Dining alone and business travel

20131227-120715.jpgOne of the inevitable facts of business travel is that you will likely be dining alone at some point. If you travel by yourself regularly, then dining alone may be the norm. It can be a difficult thing to adjust to, since typically when people go out to eat they go with friends or family. You may think, “People are staring at me! They feel sorry for me! They must think I’m a loser who has no friends!” A friend of mine was telling me about a recent experience at a restaurant where the hostess was walking around saying, “Smith, part of one! Table for Smith, party of one!” She was very embarrassed, sure people were looking at her pityingly. (Pictured: No one should feel sorry for anyone who is lucky enough to enjoy these Vino Volo salmon bites!)

I know that going to a restaurant by yourself can be daunting, but  asking for a table for one does get easier after a few times. While eating room service or getting food to go are good alternatives, at some point it is likely you’ll need to eat out by yourself. Here are a few strategies to make it more bearable.

Entertain yourself. Don’t feel like you have to sit there awkwardly staring across the room. Bring your laptop, Kindle, or a magazine to entertain yourself. My sister will sometimes catch up on her Netflix shows. Watching How I Met Your Mother while someone brings me delicious food and wine? Sign me up!

Eat good food. Choose a local restaurant or one known for a regional specialty. Or use an app like Urban Spoon to find something that’s really unique or highly rated.

Don’t worry about what other people think. I know it’s hard, but you’re going to have to let this one go. Most people won’t even notice you’re alone, let alone take the time to feel sorry for you. Anyone who sees you sitting by yourself will probably be jealous of your quiet time.

Sit at the bar. If you crave company, most restaurants have a bar where you can sit and talk to the bartender or other patrons. Some have TVs so you can catch up on news or sports while you dine.

Now when I travel I look forward to eating out. Enjoying a new wine while I catch up on work or read something fun, while not having to talk to anyone, feels a little bit like heaven.

Readers, do you dine alone on business trips? What are your tips for making it more fun?

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Comments

  1. I think most people look with respect to single female diners, as in ‘I wish I could do that, I could never do that.’

  2. I agree with all of your suggestions as I exercise them too.

    Other tips:

    – Go to an organic grocer and shop for a delicious and good-for-you dinner. Take it back to your warm room!

    – Make the dining experience an adventure. Find restaurants featured on TV or recommended by the people you are visiting. Act like a food critic while you’re there; it distracts from being alone. Take a picture of your meal and comment on the experience!

    – Do something else like purchasing a gift for your loved ones that is local to the area or just shop for yourself. Once you do that you will feel entitled to sit down, relax, and enjoy a good meal.

  3. I don’t mind dining alone, but I hate when the host says something like ‘only one?’ or ‘just you?’ as if you are disappointing them by being alone. If you go to the same place a few times and tip well, they start being happy to see you all by yourself.

  4. It used to bug me a little, and I’d typically wind up just dining at the bar. Nowadays, I tend to travel with a team. And not that I don’t like them, but sometimes I now relish the idea of dining alone on a business trip. 🙂

  5. I went to school in Montreal, where dining alone was the norm in restaurants, female or male, and people-watching while eating alone was an accepted hobby. It wasn’t until I moved away that this even occurred to me as something someone might be embarassed by. I really miss that aspect of the culture there.

  6. I dine alone all of the time when I travel. I actually enjoy it. If you sit at the bar you can meet interesting people, otherwise I just bring my laptop along. The only time I found it depressing was when I was travelled for work on Valentines day and I sat at a table in a cheap mexican restaurant by myself drinking a beer hahaha.

  7. I wholeheartedly second your suggestion to try something local and highly reviewed – I try to do that the most. Another option would be to do the meal takeaway and eat in your hotel. Not ideal, but if dining alone really scares or embarrasses you, that is a way to eat out without resorting to fast food.

    After a few trips with companions I can say that I would almost prefer to be alone – most times I have a few places in the area I really want to try and if I’m alone I can get whatever I want, but if I’m not then we have to compromise!

  8. I agree with everything you said. I’ve eaten at the bar many times – sometimes striking up a conversation, sometimes not. But it never feels awkward. I’ve eaten a table alone several times as well – I think that takes more guts than eating at the bar, so I’d say that if someone feels very self-conscious, start out at the bar and work your way towards a table.
    But here’s my guilty pleasure – at home we do not bring food “upstairs” and we don’t have TVs in bedrooms, so sometimes in a hotel I get take-out, snuggle in sweats, and eat “on bed” while watching TV. Shhh!

  9. The only time I was uncomfortable eating by myself was when I was traveling and visibly pregnant.

    Most of the time when I travel I am talking all day. So, my favorite thing is eating at a table in the bar area. There’s enough action going on that I don’t feel alone, but I don’t have to talk.

    The toughest part is that I eat my food extremely fast. I try to slow down, but with nothing to distract me, I just eat.

  10. I don’t mind dining alone I always try to check out something new and or different. What I dislike about it is many servers tend to ignore or not give you the same treatment as a single diner because they don’t see you as the same dollar value as perhaps a group of 2 or more. I always try to engage the server and ask them for recommendations about dining choices. It doesn’t always make them more attentive but it has made a difference at times.

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