I eat out alone a lot — and I really enjoy it.
I can’t remember when I first started feeling comfortable doing it. Maybe when I got my first job out of college and had lunch breaks? It was easier to just go grab something on my own rather than try to coordinate meeting up with someone. Then when I moved to Pittsburgh I didn’t have a choice because I didn’t know anyone. I saw it as a way to make friends, and I did. One of my now good friends was the bartender at a restaurant I used to go to when I first moved here. (Hi, Chelsea!)
I never really realized it isn’t something most people do until recently when several of my friends have commented about it. They usually say they would never feel comfortable going to a restaurant or bar alone. And then I realized that you really don’t see too many other people alone. For me, it’s just easy. I enjoy eating alone. I enjoy going out to grab a couple of drinks alone. I spend most of my days talking to strangers and interacting non-stop. It’s kind of nice to just enjoy a meal and a drink without having to think of something to talk about.
I can see why some people wouldn’t want to though. They worry about people judging them for being alone or feel uncomfortable with the possibility of strangers talking to them. And in some ways their fears aren’t irrational. There’s been many times where I’ve had to deal with the random creepy guy or the overshare woman next to me, but overall, it’s a great way to relax and have a different dining experience.
Here are a few of my tips for eating out alone.
Start slow: Trying going out for lunch alone. There tends to be less of an inclination for strangers to talk to you during lunch if that’s your concern. There is also usually less of a crowd and wait time.
Grab a table instead of sitting at the bar: This will give you somewhat more privacy and a chance to sort of tuck away in a corner if you want. Sitting at the bar is a surefire way to get people to talk with you, so you might want to wait until you feel more comfortable.
Don’t feel awkward: I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years and I never care when I wait on someone who is alone. I think a lot of people worry their server will judge them or not take good care of them because they are alone, but that is rarely the case. Just own it. If you really feel uncomfortable, then just tell your server you are out having a “me day” or make a slight joke about it to break the ice.
Embrace the unknown: I’ve met some very interesting people while having dinner alone. Take a few minutes to exchange a few words with the person next to you if they strike up a conversation. You might find you have a lot in common. And most people will get the hint if you aren’t feeling a conversation. Just be polite and then get back to your meal. It helps that a lot of places now have televisions that can serve as a distraction. And there’s always your phone, too.
I hope this helps! Let me know if you go out to eat alone after reading this!