So—Where Do the “Solo Diners” Go to Eat?

Just this week I have found articles titled “A Server’s Nightmare—Old People! ” and Tales of Old People Eating Out.” Then there are also the “dreaded solo diner” tales.

I realize that I have been posting more and more about my own experiences as a “solo diner;” that is, a person who enjoys going out for a meal alone. It came as a shock when I began noticing a distinct attitude about us solo diners—evidently, in many restaurants we are not so much pitied as tolerated. 

First of all, there is the obvious money issue: a single diner will probably not spend as much as a couple would, therefore leaving a smaller tip. Then there is the server’s time involved in taking care of the single diner; there often isn’t a whole lot of motivation to be chatty, offer suggestions about entrees, drinks, etc. Therefore they seem to just do the absolute minimum of service because, after all, it’s only for one person.

There is also a tendency to seat us in the less desirable spots, such as right near the restrooms (actually, I don’t mind the shorter walk to go there), or the kitchen—two of the most lowly places to be sat. Often we are offered a seat at the bar, which I don’t care for. I want a regular table where I can enjoy my meal and read my book. And why shouldn’t I? I may be there alone, but I’m still a paying customer.

And evidently another peeve is that we solos take up time that could be used to serve Lord and Lady Muck who will no doubt order lavishly and with a matching tip.

The final turnoff is that some of us solos are in our 60s or older. That may translate to “cheap,” “fussy,” “wants this and that all the time,” “leaves a crappy tip,” or worse, orders the hated cup of tea. Evidently this is a royal pain to prepare and serve.

I have also spoken before about how single women diners are routinely addressed as “honey,” “sweetie,” “sweetheart,” “darling,” and so on. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a single man addressed in that same way.

To make sure that it wasn’t only me that felt that my solo appearance at a restaurant was akin to Typhoid Mary showing up at a wedding, I did some online research. Yep, it’s true: in the main, we single diners generally elicit groans and eye rolls when we show up at most restaurants. I picture the staff having to draw straws to serve single old me, and saying “oh no—oh, HELL no!”

I have tried to put this into perspective; perhaps it’s the times. Perhaps I exude a bad attitude when I walk in. However, I know for a fact that I haven’t done any of the following whilst eating alone:

  • Thrown up on the table
  • Bitten a server
  • Sent my order back for any reason
  • Put my feet up on the table
  • Kicked or punched anyone
  • Stiffed a server on a tip
  • Screamed and threw mashed potatoes at the wall

I’m thinking seriously of having a big button made that reads: “Yes, I’m a single diner. I’m not lonely, I don’t carry rabies or dengue fever, I tip well and please do NOT call me “honey,” “sweetie,” “sweetheart,” “darling;” you don’t know me well enough.”

Granted, it would be a pretty big button, but that may become the “new normal” from us “solo diners.” Moohahahahaha!

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2 thoughts on “So—Where Do the “Solo Diners” Go to Eat?

  1. pamkirst2014 says:

    I was shocked, in my new home, the first time I heard a very young clerk call a very old woman ‘honey.’ I thought it very disrespectful and condescending—youth mocking age! I’ve had many discussions about this kind of casual familiarity–friends swear it is not meant to demean, but to embrace—and that they would use the same terms with people of any age or gender. I still don’t like it!

    Good for you, dining alone! Why miss an experience because someone else can’t join you????

  2. lulujbf7 says:

    I have always thought that the present “casual familiarity” was disrespectful and demeaning; it makes me feel like a not very bright child who doesn’t know one end of a fork from another…

    I once wrote a review for a popular chain restaurant we’ll call Crapplebee’s, and in it I said the very same thing: do NOT call older people pet names. It’s rude and dismissive.

    Don’t you know that I got a phone call from the owner of the establishment, defending his servers? Just as soon as I heard his voice, I knew I was hearing yet another young person who felt strongly that endearing names for people over 45 were just okey-dokey. I sighed heavily into the phone and said these words we older folk always long to tell the ‘young-uns:’ “You just wait; it will happen to YOU someday!” (Insert witchy cackle here)

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