Many people feel self conscious about eating at a restaurant alone, something that is more frequently a multiple-person outing
The idea of going out to eat at a restaurant by one’s self makes some people feel very uncomfortable, usually due to fear of being mocked by other restaurant patrons or the staff. Yet, many individuals do eat alone. How do they do it?
What’s going through Pat’s head as he eats alone
Pat’s family is out of town and he’s not interested in cooking for himself. He’s always wanted to try this Mongolian grill down the street, but his family is never interested. Well, why doesn’t he go now while he has the opportunity? Because, going alone seems weird and desperate to Pat. He’d rather go through the drive-thru at Burger King before sitting down by himself for forty humiliating minutes and eating a meal.
Pat thought long and hard. He was very hungry, he didn’t want to cook, and he really wanted to go to the Mongolian grill. He called and asked his friend Jose to join him, but he had plans. If Pat was going to try this place, it would have to be all by himself.
Assuming he doesn’t suddenly receive a burst of confidence, what excuses could Pat use to justify that eating alone is OK?
- He could go at an odd hour. Eating lunch at 2:40pm, he may be the only person at the establishment to begin with. Conversely, going at the very busiest time will also help him blend in with the crowd. Anything in between could be a death sentence.
- Sitting in a dark corner where no one will notice him is better than being seated at a table in the center of the restaurant in terms of being noticed in the first place.
- He could wear a suit and carry a briefcase, leaving others under the impression that he’s an out-of-town businessman and has no choice but to eat alone.
- He could ask for a table for two, then receive everyone’s pity when the second person never shows.
- Bringing a book, newspaper, or laptop and consuming himself in his work is another way to convince others that he’s comfortable going out alone.
- Pretending to talk on a bluetooth headset the entire meal also gives others the sense that he’s not a total loner.
- He could make a point to tell the wait staff some sob story. “Oh, my whole family has the flu so they’re quarantining themselves in the house. I’m on my own for the week!”
OK, sure. Those things may work. But they don’t solve any deeper issues. In reality, Pat shouldn’t have to go out of his way to eat somewhere he wants to eat. Here are some psychological ideas that could help him solve his restaurant dilemma.
- He needs to remember that it’s all about confidence. If he puts on a brave face, he not only won’t be mocked by anyone, but may serve as inspiration to others!
- A big smile will tell others that you are enjoying this experience, thereby eliminating you as a target for ridicule. Conversely, a large frown may also tell others that you’re very sad, thereby eliminating you as a target for ridicule out of pity.
- He needs to tune out any perceptions that restaurant staff and patrons are making fun of him for eating alone, because in reality virtually no one even notices, let alone cares.
- He should relish this moment. At home, it’s often chaos with his wife and kids running about, reaching for dishes, and fights at the dinner table. Forget about what others may think and soak in the rare experience of having a quiet meal alone.
Other items to keep in mind…
- If the restaurant has a bar, that’s clearly the go-to place to sit. In fact, more people sitting at a bar are by themselves than with others. If they came in a group, they’d be at a table.
- It might actually be a little odd to eat alone for a multiple-course dinner at a fancy restaurant, unless, again, you’re seated at the bar. Pulling out a newspaper or laptop at a 5-star restaurant at 8:30pm may in fact be in poor taste.
- Sitting alone as a single person could actually be a plus. Someone could notice you and be more likely to approach you about a future date, or even impromptu intercourse in the bathroom.
- In other instances, if you suffer from social anxiety, medication may be the only way to overcome this dilemma.
- If all else fails, just get takeout. If it’s causing you that much grief, it may not be worth it.
In the end, Pat sucked it up and went to the Mongolian Grill at 12:15pm and was surprised to see he was one of at least a half-dozen individuals eating alone. If anyone noticed him and had any devilish or insulting thoughts, it didn’t faze him.
My Hot Take:
I recently was in Las Vegas and ate a meal alone at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. I sat at the far end of the bar, made small talk with the bartender, and was enjoying myself immensely. The fact that I was eating alone, not forced to make conversation with others in a group, was actually a rewarding experience and I had looked forward to that moment the entire trip! 5/5 would do again.