The Rise of Solo Dining

The “solo dining” movement is on the rise as more people are dining out by themselves whether by choice for a peaceful meal or out of necessity while traveling for business or pleasure. Just ask the Michelin guide inspector about it…

Eating out alone is shedding its stigma and becoming more socially acceptable and even celebrated at many restaurants. It may seem daunting at first, but dining by yourself can be a hugely enjoyable experience. Once you’ve moved past any initial discomfort, it becomes something not to be endured but to be savoured.

According to recent surveys, around one-third of Brits dine by themselves at times. This coincides with an increase in single-person households across the UK. Restaurants have taken notice, with the movement growing steadily across dining spots in Britain.

London is a busy place, and it can be so uncommon a feeling to be without company that it can be a daunting prospect, especially when dining bit some venues have embraced the change of the customer landscape while some others made headlines in charging for 2 covers if you dine on a table designed for 2 guests, hiding behind the potential loss of revenue.

It is a matter of environment and needs: the atmospheric ambiance of Barrafina is better set up for this than the raucous nature of any Wetherspoon’s pub which is probably best avoided when alone.

The solo dining trend reflects the modern reality that people across ages and demographics, including rising numbers of British singles and elderly widows, are eating alone more often whether regularly or when the mood strikes. Forward-thinking UK restaurants are evolving their spaces, menus, and services to not just accommodate but actively honour and celebrate the solo diner.

As small plates become more common, compact counter seating pops up, and communal tables encourage mingling, the stigma around eating out alone continues to be erased. More Brits are embracing dining solo as a pleasurable activity in itself – the ability to enjoy a meal, glass of wine, or even tasting menu without having to make small talk or compromise on what to order. The solo dining movement reinforces that meals can be for one rather than just for groups, letting patrons fully savour the food in peace.

Sabor

Secure a single seat in the first-floor El Asador, you’d be hard-pressed to do justice to the signature-sharing dishes they offer. The ground floor Counter section is a much better option, however here they only take walk-ins, so arrive early or be prepared to queue.

Busaba

Their communal table is a perfect spot to engage in a convivial conversation with your co-diner.

Dishoom

Popular Indian restaurant Dishoom with various UK locations has Bar Dishoom, an offshoot centred around solo counters and communal tables to better engage both solo diners and groups. They also do not allow laptops inside as they feel it takes away from the dining experience.

Bar dining

Upscale UK restaurants are also championing fine solo dining experiences. London’s iconic spot Brasserie Zedel has carved out special solo diner spots at their famous bar, and Michelin-starred Indian Accent offers a Chef’s table for one by the kitchen when available for intimate tastings.

Bar kitchen

Some other venues have created concepts where all diners are seated at a bar facing the kitchen. As a solo diners, you have the opportunity to communicate with the kitchen staff and observe all the actions. In this category, you will find venues like Barrafina, Kiln, Polpo and so many others. Most of them will operates on a no-reservation basis.

How to embrace the movement:

Create a designated “Solo Diners” section that highlights any special menus, seating options, or promotions for individual guests.

Communicate with photos of guests happily dining alone to showcase the experience visually.

Use targeted social media ads for solo dining enthusiasts in the local area.

Post signage, table tents, or chalkboard specials tailored to solo diners featuring specialty small plates, half-bottles of wine, etc.

Set up a “Community Table” specifically aimed at solo guests who wish to sit together and potentially converse.

Offer discounts like “Solo Diners Eat 20% Off On Tuesdays” to incentivise off-peak solo visits.

Staff Training & Talking Points:

Train staff on the best language, tone, and attitudes to use when addressing solo diners.

Set an inclusive vibe emphasizing solos won’t be rushed and staff will be happy to explain dishes, take photos or engage in a conversation, etc.

Equip staff with talking points on special solo seats, tasting menus, to inform and make recommendations.

These messaging and operational elements can work together to communicate an embraced, celebrated solo dining experience – that dining alone here is not merely okay but encouraged as a special occasion in itself.

A venue can really benefit from having this inclusive approach and create a loyal base of regular customers who will prefer to eat out rather than cooking at home.

 

Would you need any assistance with your project or venue, just call us for a free coffee chat consultation.

@insight.hospitality

www.insighthospitality.net

January 2024