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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:



          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.

                  3. When I travel on business solo, I always sit at the bar. The bartenders tend to give excellent service and nice drinks.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: cstr

                      "When I travel on business solo, I always sit at the bar".

                      You and me both.
                      Service is always stellar and a good bartender senses their customer's needs. I have my favorites wherever I go and it's always remarkable how a person working the bar can know ( don't know how they do it ) whether I want privacy or I want to talk.

                      1. re: cstr

                        as a bartender, I know :) But when I am dining, I wanted to be away from the bar scene, especially on a "game day"

                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                          I think you're referring to a much different bar than I am.
                          I don't frequent too many bars with big screen TV's on game days, roaring with fans drunk on adrenalin and shots of tequila.
                          I can't speak for cstr but the bars I'm referring to are in very upscale restaurants with quiet, beautiful bars where the menu includes everything in the dining area, including linen and crystal and where the menu isn't limited to buffalo wings and beer.

                          1. re: gryphonskeeper

                            I'm not, nor have ever been a bartender. I think latindancer has observed them a lot.
                            Please, what is a "game day"? We are not talking football, are we? Some professional sport often initiated at bars?

                          2. re: cstr

                            The bar seat has never let me down when I am dining alone. The service is always better there for me, than at a table. And I make a point to tip well, and thank the bartender for taking good care of me.

                          3. Unsurprisingly (as I'm British) my solo dining experiences are in the UK or other European countries. Never encountered a problem trhat I would attribute to being on my own. Ever.

                            Perhaps it's just another example of the different restaurant cultures between our two continents.

                            29 Replies
                            1. re: Harters

                              "Perhaps it's just another example of the different restaurant cultures between our two continents".

                              I have never had the negative experiences mentioned here regarding lone dining. I make a reservation and I've always been very fortunate, based on some of the complaints here, to be given a table that is desirable to the patrons and been given exemplary service.
                              The OP's description of her/his experience is abhorrent and then mentions this happens 'always as a lone diner'. I'm saying not all restaurants do this and not all lone diners experience it.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                "When I travel on business solo, I always sit at the bar"...You and me both. - Your post above.

                                So do you always sit at the bar or do you always get exemplary service at the table? Very confusing.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  :-) Good catch, jfood. And a good question. A couple of contradictory responses leaves one wondering where the person actually sits.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I get confused enough as it is - dont need any help.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      LOL! What, you don't want to play musical chairs between a bar stool and a restaurant's dining room chair?

                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                      Perhaps when there is no bar available (or it's full), Latindancer knows to make a reservation for a table. Or, she's not travelling solo on those "table" days. It could happen.

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        Hmmm, how would she know the bar is going to be full when she's making a reservation? That's amazing foresight!

                                    3. re: jfood

                                      Sorry I've confused you and a few others.
                                      Business, bar.
                                      Lone dining, bar or table.
                                      Depends on my mood.
                                      The bar guarantees privacy. The table doesn't.
                                      Does that clear things up?

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        So you do business at the bar and that guarantees privacy? My experience is that the least private place perhaps anywhere is a bar. People on each side and in front of you --- if it's a quiet night. A table doesnt give you more privacy than that? I wont speak for others but I'm more confused than ever. Or maybe I just frequent VERY different places.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Yes, in my case, it guarantees privacy.
                                          The bartender gets it.
                                          Can't be any more clear than that.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            "Or maybe I just frequent VERY different places".

                                            Most likely. There have never been people on each side of me.

                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              "Yes, in my case, it guarantees privacy.
                                              The bartender gets it.
                                              Can't be any more clear than that."

                                              I have never heard such obtuse or mysterious replies in my time on here. You could be a lot clearer! Are you too big to allow other people to sit next to you? You go at such odd hours that nobody else is there? Are you with the CIA in Central America, hence the name?
                                              This business you are in... it seems like there is something you are reluctant to discuss that might tie this together and have it make more sense to us.

                                              1. re: Scargod

                                                Scargod, this is the second thread whereby answers aren't given as to the industry background (claimed to be in the restaurant business in another thread re: restaurant margins). It really would clarify a lot of things that have been intimated.

                                                There's a point where I guess a reader just ends up having to make up their own minds as to whether to believe what another poster said.

                                                Or just go with the CIA operative theme. I'm liking that one. :-)

                                              2. re: latindancer

                                                You're saying that the bars you frequent you've never EVER had a person on either side of you? Interesting bar. Exclusive club, perhaps?

                                                None of your responses here have made any sense throughout the thread. You always make reservations at a table as a lone diner; you always sit at a bar as a lone diner; sitting at the bar guarantees privacy, because you have no one sitting on either side of you, perhaps because of some invisible force field. Not sure what kind of bars you go to that virtually have *no one* sitting at the bar alongside you.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  Well, don't forget the cannibalism comment from a while back. So posters can say what they want but it takes some credibility to back it up.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    True. I don't think I'd want to sit next to a cannibal in a bar.

                                                    (This cannibal walks into a bar......) ;-)

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        If no one EVER sat next to me at a bar, I would wonder if maybe I'm not washing those hard-to-reach places well enough.

                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                        there went the fresca, right out of my left nostril...LOL

                                                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                          That's gotta hurt. (And do you have a cold? Whassamatta with your right nostril? ;-) )

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            I pinched my nose, but not fast enough as I laughed at the post while I took a pull off the straw... :D

                                              3. re: latindancer

                                                Clear as mud...this makes less sense than the previous posts. But if it works for you, that's great. Is there a "Lose a Turn" on this wheel of seating?

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  Oh, thanks, j. I've just spent two hours dealing with an irrational MIL (just home from stroke rehab) and I thought *I* was the only one who gets more and more confused. (Picture head rattling.)

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    I dunno what I dun here but, I still like sitting at the bar when I'm by my onezee.

                                                  2. re: latindancer

                                                    I'm trying to think of occupations where a person might conduct more business in the bar of an upscale restaurant than in the dining room, but so far I've only come up with one.

                                                2. re: Harters

                                                  As a frequent business traveler I've often dined solo and have rarely encountered any problems anywhere. But in reply to you Harter (and granted, this is the exception, not the rule) the only time I've ever been refused seating in a restaurant because I was alone was in London, at a high-end Indian restaurant in Soho. The doorman asked if I was alone and when I said yes he wouldn't even let me across the threshold! Apparently he wasn't willing to allow me to take up a two-top on a busy Saturday night.

                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    Ah. High end.....Soho......Saturday night.

                                                    If it's mid-range and up, I always make a reservation when I'm visiting London. I never want to be disappointed.

                                                3. About 3PM may be the answer. If they are taking a break from the noon rush or changing shifts, etc. they may be in no mood to wait on you. I have had mixed results from eating at 3-4 PM.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                    Well then they shouldn't be open. Lots of places close between 2 and 5.

                                                    1. re: hsk

                                                      And if pigs had wings they could fly. What they should or could do is not relevant. It is a fact that many are open and service lags and quality diminishes, across the board.
                                                      It seems to be a fact that you get a better outcome if you have surgery early in the morning rather than later in the day. Surgeries still occur at other times. Planes fly at all hours, too. The trade-offs are there.
                                                      I was once the only afternoon customer in a seaside resort in Spain, in off season. The attention and the food was fantastic. I have also had just the opposite experience (just as the OP).

                                                  2. During that last ten minutes waiting for the check to be picked up I would have seriously considered returning my CC to my wallet and walking out with my doggie bag. If you were not important enough to get noticed by the server during your meal, I'm sure you were still as unimportant after your meal. Especially if the place was not crowded! If the wait staff don't find it important to pick up the check in less than 10 minutes, they must not need the money or tip that bad. Screw 'em!

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: cookieluvntasha

                                                      Mmm, dine and dash. Good idea, but I am sure a night in the pokey isn't worth the revenge factor.

                                                      I like the bar, and sometimes prefer it even on a date. But then again, I like being a little boozey at times.

                                                      I am also not sure I want to play games with the waiter who is ill-trained. I see all sorts of trouble coming my way if I do. I have bailed out of a place quickly at first signs of inital problems. I think this was a good option my newest and bestest chowbuddy, jfood, mentioned.

                                                      Sadly, in all reality, I would just endure the pain. Grabbing other servers if available. If this happens enough, their own peers with bloody the offending waitpersons nose. That and a terse reaming of the manager as I escape.

                                                      1. re: DallasDude

                                                        The OP didn't even DINE. I think the whole situation is sad. I wouldn't really leave without paying...I'm a Christian with moral sense, but I would be angry enough to THINK about doing it. Thats the point! LOL! I think that jFood is right about leaving beforehand. And in the situation that I am treated poorly, I ALWAYS ask to speak to a manager. We are in a recession, and when I chose to spend my little bit of extra money at a place, I want the service that I expect. I don't expect too much, just for my water glass to be filled and my food to reach my table in a timely fashion.

                                                        1. re: cookieluvntasha

                                                          I wouldn't leave without paying either, but I certainly would have spoken up early. In fact, I can sense before being seated if a seat is unacceptable, and I will ask to be reseated, or if they cannot accommodate (no matter how lame a reason), I will politely decline and eat elsewhere. My take is that no place is SO good that you can overlook overpaying in a place where you are uncomfortable or are neglected.

                                                      2. re: cookieluvntasha

                                                        Don't do that in Canada. 364(1) of the Criminal Code (fraud, summary conviction). Wait at the front desk to pay, or at least leave your business card so they can contact you (they may choose not to make you pay).

                                                        1. re: cookieluvntasha

                                                          What a great idea. Please try that the next time you are in a department store waiting for a cashier and then leave with the shirts and pants under your arm. And then please leave your forwarding address from the county jail so we can all send you $1 for your defense.

                                                          In jfood's mind that is an oversight by the restaurant and larceny by you. Please tell us there is a tongue in your cheek with this?

                                                        2. I only have one question - if you didn't get the food you asked for, you didn't get any service, and you didn't even get to eat your meal because it was incomplete and they never brought you the rest of it, why on earth did you pay for it without saying anything? You would have been quite within your rights to demand to speak to the manager and to refuse to pay at all. If it was me I would have walked out before the appetizer arrived because they had no excuse for totally ignoring you for half an hour!