I’m proud of the fact that I’m very comfortable dining alone in any restaurant. Whether a casual outdoor lunch, a snazzy wine bar or a fancy “black or white napkin” kind of place, I am very ok with dining alone. Sure, I’d rather have my husband sitting across the table from me, but he’s not with me on the majority of my business trips. While colleagues are with me on some of my trips, I’m a solo diner the majority of the time, and I am quite content with this.

What I’m not content with . . . and downright ticked with . . . is hearing these two words as I enter a restaurant: “Just one?”

These two little words, asked so innocently, really get my goat.

I’ve often wanted to respond to “Just one?” with:

  • Yes, put me in the pity section please.
  • No, a table for 3, please. Me, my book and I.
  • I have my imaginary friend with me – you don’t see him?
  • Yes, I couldn’t decide which husband to bring along so I brought neither.

I know the question isn’t meant to offend, but dining solo is one of the most uncomfortable situations for many women. These words just make it more uncomfortable. I walk away feeling that the host thinks I have no friends, or no special person in my life . . . that I’m a loser who can’t find anyone to dine with. I want to defend myself, to say that I’m proud to be so comfortable in my own skin that I don’t need a companion to complete me, that I do know how to order a great glass of wine all by myself, but it’s not worth it. They wouldn’t understand anyway, since they meant no harm in their little question.

How about we turn this little question into something more empowering (and create more raving fans for a restaurant):

“A table in the successful women section?”

“A table where you can see and be seen?” or

“Table for one . . . let me take you to our preferred seating.”

Here’s a toast – to the power of one!

 

 

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Posted by Carol Margolis | 14 Comments

14 Responses to “As a Solo Diner, These 2 Words Really Tick Me Off!”

  1. Dan says:

    Relax. They don’t mean anything by it. They are just confirming that you don’t have anyone else coming that they would need to direct to you.

  2. I absolutely love the husband one, and think I might use that next time someone asks me that question

  3. Mike says:

    Wow. This is why I believe Americans are overly sensitive about EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING. as Dan pointed out. Its nothing insulting abd want to make sure it is JUST ONE. It sounds like you pity yourself.

  4. MDAccount says:

    Preach on! I, too, am fine with dining alone, but I know some professional women who are doomed to room service because they won’t do it. Most men don’t understand this at all.

    In addition to your great lines, let me add something even simpler: “Welcome! We’re so glad you could join us tonight!”

  5. Jayson says:

    Funny; I never get asked that question. I love eating solo. I’m a people watcher, but keep it classy ;)

  6. GA says:

    Check out the over reaction! They are confirming the count, who cares if its one, two or twenty? I’m also a female biz traveler and very rarely make use of room service. I have more of an issue with table placement or rushed service when dining solo, than what phrase and/or tone is used to verify the tablesize.

  7. Jared says:

    Yes, I think that if they want to keep the brevity/efficiency but offend less, they should say something simple like “one, right?”

  8. Iris says:

    I often dine solo when I travel, so I can definitely relate to the humor in this post–although apparently some people who commented missed that! I have another twist to add–often when I enter alone (especially, if I am carrying my laptop to catch up on work while dining–sometimes you never know how long it may take) the host asks what I want.

    Hmm…instead of asking if I am in the restaurant for lunch (by myself!), she/he thinks I have another purpose. Instead of assuming–”Just one?” or, “Did you need something?” I would suggest–”May I help you?”

  9. Deborah says:

    I think Jayson’s comment points to the underlying problem….it is typically a single woman that is asked this question, not a single man.

  10. L says:

    I don’t think this is necessarily a male/female question. I am a male traveler and get asked sometimes as well. I think there is a stigma against going to a sit-down restaurant alone, and so they naturally assume you are waiting on someone else (romantically or not). That said, no matter WHO they are saying it to, the “Just” certainly brings attention to the fact that you are abnormal for being “alone.”

    Point is, I agree with the original post in that, while it is reasonable for the restaurant to want to verify the party size, this phrasing seems unnecessarily pejorative.

  11. Simon says:

    Try to think more highly of those asking the question and you’ll find it less offensive. If that doesn’t work, buy a crown so others will know to handle you with white gloves.

    Eat some humble pie and learn to not sweat the small stuff. It’s affectedly pompous individuals who have goats to be got.

  12. David says:

    I understand the ladies viewpoint. As a lone male business traveler for over 25 years, I have encountered that greeting the majority of the time. Up until now I had not really given I much thought”…………

  13. Veronica says:

    As a female business traveler, I get this a lot too and it doesn’t bother me. I simply respond to the question, yes, just one. I too am more concerned about the table (I don’t like being put in a dark corner), the service and the food. Recently, I have found I actually enjoy sitting at the bar for dinner..it is less formal and often faster.

  14. Scott M. says:

    I usually try to respond with something along the lines of, “No, I am by myself tonight.” Then watch as it takes a few seconds for them to process the thought…and most of them miss the polite sarcasm.

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