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The Lone Diner.... a Leper?

Here I am, the lone diner. I walk into a local restaurant that has received accolades from everyone, I expect that I will be showered with attention, and be amazed with the food.

HA!! "fraid not!

I walk in, and stand there.... and wait and wait... 1,,,,2 minutes go by... someone finally sees me and says.... Oh ... did you need a seat? WELL YEAH... I don't normally eat standing in a foyer.

They seat me in the BACK... not even close to another human being, and I wait.... and wait... NO menu... NO water... nothing...
1...2....3...4....5... minutes.. FINALLY someone comes and drops off a menu, and walks away... no water... not can I get you a drink nothing.

10 minutes later... someone comes back and asks if I am ready to order, the first thing I say is I would LOVE a glass of water, and give them my order.

I waited another 15 minutes for my water and appetizer to arrive, it was a bowl of soup that was actually HALF a bowl, and it was all potatoes and no seafood. (seafood chowder should have SOME seafood,,, shouldn't it?)

THEN, 10 minutes later, my entree arrives...all would be well but I ordered fish and chips, and there was 1 teaspoon of tarter sauce, I asked for more... and waited.. and waited and waited... 40... yes 40 minutes later, they come back, I ask for the check and a box to take the fish home SINCE I NEVER GOT THE TARTER I ASKED FOR... I get the box, the check... and Poof, no server... so I wait with the CC on the check.. for another 10 minutes.. finally I walked up to the bar, and handed the tender my check and CC.

This is not the first or only time this has happened to me, but always as a lone diner.

WHY oh WHY do restaurants treat lone diners like lepers?

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  1. Aaarghhh! That is awful. As a former waiter, I treated my one-tops the same as anyone else. (service with a snarl..;) ) Never would let that happen if you were my customer. Did they try to seat you at the bar? Did you have a reservation or did you walk in? Where did this happen? adam

    2 Replies
    1. re: adamshoe

      It happened in Manchester, NH. At a small but very well liked local up and coming establishment. They did not try to seat me at the bar, they immediately sat me by the windows in the FAR back... there were very few people in the restaurant, as it was about 3p (usually you get better service when its dead) I know I am a bartender, and a former server who has never treated a lone diner like this.... however I have noticed that I am treated like a leper when I am alone about 70% of the time. Maybe its the times, but I know as a bartender 90% of my customers are alone... and they get the same treatment if not better than a group of 10... (who will order over the top shots and leave me a $2 tip on a $40 round)

      1. re: gryphonskeeper

        I think you just notice these lapses/delays in service more when you're dining alone. I've had situations like you describe but because I'm chatting I don't really notice and it's not a big deal. I dine alone a fair bit when I'm traveling and I haven't noticed that I get worse service generally. Although I don't mind sitting at the bar if they have one and they ask me if I'd like to.

    2. I've dined solo in many restaurants around the world over the past 40 years, and I've only encountered "solo abuse" once. It was at breakfast in an upscale London hotel, and I dare to guess that they've never treated a single female guest that way again. Scorched earth policy at work here.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pikawicca

        Good for you pikawicca. My mom went to London by herself for a week or so and got treated very badly at some nice places. My mom was a woman who ate out by herself with confidence all the time. But the way she was treated there got to her. Even some of the customers at these places gave her unfriendly stares. /boggle.

      2. I stayed alone at a four-star all-inclusive hotel on the Red Sea (Egypt) a few years back. I'd quit my job in Italy a few weeks before moving back to Canada, had some time on my hands and found a cheap holiday... but all of my friends had to work. The men working in the cafeteria would swing breadsticks between their legs and ask me if I liked it. They would come to my table, ask to show me around town on their motorbikes and shout at me if I declined. After a meal they would phone my hotel room and ask if they could come over. Since that holiday I've become a lot more forgiving when it comes to "solo abuse" in restaurants!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Jetgirly

          Well, that puts the missing tartar sauce in perspective.

          1. re: Jetgirly

            Sorry you had to deal with that, but I see it as more an indictment of Egyptian society than a solo dining issue. Egyptian men are notorious for their abusive behavior toward women. A couple of examples:

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_eas...

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_eas...

          2. Sadly, if a restaurant's crowded, some will get snarky about seating 1-tops because they're less profitable. Shame on them.

            I re-read the OP and it seems he/she was the victim not only of solo abuse but also the victim of plain old poor service -- or servers spread too thin to give snappy service. I'm certain there are restaurants in the OP's area that would welcome a solo diner with open arms and serve them as they serve all other parties, large and small.

            1. Totally unacceptable. Jfood eats solo tons of times while travelling. When he would like a table, he knows that the hostess is the seat of power, be nice to her, smile, and ask for the table you would like. If she sits you at "that" table refuse to sit and point to the table you would like, most times that works. If not, ask for the MOD. If MOD refuses, just leave, they do not want you.

              Once seated here is where the rubber meets the road. Do your part of the social contract (most solos are not lingerers so timing should not be a problem). If the timing from the service is slow, you can approach the MOD and mention something. This should only require one MOD intervention. If the server does not approach quickly or if the server does not apologize when s/he approaches, that's a bad sign. Be prepared to either ask for a drink (water and bread is OK), ask if there are specials or order. Now the dance begins. The apps should arrive in ~10 minutes max. The timing between app and entree will be shorter than if you are in a group, lots of reasons. But if the entree shows up while you are still eating the app, tell the server you are not ready and you would like X minutes between courses and not to place the entree under the heat lamps for that time. If they return with the same entree send that one back and ask for another one, this may lead to an interesting dance. After entree is completed it is now dessert and espresso time. The server should act as if you are a larger party, but this is a good table-turning event. The server is thinking 1 dessert and a coffee for 30 minutes or a new table. This is turbo-leper time. But in the end the service should be as good as if there was another person in your party.

              Some pitfalls jfood has experienced

              1) "That" table - The host(ess) places at the table next to the bathroon, or as the OP described. Point to the table you would like to sit and tell the host(ess) you will sit there. Most times the response will be "I'm sorry that table is reserved". Total Resto-BS. Decide now if you would like to be treated badly over the course of the evening or leave.
              2) Special-less - Table next to you are told the "specials" but jfood's server did not. Ask for the specials and if you want one, order it even if the server tells you the order is already in the system.
              3) Total rush - they take the app dish as you are taking the last bite and place the entree down. Refuse the entree and tell the server to fire it in 15 minutes. If refused, ask for the check, pay for the app and leave.
              4) Fly By - You ask if the server could stop by as he works with other tables. Three strikes and you're out and so is jfood
              5) "Your dish will be right out" or "Your dish is being plated" - Major line in the sand. If there has been an inordinate amount of time, then they now have 2 minutes before the check is requested.
              6) Once 5) occurs and the check is requested, they will all of a sudden remember your order. Here is where you decide whether to stay, go, or go with the meal.

              But jfood usually experiences good service most of the time. Communication, as always, is key. If you are in a rush, tell the server when you order. If you would like a specific amount of time between courses, tell the server. If they do not meet these criteria. Remember at any point you should approach the MOD and explain the situation. If not corrected by the MOD, tell him you are leaving.. Remember it is your money and you always have the option of asking for the check and leaving. And if the server fails in their minimun standards, then you can decrease the tip, but if you do you MUST tell the MOD why. Otherwise you will find a thread on this board about Why are Single Diners so Cheap.

              But as another poster stated, time goes much slower as a solo then when dining woth others.

              5 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                jfood, I usually agree with your posts, but I have to take exception to your first pitfall. How do you know that table isn't actually reserved? This happens quite frequently at my restaurant. We only have ten tables and eight of them are at least reasonably nice. Two of them are considered "bad tables". We know this, and only seat people there when there is no other alternative. We never put reservations on either of those two tables. Often, especially on weekend nights, all of the "good tables" are reserved. So, walk-ins go on the bad tables. If we grant the request to move to a good table, the people who went through the effort to reserve ahead of time would end up at the worst table in the house. Maybe it's not that you are solo, but that you didn't make a reservation.

                1. re: hilltowner

                  Let jfood clarify and he agrees with you so bear with him.

                  When jfood has made a reservation and he arrives and given "that" table. If he shows up without a reservation , then gets what is available. Reservation people absolutely get priority. But there have been times when he made a reservation, arrived with the restaurant not close to full and told where to sit. Then when he asks for a "better" table he is told that. Even if Jfood questions the MOD on people reserving specific tables he is told to sit next to the bathroom. Jfood doubts people call as many resturants that have given jfood that BS that people call and ask for table 22. Jfood normally leaves,

                  Hope that clarifies.

                  1. re: jfood

                    jfood, thanks for clarifying and you are absolutely right. A reservation should never be put at "that" table. And as for people requesting certain tables; it happens, but not very frequently.

                    1. re: jfood

                      jfood, would you email me at pikawicca@hotmail.com, please?

                  2. re: jfood

                    I really, really agree with the communication comments. In addition to getting across what your expectations are but a great opportunity to "establish rapport" which my husband calls "Catherine goes all over the world picking up people." It's human nature to want to please people you like. So I'm usually the one in the room they'll like --- because I put some effort in it. I don't introduce myself or ask the server to pull up a chair and join me but there are a million ways to do this. And when I'm by myself I'm more available for little bits of chat. I love people and find them endlessly fascinating so this is not a chore for me.