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Mar 5, 2009 11:55 AM

Eating at an empty restaurant?

This is something that has crossed my mind a few times, so I figured I would bring it up with a group of people who (potentially) enjoy eating out. Do you mind/like/dislike eating at an empty restaurant?

Personally, I feel really uncomfortable eating anywhere your party makes up the entire dining population and I would even say I feel strange when only 10-15% of the tables are full. I'm not sure what it is, but I think I feel like I'm being watched. Also, there is a big of catholic guilt ingrained into me that makes me feel really bad for the owners and waitstaff when the place is so empty. I tend to sit there a worry about the waitstaff, chef, owner, etc. I'm definately not saying that I only like eating at crowded places, more that I just don't like being the only one dining at there.

Does anyone else feel this way and purposly avoid empty restaurants?

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  1. I also feel bad for the restaurant and staff when we're one of the only, or THE only table. I don't go out of my way to avoid them, I just worry they will be closed soon and am usually right. I usually try to tell other people I know who live around where the restaurant is, or post on CH about a place to try to "save" it from going under, but have never been successful.

    1. I'm uncomfortable, as is my husband, in an other-wise empty restaurant. You start wondering if there's a good reason it's empty and you're the ones who don't know about it - like they've gotten a bad inspection report from the health department or something. So we usually will go elsewhere.

      1. Hate it, two recent examples. Chowhound in orange county recommended a Thai restaurant, went at 8, only table was us, food good, cost minimal, service great, but it was creepy. Woman l am currently with likes to eat dinner at 4:30-5 in the afternoon, we always eat by ourselves, really sdo not like it. Could handle the earliness of eating, just do not like it alone.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Was it Siam, Taste of Thai? I LOVE this restaurant and wish more people patronized it! The food is out of this world and Siam is a gracious hostess who will make sure she pleases you and your palate.

          I'm often the only one in the restaurant when I go there. I want to stand out on First Street with one of those arrows.

          P.S. I don't find dining by myself in an empty restuarant creepy, though.

          1. re: janetms383

            Sounds like the E. Indian restro. Seinfeld tried to save. LOL
            A few thoughts:
            Obviously the first thing potential customers are going to think if the place is empty there must be a 'bad' reason. 99% of the time they are correct.
            Believe it or not there are some restaurants who have zero interest in your patronage. Lots of 'Inner Tennis' in that case.
            Many many moons ago an Italian immigrant family opened a little Italian restaurant at the end of my block in S. Calgary.
            It was Dec. and EFFING COLD! and no one was going anywhere to simply 'eat out'.
            The lovely lady went around and literally knocked on hundreds of night after everyone had already had their dinner.
            In very broken english: "Good evening. My name is ......... ..... My husband and I have opened '...........' just near you. We would consider it an honor if you would join us as our guests whenever you are able to come and meet our family and share a glass of my father's wine and a little something from our kitchen".
            Within a year every table was booked months in advance. The ravioli was from heaven.
            They were approached many times to open another restaurant. They never did.
            "Just enough for our needs" was their reply.
            They have long since passed away and the restaurant is now a pet grooming location.

        2. hence the old saying "No one wants to eat in an empty restaurant". It's not only creepy but calls the quality of the insuing meal into question. Empty Thai place at 445pm. no biggie........same restaurant empty at 730pm? Im walking right by.......

          4 Replies
          1. re: nkeane

            I wouldn't necessarily walk right by. One of my favorite Thai restaurants is nearly always empty when ever my parents and I eat dinner there. The location is bad (the previous two restaurants at that location didn't last long) and the restaurant really only fills up when the weather is nice and they have outside seating. But their take out/delivery is always busy.

            Empty restaurants always look lonely and sad to me. Not the atmosphere that I want in a restaurant.

            1. re: viperlush

              my example was based on having never been to the restaurant before. Yes, if I KNOW its good, but empty, I look at it as a perfect chance to enjoy it sans the crowd.

              1. re: viperlush

                You hit on the point I was gonna make...many places may do a BIG take out/delivery business but very little in-house dining so they therefore always look empty. My fave Sushi place out here has a great dining room which is never ever full but when I have eaten there, there is a steady stream of ppl coming in for takeout

                1. re: L_W

                  We stopped at a local pizza/Italian place one afternoon. We were the only ones in the restaurant and we hadn't been there before so we wondered why, since the food was delicious. While we were eating, they took about six orders for take-out or delivery pizza, at 4.30 in the afternoon... the next time we went in was at 6.30 or so on a Friday night and the place was packed, and they turned over at least four tables while we were sitting there. So it's a matter of timing, and also eat-out/vs take-out.

            2. Another concern is the freshness of the food if it appears there's not much traffic.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Veggo

                I have eaten twice at a restaurant where we were the only ones at noon.
                First time: Around 1PM four came in. No more came before we left around 1:30.
                On the second occasion, again at 1PM, people started coming in. Weird! This time it was a Friday and they just kept coming.
                I will probably not go back, because as Veggo mentioned, the food was only partially freshly prepared; and the warmed food was not that good.
                On the other hand: SO and I were in Spain. It was the early part of off-season. We stopped at a small but pretty seaside restaurant. Empty. We had a fabulous lunch! We were doted on by the waitress and had the quietest, most romantic lunch. I would post pics but they are hard to get to.
                I have no qualms about eating in an empty restaurant unless it seems odd. I do tend to see how many cars are out front....

                1. re: Scargod

                  In France, it is the rule of the routier. one truck, maybe, 2-3 trucks, probably, 4 or more, let's go.