walking tours, day tours, airport pickups, city cards, tickets and whatever else you need at your destination.
- Bookmundi is great when you’re looking for a longer tour of a few days to a few weeks, private or with a group, pretty much anywhere in the world. Lots of different tour companies list their tours here, so you can comparison shop.
Other travel-related items
- Get a Priority Pass if you fly a lot so that you can use airport lounges while you wait for flights. Plan your visits around meals and/or drink times and it’s definitely worth the investment!
- I’m a fan of SCOTTeVEST’s jackets and vests because when I wear one, I don’t have to carry a handbag. I feel like all my stuff is safer when I travel because it’s in inside pockets close to my body.
- Airalo is an e-sim card. You buy it through an app and activate it when you need it. I tried it on my trip to Thailand and it worked just like any other sim card, but without my having to fuss with physical cards.
- I use ExpressVPN on my phone and laptop when I travel. It keeps me safe from hackers when I use public or hotel wifi.