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