Table for One, Please…

“If you feel uncomfortable about being on your own for a meal, take a look around. How much interaction are some of those diners actually having?”

Managing events in far-off locations means long, hectic hours. So when I’m on the road, I work to find ways to fully enjoy the scarce downtime I get. One of my favourites: a leisurely meal in a destination restaurant that I haven’t tried. I’m a foodie and love to explore new places. What feels daunting and uncomfortable to some—a solo meal in a nice restaurant—is rejuvenating for me. Quiet time, off my feet. No schedules to check, no chaos to wrangle. Being waited on… so much better than room service!

Here’s what I tell other road warriors about enjoying the solo dining experience:

Forget fast food or restaurants you wouldn’t step into at home! Pick an appealing restaurant that will feel like a “night out.” You deserve it.Make reservations to ensure you get a table. If the restaurant host tries to stick you in a cramped table in a corner, near the kitchen or restrooms, speak up. Ask for a better table. Or sit at the bar instead. “No one leaves baby in the corner!” (That’s a nod to the movie classic, Dirty Dancing, in case you’re wondering…)Feel awkward walking in alone and claiming your table or bar seat? No one will notice. Other diners will be too busy trying to manage their kids or will have their noses in their phones.Once seated, avoid the temptation to pull out your phone for cover. Settle in, look around, take in the ambiance.Take time with the menu. Ask your server for recommendations. Don’t let yourself feel rushed. When I order, I make it clear I’m there to linger; that I’d like time between my cocktail, my appetizer, and my main course. And maybe that apple crumble…Keep resisting the temptation to pull out that phone. Try keeping the newspaper or book in your bag. They just act as barriers to the experience. Work to enjoy your well-deserved “me” time. Focus on the food and the atmosphere. Discreetly people-watch (another indulgence of mine…) I work hard to be present and not treat this as just another meal between event tasks.If you’re feeling social, try dining at the bar—that’s usually my preference. I often meet people, if I feel like chatting. Or I can still enjoy some quiet time on my own, if that’s what I need.

If you feel uncomfortable about being on your own for a meal, take a look around. How much interaction are some of those diners actually having? Are they chatting and enjoying the company or are they staring silently at their fork—or worse, their phones? I once watched six young adults at a restaurant, all texting instead of enjoying their companions. (Were they texting each other?) They were so engrossed in their phones they didn’t notice the server trying to take their drink orders.

Dining alone can be so restorative that I’m happy having a solo meal on vacation too. I was recently in Maui with some friends and my godkids. Deciding to go off on my own for awhile, I made a reservation at one of the top dining spots nearby, Cane and Canoe.

I arrived, was led to my table, and I politely asked to be seated at a better table with a view of the water and the amazing sunset. That done, I ordered a lovely bottle of wine. (If the wine-by-the-glass list isn’t up to snuff, I order a full bottle to get the quality of wine I want. Did you know that in almost all states, diners can take home unfinished bottles of wine from a restaurant? State laws and procedures vary, so check out what are called “Merlot to Go” laws. Then consider a full bottle…)

Glass of wine in hand, I settled in for a delightful, relaxing Hawaiian evening: a gorgeous sunset, some delicious Mahi Mahi, and friendly, attentive staff who recognized I was there for a fine dining experience just like the non-solo diners.

Dining alone can take getting used to, but you may get hooked. You may find you savor the independence and time for yourself. It’s very freeing (no negotiations about what will be ordered or who pays the bill!)

Bon appétit!

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