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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


4.23.2012

The Etiquette of Dining Solo

Recently, when I returned from giving a seminar in Las Vegas, I mentioned to a colleague that I had eaten by myself at a really nice restaurant. She replied that she orders room service when traveling because she is uncomfortable dining alone.

Many business travelers avoid eating by themselves. Yet dining solo doesn’t have to be unpleasant or awkward. Here are five tips to help you enjoy your food and your own company when dining alone:

1. Pick a nice restaurant. Ask for a recommendation from the hotel concierge, a colleague or your client. Inquire about any special food that the restaurant might serve, especially any local delicacy. I tried walleye fish when giving a seminar in Minnesota. There may be an excellent restaurant in your hotel. If you plan to leave the hotel, get good directions enabling you to travel safely.

2. Remember that you are not a second-class citizen--you are a paying customer. Do not be embarrassed because you are alone. Walk into the restaurant with confidence. Expect good service. If you are seated in a bad location, you can speak up and politely say, “I’d like a seat a little farther from the door.”

3. Don’t interrupt other people’s conversation. You are sharing space with strangers and it can be tempting to eavesdrop, but don’t, or at least be discreet. If you make eye contact, it may be appropriate to comment. You never know whom you may meet. If the other people do not continue the conversation, do not continue to talk.

4. The restaurant is not an extension of your office. I am not talking about a Starbucks! Relax and enjoy a pleasant dining experience. Take pleasure in your own thoughts, the time away from the hustle of your workday, and good food. Put your phone on vibrate, and if you must use your phone, speak in a quiet, conversational voice that does not disturb others. (Some good restaurants ask that you do not use cell phones.) You can read a book while waiting for your food, but make sure your electronic devises (Kindle, iPad, etc.) do not make any noise.

5. Your table manners always matter. Follow good dining etiquette guidelines. Don’t use your napkin as a tissue. Stay sober. You don’t want to be an eyesore or a distraction to others nearby. Tip generously. When I receive excellent service, I show my appreciation through a 25% tip.

Additional information on dining can be found in previous blogs: Place Settings: The Secret Language of Dining and How To Treat The Wait Staff With Respect

18 comments:

  1. bdemchak4/23/2012

    Points 1-5 are important, well thought out, and well positioned.

    Thinking about a "point 6", dining alone can also be an opportunity to meet and talk to someone you've never met. Reading body signals, sometimes it's possible to see that another solo diner would like some company, too. Broaching the question isn't hard to do ... with a little care. I have met some of the most interesting people this way ... like the president of a small Caribbean island. Obviously, this requires good attention to boundaries, but it's also a great opportunity. And never be offended if your invitation is declined.

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  2. Anonymous4/24/2012

    From a Reader:
    Immediate benefits to eating alone: No straining for conversation topics & half the cost of a bill for two!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous4/24/2012

    From a Reader:
    I recently dined alone for lunch, which I rarely do. Like most of us, I usually just grab something and go. I actually met someone who was also dining alone at the sushi bar who might become a client. I've decided to do it more often.

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  4. Anonymous4/26/2012

    Sometimes dining alone allows the quiet time required to process and reflect on the activities of a very busy day.The 'thinking time' can be an important preparation time for the next meeting.Spending time with ourselves and enjoying our own company can be beneficial and what better way to do it than over a meal!

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  5. Anonymous4/26/2012

    From a Reader:
    One should always explore local dining when travelling it is a good way to understand the customs of your host country where permitted. Certainly some female colleagues may feel uncomfortable dining alone in some countries for cultural reasons which is understandable that said, personally I would prefer to dine alone in a resturant over room service anyday when possible. Very happy to display my good table manners.

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  6. Anonymous4/26/2012

    From a Reader:
    True enough I am aware of many colleagues ordering room service. I for one always go out and eat in a nice place. I tend to have something to read with me in case the wait will be long. However it is a nice way to unwind.
    It is also a great way to meet people. Even if some of the waiters/waitresses will pay more attention to you (if you want). I have learned quite some local news and interesting places due to (1) finding a place by myself and (2) conversing with those in the restaurant.

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  7. Anonymous4/26/2012

    From a Reader:
    Thank you Barbara, very interesting article.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous4/26/2012

    From a Reader:
    Barbara,I like your article and agree with the points you make.It is an area we hardly treat with when we do dining etiquette training.We need to share in our workshops the advantages of the quiet time and how we can use that time while dining solo.

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  9. Anonymous4/26/2012

    From A Reader:
    This may seem like a no-brainer, but always travel with a book and a magazine - such as the "New Yorker" or, say, "Lapham's Quarterly;" something compact that fits easily in your bag so that you can read while waiting for your dinner or the check to arrive. Busy on your iPhone makes you look too self-absorbed. Reading something relevant, makes one look special and feel special. You are what you read.

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  10. Anonymous4/27/2012

    From A Reader:
    Its very important to know the customs and culture of the host country as you will not want to off.end them. I would love to share any south Indian way of traditional eating

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  11. Anonymous4/27/2012

    From A Reader:
    Well I have travelled the world for the last 28+ years & often eat alone. For me, all manners apply wheather or not one is eating alone or with others. The only difference is that I would not have to stand when a lady at the table stands (I am alone, right?).

    As for the "bald one sitting at the bar", I am "that guy" as I often buy a drink or even a full meal for random people (man or woman). The catch is that I do not let on WHO is the good deed doer.

    ReplyDelete
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