19 Tips to Make Solo Dining Fun

Eating Out Alone Can Be a Fun and Rewarding Experience

Eating out alone may be a matter of choice or circumstance. In either scenario, it’s an opportunity to treat yourself, explore new cuisines, meet new people (if you want to), and enjoy some quality time with yourself. When you’re dining solo, you can choose where and what you want to eat, without having to compromise or negotiate with anyone else. If you enjoy ‘slow eating’, you can savour your food at your own pace, rather than feeling rushed. Like travelling on your own, eating out alone can boost your confidence, independence, and self-reliance. Enjoy these 19 tips to make dining alone fun.

Restaurant Mamie Fado in Angers, France. Photograph: Patrick Hughes

How to Overcome Your Fears and Anxieties About Solo Dining

Many people feel nervous or uncomfortable about eating out alone, especially for dinner. They may worry about being judged, pitied, bored, or lonely. It’s taken me time to feel confident in every dining situation, particularly visiting the more formal restaurants. However, most fears and anxieties are in your head, and they can be overcome with some simple preparation.

1. Do Your Research

Dispel any anxieties about solo dining by doing your research. Think about which restaurants might fit your mood, budget, and preferences. Sometimes the most discomfort comes from being out of your element. Take the time to read online reviews (from trustworthy sources, of course), read menus, and have a look at photos from other diners to get a sense of what to expect. Taking this time to research can give you more confidence about your dining choices.

2. Start with Breakfast or Lunch

If you are new to eating out alone, start small. Try eating out alone for breakfast or lunch first, before moving on to dinner. I recommend starting with a more informal restaurant to build confidence. This can help you ease into the experience and build up your sense of comfort gradually.

3. Bring a Distraction

If you’re feeling a bit nervous, bring a distraction to keep you occupied while you wait for service or your food. My preference is to bring my phone or a journal and pen. Others love to have a book, magazine or a puzzle. This is about having something to focus on that helps distract you from any self-consciousness.

A bookshop in Santiago, Chile. Photograph: Patrick Hughes

4. Treat Yourself

I say “treat yourself” way too much! But you should, at least from time to time. And that can be going for a comfort food that you love from your favourite restaurant, or trying something adventurous in a new bistro. Either way, why not make the most of eating out alone and turn your solo dining experience into a positive one?

5. Fake It Till You Make It

Perhaps this tip sounds easier than it is to enact. But it does work, at least in my own experience. If you feel nervous, self-conscious or concerned, act comfortable. Nine times out of ten, people are in busy in their own heads and don’t notice or care that you’re eating out alone. Learning to be comfortable in your own skin can start with behaving as if you’re always comfortable eating out alone.

6. Practice Not Caring

People are usually too busy to notice what you’re doing unless it directly impacts their day. If you’re feeling a bit concerned about being judged for dining solo, consider what it would be like not to care what others may or may not think? In fact, this is good advice for life! Practice not caring what is going on in other people’s heads. Simply enjoy your meal and your own company. Doing this is a massive release from expectations we pile on ourselves.

The Best Places and Times to Eat Out Alone

Some places and times are more conducive to eating out alone than others. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a place and time to eat out alone:

7. Solo Dining Near Me

Start by exploring restaurant options near your hotel or accommodation (if you are travelling) or get to know all the options near home. Start to compile a shortlist of places that can be walked to, or those which require just a short journey, so that you always have an option close at hand.

8. The Ambiance and Atmosphere of the Restaurant

Consider the ambiance and atmosphere of the restaurant. If you’re dining alone, you may want to avoid places that are too romantic or too noisy. Look for restaurants that have a comfortable and cozy atmosphere that will make you feel relaxed and at ease. My favourite category is casual bistro: great quality food that doesn’t require too much formality.

Le Pain Quotidien restaurant

8. The Seating Options and Availability of the Restaurant

Some solo diners get concerned about taking up a 2 or 4 seat table, particularly when the restaurant is full. If this describes you, look for restaurants that have seating options that are more conducive to solo dining. These could include bar seating, communal tables, booths, or outdoor seating. You may also want to avoid peak hours or make a reservation in advance to avoid having to wait for a table. My preference is to eat early if it’s usually a very busy place.

9. The Menu and Service of the Restaurant

You wouldn’t want to end up in a restaurant without taking account of the type of food, portion size and prices on offer. Equally, I would advise you to read any online reviews carefully to get a sense of the style of service: dining alone is easier in a restaurant that has friendly and attentive staff who want you to feel welcome. I would actively rule out places with negative reports or sneery service (which is rare but can happen).

How to Make the Most of Your Solo Dining Experience

Eating out alone can be more than just a way to fill your stomach. It can also be an opportunity to enrich your mind, soul, and senses. Here are some ways to make the most of your solo dining experience:

10. Be Mindful

Pay attention to the flavors, textures, aromas, and presentation of your food. Appreciate the work and creativity that went into preparing it. By being mindful and present, you can enjoy your meal to the fullest.

11. Be Adventurous

Eating out alone is the perfect opportunity to try something new. Don’t be afraid to try a dish you’ve never tried before or a new cuisine altogether. You never know, you might discover your new favorite dish! From time to time, I try a vegan or vegetarian restaurant and I’ve had some amazing food (notably a cashew chipotle cream in a vegan restaurant in Seville, Spain)!

12. Be Sociable

Don’t be afraid to chat with the staff, the chef, or other diners. You may learn something new or make some new friends. While there’s nothing wrong with having a quiet experience, if that’s your choice, by being sociable, you can turn your solo dining experience into a social one.

13. Be Grateful

Express your appreciation to the staff, the chef, or yourself. By being grateful for the fun and joy of your meal and your dining experience, you can feel happier and more satisfied.

A bar showing bottles of spirits

Tips and Tricks for Enjoying Your Meal and Avoiding Awkwardness

The most common form of anxiety when dining solo is finding yourself in an awkward situation. Here are some tips that will ensure your only concern is enjoying your food:

14. Dress Comfortably and Appropriately

Cafe Willem-Albert in Groningen, Netherlands. Photograph: Patrick Hughes

Make sure you dress comfortably and appropriately for the restaurant you’ve chosen to visit. You can find this information online via reviews, on the restaurant website, or by simply asking the restaurant when you make a reservation. You don’t want to feel like you overdressed or underdressed. Being comfortably dressed also helps put you at ease.

15. Have a Backup Plan

This is a must-do. I have been in too many situations where a restaurant *should* have been open (according to their website or Google), but was very closed. I try to have a backup plan for dining solo. Research a couple of other options in the area you’re visiting before heading out. This preparation is especially important if you don’t have wi-fi coverage. When you have your plan, it will save you energy (and hanger) looking for another place that might be open.

16. Keep Cash on Hand

It’s relatively rare, but in some countries, restaurants don’t accept cards (or don’t accept YOUR brand of card). Plus, you want to ensure that any tip you want you give to staff actually goes to the staff members directly. By keeping some cash on hand, you’ll avoid awkward payment situations.

17. Have Some Manners

I hope it’s not too much to suggest having good manners when you eat out alone. It’s important to be polite and respectful to the staff and other diners. That includes not using the speaker on your phone or making/taking loud calls. And that DOES happen a lot!

Some final thoughts

Here are some final tips to make the most of your meal out alone:

18. Take Your Time

One of the best things about dining alone is that you can take your time and enjoy your meal at your own pace. I’d suggest not ordering more food than you know you’ll enjoy. Don’t feel under any obligation to order a minimum amount and don’t feel rushed to finish too quickly. If you savour the food, you’ll get to enjoy all the flavours of your food.

19. Be Present: Engage with Your Surroundings

While it’s important to be mindful of your food, don’t forget to engage with your surroundings as well. Take in the atmosphere of the restaurant, observe the people around you, and enjoy the experience. For the most part, eating in a restaurant can be a fun experience. Absorb all that energy shared with final diners enjoying themselves!

Do you have any ways that help you ease into eating out alone? Please share them using the comments box below and, if you enjoyed this article, please like it. Thank you!

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