How nice when unexpected kindness and attention come at just the right time. After working a twelve hour day and knowing I wouldn’t have the energy or ambition to prepare much for dinner when I got back to my apartment, I decided to treat myself to a the neighborhood place around the corner. I had stopped there before, since I moved to this neighborhood 3 ½ months ago, but this visit would endear me to their hospitality. Support the restaurants you like, certainly, but, without a doubt, continue to patronize the places that treat solo diners with the welcoming respect as they would provide any other table.
I opened the hefty wooden door to an almost full dining room and would have been fine with a stool at the bar but the dozen seats were already full. The hostess came forward with a menu and when I signified, “one” with my index finger, she led me toward a comfy, small table tucked against a wall. It didn’t even occur to me until later that she did not use one of my least favorite restaurant greetings, “Just one?”
As I began to skim the menu, the server promptly arrived, and in a surprising but warm way, had leaned forward and made eye contact even before I noticed her there. When I glanced up, she smiled and said “Good evening.” I requested a pint of Spaten Oktoberfest, Munich’s gift to the beer world, an even bigger treat since it was on tap. I told her I had just worked a hectic, exhausting day. She quickly returned with the pint and took my order for fish tacos. “Good choice,” she responded. When my food arrived, she even seemed surprised at how quickly; she said the kitchen knew I was hungry. The plate of perch tacos was delicious, just the right kind of food for a late dinner, satisfying but not too heavy.
She checked back after a few bites, as should be routine for any good server, but I have noticed this step is often skipped at tables for one. When I had finished dinner, she returned and asked about dessert. It was tempting since they serve treats from a wonderful local bakery. I declined but said, “I do want to tell you how much I appreciated your excellent service.” She sincerely said she appreciated that I noticed because she “has been at this a long time.”
“I know,” I said. “I can tell. I’ve worked in this business a long time too. You’re good at what you do.” I continued to tell her about the blog I recently started about eating and cooking solo. She said she had eaten by herself earlier that day on her way to work.
I assured her I would return soon. I left her a generous tip for her kindness. I have long thought that a server who treats a table of one with warmth will often receive a larger tip than they might receive from a routine table of two. If you have found places like Alchemy Café, here in Madison, WI, http://www.alchemycafe.net, let them know that solo diners are an important part of their customer base. I’m glad they are my place around the corner.
Statistics from a survey in 2015 from Open Table, an online restaurant reservation service, noted a 62% increase in reservations for one in the previous two years. More and more restaurants are recognizing the trend of solo dining as they respond with staff training. Let your favorite dining spots know why they are your favorites. Post reviews on Yelp and similar sites, when you have the chance, to let them know solo diners are an important part of their audience.