It is difficult to cook single meals on a regular basis. It can be more work than it's worth, more expensive than grabbing something on the go, and good luck purchasing only enough fresh ginger or paprika to try out a new recipe without being saddled with the task of finding other uses for it before it goes bad. And leftovers get, well, repetitive. For a lot of people, that is reason enough to let the professionals take care of your meals on a regular basis.
As a person who enjoys experiencing and supporting other industry establishments, but who cooks all day and maintains odd work hours, I often find myself dining out alone.
Truthfully, I usually enjoy the brief down time and have not at all been bothered by the practice, save one, inevitable thing. Whether host or server, the greeting is always "Just one?" I have never expected to be coddled or fawned over, but there must be a better greeting for those dining alone. The attitude that a single customer is not worth the same time and attention as other tables in any establishment is both small and assuming.
I also take significant issue with the ever growing service industry habit of responding to requests with "No problem." No problem, to perform duties for which you are paid and, unfortunately, expect and need to be tipped as well? I should hope not.
Never mind, for now, my views on tip based employment. Solo table dining should be viewed as neither a malady nor an inconvenience.
Surely we can train our undoubtedly otherwise good employees to practice better responses. Shame on managers who are not doing so.
If today is the day that person has won the lottery or lost a spouse, received bad news or started a secret shopper job, language is magnified. All language.
I am so often ignored or forgotten after being seated, I have recently decided to break away from the practice for a while.
Oh, don't worry. I will return to it, I can't help myself. I hold some hope that we as an industry can bring ourselves to break free of this burdensome mindset toward the table for one, and recognize it as an opportunity to bring in each customer's friends, family and audiences, because where one is welcome all will be.
For now I invite you to embrace the chance to treat yourself well, light candles, play music that makes your soul happy, break out the good china, put a blanket in the yard. Wine and dine yourself in ways you usually, inexplicably don't. You are worth the time and effort. You deserve a beautiful meal without the hassle. You deserve to celebrate today and celebrate yourself.
Table for one? My pleasure.