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Solo Diners


bookluvingbabe
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There is nothing I like better than going out to dinner alone. I'm an introvert and with a crazy job, husband and 5 year old, the amount of quality time I get alone is minimal.

When I go out to dinner alone, I like to make a reservation so I'm not standing around waiting. I prefer to eat at a table instead of the bar so I'm not being squeezed, sloshed upon or jostled. Not to mention the volume is often insane at the bar.

I spend serious money when I go. All I really ask for is for a table and enough light to read by.

Yet many Opentable restaurants will never show an open table for a single diner. Do the same search over for a table for 2 and tables magically appear.

And now the new Savored website doesn't offer the option for solo diners to make educated decisions about how much they will spend and decide if the service is worthwhile.

It leaves a sour taste in my mouth for places that do business that way.

Anyone else?

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Huh. You're right. A solo diner can't use Savored.com it appears. I hadn't noticed that...and as a solo diner 99% of the time, it is a bit disappointing.

ETA: I've sent an email to their support address to query this.

ETA2: The response:

Thank you for reaching out to us. We do not offer reservations for individual diners due to the fact that we currently offer 30% off your entire bill for $10, and we do not feel that we would be able to deliver significant savings for single diners. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any additional questions about Savored.
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As another solo diner, I noticed that Savored.com didn't believe in us. I sent an email when the site first debuted and got some wishy-washy answer about "we will discuss this further" but evidently nothing has happened.

My main advice for solo diners goes against Tom Sietsema: DON'T sit at the bar if you can help it. Whenever I sit at the bar, I get miserable service and I have never had a problem at a table.

rob

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I really would love to hear from some Chefs/Owners about why they would chose to partner with a company whose business model seems to unfair.

And look at the prices at Vidalia and Sou'Wester. I could drop $100 for dinner in a heartbeat.

But I won't be the next solo dinner I plan. Because I'll take myself somewhere that wants my business.

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I really would love to hear from some Chefs/Owners about why they would chose to partner with a company whose business model seems to unfair.

Well, why don't you ask the person who has dined solo probably as much as anyone in the world over the past 7-8 years? :)

I don't have an answer, but companies grow and change all the time. I suspect there is probably solo dining in Savored's future ... or there's a very good reason why there cannot be. For a new startup though? I'd let them get off the ground a bit - rest assured that as a solo diner, you have a friend in me.

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I think it is the paternalistic tone that got me. "We don't think it is worth it for single diners so we decided for you. Don't worry your pretty little head or do math or make an informed decision on your own."

That isn't a start up issues. That's corporate culture.

But I don't want this just to be about savored. I really do want to know what others think beyond that.

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I think it is the paternalistic tone that got me. "We don't think it is worth it for single diners so we decided for you. Don't worry your pretty little head or do math or make an informed decision on your own."

That isn't a start up issues. That's corporate culture.

But I don't want this just to be about savored. I really do want to know what others think beyond that.

Right, I understand. Paternalistic tone aside, I suspect that there may be technical reasons for this (same reason why you don't see many parties of 3 or 5), but I can always just ask someone. If I remember correctly, Citronelle didn't have many tables for 2 available on Open Table, but that's only because they're all for 4 - the trick was apparently to make the reservation for 4, then to call the restaurant and change it to 2. That sounds like a nuisance (and I suppose it is), but it's also a very innocent reason.

Is there any reason you can't reserve for 2, and add as a special request that it will be for 1 person only? I mean, there are no one-tops. It will still set you back $10 (it's per reservation, not per person), but I don't see why you couldn't do it. (And hopefully I didn't just set off a shit-storm up in New York.) This is all brand new to me, too.

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And considering over on the Savored.com thread, sklarithy explicitly says: We are in James Beard winning and Michelin starred restaurants.

It would seem to me at such places it would be easy for a solo diner to wrack up a sizeable tab. If you take the cheapest app, entre, and wine by the glass at Vidalia, you have already spent approx. $55. Plus I could see the Savored.com service being especially helpful to business travelers who often times end up eating solo. Seems like an opportunity missed to me. But as Don says maybe they will grow into it.

As an aside to eating at the bar, me and the gf frequently eat at the bar, even at nicer restaurants (Proof, Jaleo, Oyamel etc.)...but we generally find it best to do this during a restaurants off hours, afternoon, late night etc.

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Is there any reason you can't reserve for 2, and add as a special request that it will be for 1 person only? I mean, there are no one-tops. It will still set you back $10 (it's per reservation, not per person), but I don't see why you couldn't do it. (And hopefully I didn't just set off a shit-storm up in New York.) This is all brand new to me, too.

When I dine solo, I usually sit at the bar--no reservation. On the occasions I make a reservation, I call the restaurant since Open Table doesn't seem to do tables for one.

Looking at this in the other thread, it would cost the company money (if I'm reading correctly) to have one person use the service and not make the minimum. Clearly BLB and The Matt would not trigger this, but other people might. I don't see it working too well with their business model if they have to refund the $10 very often.




@bookluvingbabe - Savored does not offer reservations for solo diners. The idea is that if you spend $33.33 like Don mentioned, you'll break even on your $10 reservation fee. If you do not spend $33.33, Savored refunds the $10 back in to your account.
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My main advice for solo diners goes against Tom Sietsema: DON'T sit at the bar if you can help it. Whenever I sit at the bar, I get miserable service and I have never had a problem at a table.

I've had completely the opposite experience. I sit at the bar nearly all the time because I *know* it'll get me service. Too often when sitting alone at a table, I get forgotten.

And I eat not as often as Don, but pretty much every night. At lunch I'm more likely to sit at a table, but that's because restaurants seem to be more ready for solo diners.

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I am also disappointed Savored didn't support solo diners. I thought the concept was good and the restaurants are easily ones where the $10 fee still saves money. Savored support gave me a different answer saying it was the restaurants that set the minimum (but I am not sure that is true)..

When dining alone, when opentable does not allow booking, I usually call the restaurant directly (only once in NYC have I been turned down). The other day I made an open table reservation for 2 and in the comments said the reservation was only for one and requested they call my cell phone if it was an issue. The restaurant didn't have an issue.

I might try the same with Savored special requests feature. If anyone else has luck or not... I would be interested to read more.

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I can speculate about this all day, but the truth is I'd just be speculating. I think restaurants, in general, actually handle solo diners very nicely through bar service - the utility of a bar begins to fall apart when there's a large party (I just today booked a party of 4 in front of Koji, and that's the absolute maximum he can do, and even then it's only because there's a corner at the bar). As for the discount, that's another matter entirely - and by booking a table for two, for one person, you're automatically creating a 50% vacancy rate. So maybe the basic restaurant system is stacked against favoring solo diners. Not once have I ever heard of a restaurant resenting a solo diner being there (and quite frankly, I find most of them appreciate it very much and tend to go out of their way to give them special attention), but maybe it just doesn't fall within their basic economic plan to offer them discounts (thus the oxymoron of "hospitality business"). Tips are involved here as well, and are halved.

I'm trying to draw a parallel with the hotel industry, and it falls apart because hotels charge per room, and restaurants charge per customer (so instead of occupancy rate, you have number of covers as one of your primary metrics). Here's an interesting question that's related: does a solo diner at a two-top have an obligation to tip more? If not, then why not?

This is an interesting conversation for me on so many levels.

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With the savored model they are going for non-peak times, so I would think filling up a table is better than no table. But I would be interested in the analysis from other perspective.

I like eating at the bar of a restaurant that is not too crowded.

As a solo diner at a upscale restauarant, if I am eating at a table I do feel I have to order complete dinners and tip well but not double. Compared to when dining with someone else when I would more often split an appetizers and a dessert. As a solo diner I don't think it requires as much effort as a 2-top (but maybe).

At the bar I don't feel as much need to order as much or move up the low end of the tip range.

In Europe a lot of hotels do offer single occupiers a lower rate (even if they don't have special single rooms).

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Well, once we sort all this out, maybe we can address the issue of how much tip on an expensive bottle of wine. It *really* annoys me that there isn't an accepted standard, or at least some sort of guideline other than "20%, of course, and don't forget to grease the palm of the sommelier, too." :) Another issue that I'm interested in from a multitude of sides.

Cheers,

Hexagon Don

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I also hate sitting at the bar. I like to just eat my meal, read something, take my time (which is still faster than any 2+ dining party, even if I take my time). I'd even take the crappiest table if it means I can just have a table to myself, though I'm not averse to communal tables as long as you're not literally two inches from the people around you.

If I can't reserve for one on OpenTable (haven't had a problem yet with the restaurants I've gone to), then I just call the restaurant and ask. Or I just walk in at an off-time (usually early dinner or late lunch). Especially when traveling, haven't been refused yet. I tend to pick less crowded restaurants and eateries, though. If I know a place is going to be super crowded no matter what, I get the meal to go and find someplace else to sit and eat. Most places will accommodate, though you probably have to order at the bar to get it to-go.

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Being a solo diner also means the occasional big score that you couldn't get as part of a duo. One of my favorite meals ever was about 4 years ago when I walked into Hearth and saw exactly one free seat at the kitchen pass. 1 tasting menu with a few extra things thrown in,wines chosen and served by the chef, and I rolled out about 3 hours later a very happy boy.

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I don't often dine alone but I did about a year ago at Jackson 20 in Old Town on a busy Saturday night. The hostess, Jane, brought magazines over for me to read. She also chatted some with me, I guess to ease the discomfort of being alone. I didn’t feel uncomfortable but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless. The waiter was also nice and friendly. Overall, I had a good experience as a solo diner and the food was good too!

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I don't often dine alone but I did about a year ago at Jackson 20 in Old Town on a busy Saturday night. The hostess, Jane, brought magazines over for me to read. She also chatted some with me, I guess to ease the discomfort of being alone. I didn’t feel uncomfortable but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless. The waiter was also nice and friendly. Overall, I had a good experience as a solo diner and the food was good too!

This is yet another tricky issue. I've always appreciated the gesture of being offered a magazine (but usually refuse, choosing to study the menu instead). However, some diners are actually annoyed by it, claiming that it makes them feel like they're being pitied. This is truly one example of "you can't please everyone."

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Well, let me cite specific examples: I have had poor bar service at EatBar, Medium Rare, and Jaleo in Crystal City. The EatBar problem was due to a packed house so I think that is excusable, but the other times I was at a nearly empty bar and getting no service at all.

On the other hand, maybe I was more aware of being a solo diner at the bar so when I *did* get poor service, I was more likely to attribute it to being a solo diner. Perception is all, right? :)

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I'm going to get flak for writing this, but oh well, here goes. We haven't had enough firestorms around here lately... Without intending to cast aspersions on anyone in particular, in my experience you reap what you sow. I, too, like to sit at a quiet table with a good book when I'm alone. But that doesn't keep me from making eye contact, saying please and thank you, engaging in a little talk when engaged, and appreciating a well-meant gesture instead of taking it as an insult. I don't recall ever having worse service, at bar or table, when dining solo, then I might have otherwise. Then again, I hate being hovered over, so maybe my experience is worthless.

...now where did I put the nomex suit?

eta: what sphere777 said. Perception is reality.

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Most of my solo dining has been for business, so away from DC, but I don't really recall having any problems that I associated with being a solo diner. Usually, I'm able to, as JPW noted, score a bar seat at a place where I couldn't have walked in on a whim. If I had markedly poor service, I chalked it up to (relative) youth or the fact that I don't usually drink alcohol. For the most part, I've been welcomed and served very well according to my mood (e.g., efficient and reserved when I am tired and withdrawn, chatty and warm when I seem interested in talking), to which bar staff seem to be more, not less attuned.

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I second what porcupine said: I make it a point to make eye contact with the bartenders/servers, make conversation - but not to distraction, I hope! - with them, etc., even if I'm reading.

It's such a fine line I think both ways. I'm reading at a bar for two reasons: I want to get out of my house even if no one wants to join me for a meal (or if I don't want someone to join me), and I have to have *SOMETHING* to entertain me while eating/drinking, and most of the time TV at a bar won't cut it.

So I don't mind talking to the staff, but I don't want to distract them from their work. At the same time, sometimes the staff wants to talk almost too much, but that usually starts with the line "Is that one of them Kindle things?"

(I love my Kindles, don't get me wrong, but reading one at a bar seems to send up a flare to random people at the bar and staff to ask you about them. Which can be good if you want a conversation but annoying if you're really into your book!)

Anyways. Yeah. Sat at the bar last night for dinner at Ragtime. Had good service - well, to be honest, I'd have to say nearly perfect, because I can't think of any way to improve it. Had fun chatting with the bartenders a bit, but read a good bit of my novel. Also was surprisingly amused by the trivia game going on, but happy when it was over.

Where was I going with this? Do I need more caffeine or less? Should I shut up now? The answer to all of these is probably "OH LOOK A SHINY".

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I second what porcupine said: I make it a point to make eye contact with the bartenders/servers, make conversation - but not to distraction, I hope! - with them, etc., even if I'm reading.

(I love my Kindles, don't get me wrong, but reading one at a bar seems to send up a flare to random people at the bar and staff to ask you about them. Which can be good if you want a conversation but annoying if you're really into your book!)

Ah yes, I meant to address this as baseline politeness, even if you are exhausted! Also, I tend to not bring my e-reader in if I really want to read, ironically enough, because that thing is such a great conversation starter...

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This is yet another tricky issue. I've always appreciated the gesture of being offered a magazine (but usually refuse, choosing to study the menu instead). However, some diners are actually annoyed by it, claiming that it makes them feel like they're being pitied. This is truly one example of "you can't please everyone."

This is truly one example of "people are too quick to take offense". sheesh.

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When I go out to dinner alone, I like to make a reservation so I'm not standing around waiting. I prefer to eat at a table instead of the bar so I'm not being squeezed, sloshed upon or jostled.

Bar or table depends on the restaurant, but I usually prefer the former. There are certain places that are just more enjoyable at the bar period, whether alone or with someone else. That said, I’m not averse to dining at a table. I usually reserve a table for one when I’m in the mood for trying a special occasion restaurant, and my “special occasion” is celebrating Wednesday. I hear you on not wanting to wait for a bar seat to open up, though.

As a solo diner at a upscale restauarant, if I am eating at a table I do feel I have to order complete dinners and tip well but not double. Compared to when dining with someone else when I would more often split an appetizers and a dessert. As a solo diner I don't think it requires as much effort as a 2-top (but maybe).

My last solo meal at a table was at one of Don’s bolded restaurants. I sat next to a couple, who nitpicked throughout their dinner, had a dish or two comped, and stated that our section’s server “wasn’t that good” when signing the bill (I couldn’t help hearing; banquettes are the real communal table these days).

Meanwhile, I had a rather enjoyable meal with fantastic service, and appropriately tipped the same staff who were being chided by my neighbors. The long-winded point: I don’t feel as guilty occupying a two-top when there are so many jerks eating out together.

I do avoid prime dinner hours during the weekend though (of course, that goes for my meals with others as well). And while my overall check average may be lower, I can easily outspend a pair of diners who just want burgers and a shared appetizer at place like Palena Café -- even without alcohol (ironically, bartenders seem to care less if you imbibe during dinner than servers…for reasons I can guess).

This is yet another tricky issue. I've always appreciated the gesture of being offered a magazine (but usually refuse, choosing to study the menu instead). However, some diners are actually annoyed by it, claiming that it makes them feel like they're being pitied. This is truly one example of "you can't please everyone."

Unless the server sits the magazine in the opposite chair, refers to it as your dining companion, or asks if you know how to read, I see no reason why the offer would offend a normal person.

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I generally prefer to sit at the bar while dining solo if only to get a good view of what's going on in the restaurant (not always the case of course). I never fail, I hope, to be polite and I never fail to bring reading material. 99.99% of the time I have a good experience. I also have a gift for makiing it erfectly clear that I'm not interested in small talk if that is indeed how I feel ;). But I'm nice about it, really.

I don't particularly like to eat solo at a table because on a few of the occasions, not all, that I have decided to pursue that route, I felt oddly isolated - even though isolation is my default mode. :wacko:

Of course Waitman and I occasionally dine out (and in) together with books. What can I say?

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Unless the server sits the magazine in the opposite chair, refers to it as your dining companion, or asks if you know how to read, I see no reason why the offer would offend a normal person.

If a waiter brought a magazine and asked me if I know how to read, it would make my day and the waiter would probably get an extravagant tip. But that reminds me of the bookshop sketch with Marty Feldman and John Cleese.

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My very confused 2 cents from a restaurant person that is participating with savored.....I'm not sure why they don't offer reservations as a single diner. In fact I had to confirm with my manager that it was true. From our perspective there is no reason why it shouldn't be offered. I would defer to Don's defense that they're a young company and looks like they still need to work some things out. (I could tell you a couple of other things they need to address but that would be off topic)

As for open table, I'm assuming that one could create a single diner slot if somebody really wanted to. The problem on our end is that in some ways you're now "holding" a table for a single diner, because most people I know have it set up that in order to override the seating capacity of a table you need a managers password.

Do we take reservations for single diners, absolutely, unfortunately the way the system is set up you would have to call the restaurant in order to do so. Arguably, if you have a moderate check average at your restaurant you may want single diners to call the restaurant in order to avoid paying the OT fee because of the assumed loss of revenue.

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In Europe, back in the day(pre-online reservations) you almost couldn't get a reservation at a michelin 3* restaurant in Paris as a single diner. (l'Arpege was my one exception but 1/2 the dishes served 2 or 4 ppl. so I was screwed anyway) When my dining companions had to cancel for dinner at Ducasse they tried very hard to convince me that I should come for lunch, I stuck with it and they did honor my dinner reservation though.

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As for open table, I'm assuming that one could create a single diner slot if somebody really wanted to. The problem on our end is that in some ways you're now "holding" a table for a single diner, because most people I know have it set up that in order to override the seating capacity of a table you need a managers password.

You most definitely can. I've made single-person reservations at Dino before using OpenTable. Of course, I like to eat dinner closer to 4 pm than 8, so maybe I'm just lucky since I'm an early-bird.

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I never dine alone at a table-service restaurant. It's probably my crippling fear of being judged. "Oh god, the poor handsome man is eating by himself! Do you think his date stood him up? There must be something really wrong with him, because he's so sexy. I bet he has scrotal hyperwarts or something."

Even at counter-service restaurants I'll generally order "to go" if I'm by myself.

Oh god I'm so afraid of being alone...

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I love dining alone. I feel like it gives me more opportunity to really "digest" the food mentally and to see what's going on in the restaurant. Plus, I don't have to worry about the feelings of my dining companion/keeping her entertained/etc.

Also, then from the restaurant's side, I feel like it's even more important to take care of single diners, because there's nowhere to hide if the food or service is subpar. I think there's something very beautiful about serving someone who is clearly at the restaurant for the primary purpose of eating/drinking instead of entertaining/socializing, as if the unstated message of "this is what we're doing" is sent more directly. It's a more intimate experience.

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You most definitely can. I've made single-person reservations at Dino before using OpenTable. Of course, I like to eat dinner closer to 4 pm than 8, so maybe I'm just lucky since I'm an early-bird.

All of my reservations on OpenTable have been single-person reservations and I have had absolutely no problem. Perhaps some restaurants do have some sort of exclusion rule during the busiest hours but I've never noticed.

Rob

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I do have one pet peeve as a solo diner at a table, if it's in the bar area (i.e. the "high tops" at Ragtime, for instance).

If you've got a group around/near you, often times people will seem to assume that because you're alone, they can put their drinks down on your table, or their empties, etc.

That's not the restaurants fault (well, at Ragtime I think they need to make it clearer that the high tops have servers, not bar service) but it puts me in awkward position. I feel like if I say something, I'm being a dick, but if I don't say something, they continue to annoy me. It's easier if the waitress says something, but that almost never happens...

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I do have one pet peeve as a solo diner at a table, if it's in the bar area

My pet peeve too. I'd say the only times I've had problems or bad service when dining solo were when sitting at a bar area table. But I find it to be a bad area for dining at many places, even if you aren't solo: whoever is supposed to be serving you ignores these tables (often it's the bartender, who is too busy to get over there), drunks and douchebags milling about, tables are too small if you're having a full meal, tables jammed too close (Proof comes to mind for those last two), etc...

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Probably about a day before BLB started this thread, I had thought about starting a thread similarly titled on "Help Needed." Why? Because I thought it would be neat/interesting/? to have someone post "hey, I am thinking about dining alone at X restaurant at Y time, does anyone want to join me?," and then someone can chime in/reply/PM that poster. Would that work here? (Honestly, I was too undermotivated to create an app and then I saw someone had created one anyway...)

But, for me, I quite enjoy eating at the bar as a solo diner. I felt awkward always at a table as a solo diner. Not sure why, but this thread certainly brings up some of those memories...which is why I thank Don and this board for teaching me that it's okay to dine alone....

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I think the men here are overlooking a very good reason why women dining alone at a bar can be a problem: the jerks trying to hit on you. "Is that a book?"--I was often asked in my younger, hotter, days--when it was quite clear what I was reading was a book. One of the advantages of being no spring chicken is that I don't have strangers trying to hit on me. I much prefer to eat at the bar nowadays, whether alone or with Dame Edna. Pichan at Corduroy will always take care of me, as will Krishna at Cashion's. I am trying to remember when I last had a bad experience eating at a bar and I can't think of any. I've met some lovely people eating at the bar cuz ain't nobody making a pass at me. It's quite liberating, actually.

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I love dining alone. I feel like it gives me more opportunity to really "digest" the food mentally and to see what's going on in the restaurant. Plus, I don't have to worry about the feelings of my dining companion/keeping her entertained/etc.

Also, then from the restaurant's side, I feel like it's even more important to take care of single diners, because there's nowhere to hide if the food or service is subpar. I think there's something very beautiful about serving someone who is clearly at the restaurant for the primary purpose of eating/drinking instead of entertaining/socializing, as if the unstated message of "this is what we're doing" is sent more directly. It's a more intimate experience.

A big +1 to Adam's post.

I also find it funny when I show a deep interest in the food and beverage - both ordering and consuming -- how often I am asked "Are you in the industry?" :lol:

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I also find it funny when I show a deep interest in the food and beverage - both ordering and consuming -- how often I am asked "Are you in the industry?" :lol:

Yep! It does happen a lot!

Truth is, if I hadn't dined alone all these years, I wouldn't have acquired the knowledge that I have. Spend 2-3 hours a day remaining hyper-focused on *anything* - 17th century bronze medallions, tactile corpuscles of Grandry, materials used in stuffing mattresses - and you're going to become an expert before too long.

(I mentioned mattresses because I often use that analogy: people spend 1/3 of their lives sleeping on mattresses, and 99.99% of the population knows virtually nothing about them. Just because you breathe doesn't mean you know anything about air. It's the same with food. It's the same with anything.)

And once again, may I recommend "The Royal Game" by Stefan Zweig? Still, the greatest short story I have ever read (or at least my personal favorite). Get a good translation of it if you read it. And guess which character I am. :) (People who know me will know; people who don't know me will guess the other character.)

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Probably about a day before BLB started this thread, I had thought about starting a thread similarly titled on "Help Needed." Why? Because I thought it would be neat/interesting/? to have someone post "hey, I am thinking about dining alone at X restaurant at Y time, does anyone want to join me?," and then someone can chime in/reply/PM that poster. Would that work here? (Honestly, I was too undermotivated to create an app and then I saw someone had created one anyway...)

I think that was one of the original intentions of the "On a Whim" thread, which doesn't see a whole lot of action anymore. Maybe it's time to give it a kick in the pants and get people 'whimming' again :)

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On OpenTable, every individual restaurant has the ability to reconfigure the seating for every table. At the Light Horse (and Eventide and Ardeo + Bardeo, unless they've changed what I set up originally), I did the following:

The default setting for a two-top is set by OpenTable as a "minimum 2, maximum 2" in the system. I reset all of them to be a "minimum 1, maximum 2" so they can be booked by solo diners. I similarly did the same thing for four-tops that were set as "minimum 4, maximum 4". They were all changed to "minimum 2" and some were set to "maximum 5" because I know I have some tables where a chair can be easily added to accommodate a party of five.

I don't think a lot of restaurants have probably investigated their systems enough to reset the default accommodation levels. It's super-easy to do.

As far as solo diners occupying a table for two, I say whoever doesn't value the shit out of them is an idiot. Solo diners typically spend freely, require less attention (usually contently reading, e-mailing or playing Words With Friends or Angry Birds), tip generously and turn the table back over to the house in 45-60 minutes tops. Perfect.

FWIW, if any DR members ever want to see OpenTable from "our" side of the business, shoot me a PM. I'd be only more than happy to have you swing down to the Light Horse and I can show you the inner workings of the OT system from our side.

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Well, once we sort all this out, maybe we can address the issue of how much tip on an expensive bottle of wine. It *really* annoys me that there isn't an accepted standard, or at least some sort of guideline other than "20%, of course, and don't forget to grease the palm of the sommelier, too." :) Another issue that I'm interested in from a multitude of sides.

Cheers,

Hexagon Don

Can we add to this the appropriate amount to tip if you bring your own bottle and pay corkage? I can't recall ever having done it actually, but am thinking about it for an upcoming meal.

So could those of you that have dined solo and done a tasting menu chime in on your experience and whether you'd advise it or not? I'm going to Oregon at the end of the month and have a reservation for Joel Palmer, but I keep waffling. One concern is simply that I'm only in wine country one day so I will have to be very careful not to overtaste during the day so I can still fully enjoy dinner that night, but the bigger thing is that I am nervous about doing a whole tasting menu solo. Of course I don't have to do the tasting menu, but if I'm going there, I'd really like to. I am typically comfortable dining alone - happy to pull up a chair at the bar and read if the bartender isn't chatty, but a full tasting menu that could take hours and where I likely wouldn't want to read except perhaps briefly in between courses, I don't know. I also worry that the chef will be annoyed at having to create all of those dishes for only one diner. Someone please reassure me (or tell me my concerns are warranted)? :)

Second question - one of my dinners out in Portland is currently planned for Le Pigeon. They have communal tables, which is another solo dining experience I've never had before. Could be that I'll end up seated next to some awesome folks who want to include a random stranger in their evening, but more likely I am stuck eating alone, but closely surrounded by people? Bad idea?

I am trying to find people to join me for meals in Portland through Couch Surfing, but don't think that's an option for JP.

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Can we add to this the appropriate amount to tip if you bring your own bottle and pay corkage? I can't recall ever having done it actually, but am thinking about it for an upcoming meal.

So could those of you that have dined solo and done a tasting menu chime in on your experience and whether you'd advise it or not? I'm going to Oregon at the end of the month and have a reservation for Joel Palmer, but I keep waffling. One concern is simply that I'm only in wine country one day so I will have to be very careful not to overtaste during the day so I can still fully enjoy dinner that night, but the bigger thing is that I am nervous about doing a whole tasting menu solo. Of course I don't have to do the tasting menu, but if I'm going there, I'd really like to. I am typically comfortable dining alone - happy to pull up a chair at the bar and read if the bartender isn't chatty, but a full tasting menu that could take hours and where I likely wouldn't want to read except perhaps briefly in between courses, I don't know. I also worry that the chef will be annoyed at having to create all of those dishes for only one diner. Someone please reassure me (or tell me my concerns are warranted)? :)

Second question - one of my dinners out in Portland is currently planned for Le Pigeon. They have communal tables, which is another solo dining experience I've never had before. Could be that I'll end up seated next to some awesome folks who want to include a random stranger in their evening, but more likely I am stuck eating alone, but closely surrounded by people? Bad idea?

I am trying to find people to join me for meals in Portland through Couch Surfing, but don't think that's an option for JP.

When I make reservations in advance at top restaurants, I include a note such as, "Hi, I've been reading about your restaurant for a long time, and am excited to finally be able to dine here. I'll be coming into town alone, and will be having dinner solo - would it be okay if I got a tasting menu? I've heard a lot about Chef X, and would love to try the full range of her cooking."

With a note like this, assuming you go on a night that isn't busy, I'll give you 90% odds of getting one of the best seats in the house - often a corner seat overlooking the entire restaurant. The restaurant seated you here because you sounded like a very serious, thoughtful diner, so in this situation do not read anything other than the menu during your meal. No books! (Or, at the minimum, don't *plan* on reading your book - wait and see how it feels. And why not immerse yourself totally, completely, in the moment, and focus on nothing but the restaurant and the meal. I find situations like this to be extremely rewarding, and often walk out feeling like a new person.)

If you do wish to read, I'd definitely sit at the bar, and not bother with the advance notice. You should be able to enjoy the tasting menu there, too, and the restaurant will not need to go on high alert so it's a more casual experience all the way around.

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Edit: I was rereading my post, and it prompted a thought:

I decided awhile back to embark upon a "silent, affirmative action program" in terms of using masculine vs. feminine pronouns in my writing (refer to my first paragraph above). I hate the clumsy "his or her" construction, or any of its variants such as "laypeople," "(s)he," etc. Gender-neutral writing in a gender-marked language is just plain bad writing. So my solution has been:

1) If I know my audience is female, I tend to use the feminine unless it sounds forced.

2) If I know my audience is male, I tend to use the masculine.

3) If I don't know, or if it's a mix, I try to alternate - sometimes I pick things up with my left hand; sometimes with my right hand.

4) Most importantly, I try not to make a big deal about it; I just do it - it has become very easy and natural with time.

I've never thought to ask anyone before, but, well, why not. Is this approach reasonable?

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Second question - one of my dinners out in Portland is currently planned for Le Pigeon. They have communal tables, which is another solo dining experience I've never had before. Could be that I'll end up seated next to some awesome folks who want to include a random stranger in their evening, but more likely I am stuck eating alone, but closely surrounded by people? Bad idea?

I ate by myself at Le Pigeon and it was one of my best dining experiences ever. I scored a seat at the bar (which overlooks the kitchen), and wound up striking up a conversation with the chef that resulted in me getting his technique for making the best sweetbreads I've ever eaten. I also wound up chatting a little bit with the couple seated next to me.

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Don, that was exactly my thinking, that with a meal like the tasting menu at JP I wouldn't want to be distracted by reading at all. Aside from the concerns I already mentioned (gee, I have so many :P) I guess I worried about the servers feeling like they needed to fawn or something. I still find being attentive without overbearing is a tough balance for restaurants even when I'm with a group so I guess I worry about how that will play out with me as a solo diner. Still welcome more feedback, but I think I will stop worrying and follow your advice to send a note. That's really no different than my experiences when I wine taste alone, which I am completely comfortable with (although there I have an industry business card to help establish myself as someone serious about the wine and the experience).

I ate by myself at Le Pigeon and it was one of my best dining experiences ever. I scored a seat at the bar (which overlooks the kitchen), and wound up striking up a conversation with the chef that resulted in me getting his technique for making the best sweetbreads I've ever eaten. I also wound up chatting a little bit with the couple seated next to me.

Cool, thanks. Like I said above, I'm happy to eat at the bar, but was concerned about not getting a seat somewhere so wanted to make a rez to secure it. I wonder if I should give them a quick call and ask if they could just accommodate me at the bar? The alternative is just to see how things look when I get there - see where there are solo seats and what the company nearby looks like versus the bar. It will be a Friday night so I expect they will be busy. Nevermind, I looked more carefully at their website and see how the seating works now. I will contact them to see if they would consider reserving a seat for 1 at the counter. Otherwise, I may just have to show up early!

And yes, I know I overthink things. I can't help it!

ETA: Don, I think it's totally reasonable. Really I think as long as you're consistent throughout that piece of writing it shouldn't matter, and I appreciate your use of the feminine some of the time. :)

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Having a history of colleagues whose tastes run more to Olive Garden than Per Se, I've done fine dining and tasting menus solo more times than I can remember. I've found without exception that restaurant staff tend to have a high regard for anyone who likes good food enough to venture out for a tasting menu by themselves. In fact one of my favorite meals of all time was a solo dinner at the kitchen pass at Hearth in NYC. Got a couple of extra freebies from "mistakes" made in the kitchen and extra pours of off list wines from Chef. You'll be well taken care of.

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