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A note to waiters about single diners

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I often dine alone and have noticed that the service I get is much, much worse than when I am half of a couple or part of a group.

My latest for instance (one of many): The other day I walked into an almost-empty restaurant and stood near the door. The waiter immediately saw me and turned on his heel, went back behind the bar, messed about, talked to the bus person, and after a few minutes yelled across the restaurant "You can sit at any two-top." It went downhill from there - his idea of asking for my order was to walk up and say "Well?" And then there was the 20 minute gap between me getting the bill and his taking the money...

I guess to him and the other waiters who treat single diners rudely, we are *just* one person.

But I make the restaurant-going decisions for my group. Everyone knows I am chowish and love to find excellent places, so my influence extends to my partner and all our friends. And I know for darn sure that none of us will be going back to that place for any of our gatherings or celebrations.

I know that smart restauranteurs already have this figured out. Treat everyone well, even the humblest solo diner who comes in with a book and sits in the corner.

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  1. I have to say that I almost never get worse service when I dine alone, and indeed, often get slightly better service (as if they want to take special care of me!).

    Don't know why. I suppose it could be related to the markets I dine in, or perhaps the types of restaurants I tend to choose. I will confess that, because hubby dislikes upscale restaurants, I tend to choose them when I am by myself (my thinking being: why shouldn't I get a treat even if he doesn't want one? and besides, it is cheaper than dragging him somewhere he doesn't want to go :-) ). In any case, some of these are the types of places where all seating is done by a host or hostess at all times, and where no server would see it as his role to yell across the room...

    However, I don't think that is the entire reason. for that matter, the service you describe is bad enough that I wonder if it was really related to the fact that you were alone? Perhaps you just went to the wrong place, period.

    1. I know people say that solo diners get lousy service, but I eat out alone a lot, and I can't remember a single incidence of getting lousy service because I was alone. Usually it's the opposite: the waiter will be extra friendly and make sure I'm having a good experience.

      What I do hate is when the person seating me says something along the lines of "just one?" "Table for one?" is a much better phrasing that doesn't make it sound as if there's something abnormal about eating alone.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I agree, I have my occasions of eating alone and I find that the service I get is no worse than service with a party of 100.

        I also agree that "Just one" does sound off and that eating alone should not be considered some pathological abnormality.

        1. re: Curtis

          I think any place that trains their staff correctly tells them NEVER to say "Just one?", it's very insulting. This is listed in the Waiting 101 manual.
          And they also should be training them to pay special attention to single diners, since they have no companions to distract them and will be noticing a lot more than usual.

          1. re: coll

            At this one high-end place, I had to say that the way they accomodated the single diner (myself) just blew me away and is something I'll remember for a long time. I made arrangements to be there later on in the night, and when I got there, they had magazines laid out at my table, which I thought was a very nice gesture.

            1. re: Curtis

              Why not share the name of the place?

              1. re: Curtis

                I'm impressed. I would also like to know the name and location of the place.

                1. re: waiter X

                  It's a restaurant in Toronto called Splendido. I wrote a review of the place recently in the Toronto, Canada Chowhound board, but I neglected to mention this one item.

                  1. re: Curtis

                    Thanks! I was hoping it was in San Francisco.

        2. I have to confess that I am a chicken about eating alone, and so usually choose upscale restaurants where I can eat at the bar. That way I can choose to read my book, or engage in conversation as I please. That said, being treated rudely is inexcusable.

          1. I guess it's the "Lonely Guy" syndrome. At least they didn't shine the spot light on you. But how do you know it's because you are dining single? Maybe they treat everyone the same.

            1. I eat solo regularly and have had only one bad experience. I was shopping on Fourth Street in Berkeley and stopped for lunch at Bette's Oceanview Diner. Because of a back injury, I cannot sit on backless stools and so opted to wait for a table. There are few small tables at Bette's but I was willing to wait. The duo ahead of me was seated at a small table and I knew I was next. I watched as a small table was cleaned. Imagine my surprise when a couple walked in and were immediately seated at that table! When I asked the hostess, she replied that since there were two of them, they had priority on the table for two! Needless to say, I've never been back. If a restaurant doesn't want to serve singles, tell us when we check in.