TABLE FOR ONE PLEASE
May 17, 2021
A couple of years ago I read an article which focused on a new trend of eating out alone. I found this article interesting because for as long as I can remember I've often spent an evening out dining on my own. There was a scene in Sex and the City which showed Carrie having a glass of wine at an outside cafe with "no armor" and sitting on her own. Outside of that scene I never really thought how difficult people find it to have dinner out on their own. Admittedly, dining alone is not what I consider high on my list of favorite nights out but it's also not something I fear either. Ever since I can remember I've always felt very comfortable eating a meal out on my own. Many years ago I decided if I didn't have someone to dine with it was perfectly okay to go out and enjoy a meal on my own. For me, it's a better alternative to spending an evening alone at home when I'd rather be out on the town. Or rather than ordering a takeaway to eat in front of the television on a Friday night.
When I read this article there were a couple of things that rang true and I had never really thought about until I read the article. For starters, I never really thought about how restaurants tended to direct the single diner to the bar area as opposed to a table. One reason I never thought about this is often I would choose to sit at the bar to enjoy my meal because usually there's a television to watch which serves as a distraction. Not to mention the little banter from the bartenders. Also, there are usually others dining on their own as well, and sometimes you strick up a conversation. But I guess how we all ended up at the bar was by a clever design to keep the dining room open for parties larger than one. So I had to wonder did I really like eating my dinner at the bar? Or was I socialized into believing the bar was a more suitable place to eat for a singleton than an actual table?
As I pondered this question in my head I began remembering my personal experiences when I decided to transition from eating at the bar to having my single dinner at an actual dining table. I began to remember questions asked that are normally not asked when dining with another or others. Questions like "would you prefer to sit in the bar area?" Or, "Would you like the table in the corner?" I assume the table in the corner is to place you out of the direct eyesight of others in an attempt to make the experience of dining alone more comfortable. More comfortable for who is the question. Then there's the staff person that comes to quickly take away any signs the table was meant for two or more before anyone else notices. Which by the way, no matter where you dine alone in the world they all remove any signs the table was made for two or more in the exact same manner.
After considering my past dining experiences I began to realize how much easier it's become in the past couple of years to have dinner on my own without the awkward questions or stares. Now when I enter a restaurant to have dinner on my own there are no longer suggestions of how or where I would feel most comfortable. Now I'm whisked into the dining area without pause and sometimes even asked if the table is OK. No longer are the single diners immediately sent to the corner table or the table no one else wants. What I realized in reading this article is dining alone has become good business. Such good business that now restaurants welcome single diners and apparently even redesigned dining rooms and tables to accommodate the uptick in single dining.
What the article didn't expand on were the reasons many people are choosing to dine alone. My assumption is maybe people are learning something I've always known about the pleasure of dining on their own. I've always felt it's a better alternative to staying in on a night when I don't want to cook and I don't always like takeaway. I like the pleasure of sitting and enjoying a meal and being served. Maybe, like myself, more people are traveling for work and staying in hotels more days in the week than they are home. After so many years of the #crewlife, I couldn't imagine what it would have been like to have spent much of that time sitting and eating in my hotel room. I'd much rather eat alone in a restaurant than in my hotel room. Now, don't get me wrong sometimes room service and a night in front of the television is just what is needed to recharge. But for me, nothing beats pulling up a chair to experience a really good meal as a way to spend the evening. If you travel for a living you also know it's not always possible to dine with others and sometimes you enjoy the time to yourself.
Time to yourself. It's one of the reasons I thought about this topic. This is just what I did on my recent layover. I had such a lovely unplanned evening out on my own. I had a layover in New York City which I've been to many times. Most of the time in NYC I do exactly the same thing every layover. I go for a walk, grab some takeaway, watch television, and sleep. But the other day I ended up having an unexpectedly great time all on my own. During my walk, I passed a place one of my colleagues posted on her Facebook page so I decided to try it out. I pulled out my iPhone to see if they had any open reservations and to my luck they did. Not only did they have available reservations but with consideration of the single diner, they also took reservations for one for an outside table. Once my reservation was confirmed I walked back, gave my name to the hostess where she led me to my middle of the patio table for one. I sat down at my table outside, took off my sunglasses, put away my iPhone, and ordered dinner. There I sat in the middle of the patio without any "armor" or mask to hide behind and had one of the best meals ever. I sat and people watched while listening to the background music, and soaked up the sun, all while enjoying my own company. I can't imagine missing out on a moment like this. Even though a table for 2+ is ideal, there are times a table for one is just what we need.