Friday, July 30, 2010

My First Survey: Dining Alone

It had never occurred to me until I read another waiter blog tonight complaining about people who eat alone that anyone thought there was anything wrong with a single diner - a one top. I waited tables and tended bar for over twenty years and I don't recall ever resenting a customer for being by themselves. Sometimes, I sensed the customer's discomfort, but I always thought it was because they didn't like hearing being identified as being alone, as in, "Table for one?". Could I have been overlooking a fear of being rebuffed by their server all this time?
When I recall my favorite customers, they were almost always singles, and there are two of them who became personal friends (one, I rented a room from, and another loaned me the money to buy a car) that I am still in touch with today - 25 years after we met.
I did a little searching and it turns out there are some waiters who hate waiting on singles, and even some restaurants that don't seat parties of one during dinner rush! I never knew this. I go out to eat, to plays and to movies alone probably 90% of the time. It had never crossed my mind to think I was in anyone's way. I feel like I've been wearing my pants backwards for 48 years and am only now discovering my freakishness.
I might not have enough waiters or former waiters following me to get any comments from them from the serving standpoint, but civilian comments are welcome also. What are your feelings about the one-top stigma? Do you feel guilty taking up a table? Do you feel resented or dismissed?


  1. I am a previous restaurant manager in Ireland - and currently own a tearoom.
    O agree with you on the single tables - often my favourite! The majority of our singles where lovely business men/woman - easy to look after and nice to chat too.
    I can understand that they can be viewed as taking up tables that may hold more people - but it is not their fault!

  2. If i eat alone (and it's VERY rare) I always tip at least $5 since my tab is likely less than $10. As a server, it's not fun for someone to take up your table for a half hour or more, then only make $2 off of it. Especially when that table could have seated, say, four people who might have had at least a $40 tab and, therefore, possibly an $8 tip.

    I actually really like single tables as they tend to be very nice and pleasant people who want a conversation buddy. During a rush, it's just annoying to know you could be making more money off that table if there were more guests seated there.

    I would never treat a single badly, though; I have nothing against them. It's not their fault that their tab will be small, and most of them try to make it up to me with a bigger tip anyway. I appreciate it and have made many regulars out of singles.

    I'm also blogging about my serving job and have linked to your site because I enjoy it so much. If you take a look at mine and like it, please link back to me and we can generate some traffic for each other! I know I like getting comments from new readers...:)

  3. Laura,
    Thanks for being the first to respond. Good luck with your B&B.

  4. fuckmytable,
    I think yours was the first site I linked to when I started my blog. I even re-wrote one of the stories I put in comments on your blog as a topic here. You do have a great wit, and I'm flattered that you're reading mine. We have two completely different views since your life is just starting and you have no intention of waitressing forever, and I'm living on disability, looking back on a life spent mostly in food and beverage. I do wish we could have worked together. I would have spilled French dressing on mean people for you.

  5. so, the bottom line is, is that table for one folks aren't well received because of a lesser tip? maybe the restaurant should have a sign stating ' no tables for one'? not too fair to the lone diner is it? frankly, i don't and have never ate alone in a restaurant-guess I am well liked..

    btw, I saw your comment on the one-eyed waitress post... at times his humor can take one at surprise

  6. Guy - I'm an idiot. I remember that now! For some reason I was reading your blog and going, "I linked to them recently and didn't ask to be linked back, oops!" but it was a different blog I was thinking of. Like I said, I'm an idiot. :)

    And for the record, I wouldn't mind waitressing long as we could do away with the customers!

  7. I eat by myself quite a bit & always tip well to make up for it. I don't tend to resent my singles unless they are douches just like any other table, because I've noticed that because they're alone they figure their food should come out almost immediately.