According to the survey of 1,100 British travellers by Purple Parking, 81 per cent of British people have travelled alone, yet 26 per cent said their biggest concern when away was dining solo, trumping concerns over safety and having no-one to talk to.
Another 24 per cent said they had received worse service when eating alone than in a group.
The survey into traveller habits also found that Brits are increasingly embracing digital when travelling with many of them preferring to check in to hotels (53 per cent) make complaints (58 per cent), leave positive reviews (76 per cent) and make bookings (87 per cent) online.
Oliver Inwards, head of online at Purple Parking said restaurants should consider the needs of solo diners more.
“This correlation shows perhaps we should see dining establishments and hotel restaurants do more for lone diners. Making the customer feel important and wanted should be a priority for tourist or business-traveller friendly restaurants and hotels, especially considering several sources report seeing a rise in solo dining in recent years.”
How to improve service for lone diners - tips from Purple Parking:
- Offer them a nice seat. Your customer will be happy if they feel they’re being offered a prime location in your restaurant, do not usher them into a hidden corner. Perhaps seat them beside a window, so they can gaze out at the view if they want. Or, facing the main area of your restaurant so that they can enjoy people watching. Seat them near a wall with their back to the wall, rather than floating in the middle of the restaurant. Feng Shui has proven that we feel anxious and unprotected if our back feels exposed or we cannot see the main activity of a room.
- Don't rush them. The customer may be treating themselves to a culinary experience and there is nothing worse than making this customer feel as though you cannot wait to free up their table. Often the process of actually eating is over much more quickly than you’d expect, particularly when you’re not talking to anyone. Slow down the solo diner’s order. Don’t take away their plate as soon as they have finished eating. Do not bring them their bill immediately or appear too quickly to collect their payment.
- Keep your eye on them. While not rushing the solo-diner, it is important that they do not feel as though you have forgotten about them. If they have to wait longer than they would like, or feel as though they must go to a lot of effort to get your attention, you are communicating to this customer that you think they are less important.
- Offer friendly conversation. Some solo diners have purposefully chosen to eat out alone to have some quiet time or to have a dining experience that is intensely focused on their food, but others may appreciate a bit of conversation and company. Use your skill as hospitality staff to gauge what they would prefer and do not assume either way.
- Provide entertainment. Ensure your restaurant has Wi-Fi & a selection of newspapers/ magazines. Perhaps create (or increase) seating at the bar and offer food service there.
- Attention to detail. It is often the case that people feel awkward or at a loose end if they have no activity to occupy themselves with when sitting alone. If you see the customer has a handheld device, ask them if they would like the Wi-Fi password, rather than making them ask for it. Small details like this communicate to this customer that you are happy they are there, you are happy for them to stay and that you are not expecting that they will be joined by someone else or assuming they have been stood up.
- Shed your own social stigma. Perhaps most fundamentally, make sure your private attitude to solo diners carries no stigma. Understand that it is not strange to eat out in a restaurant on your own and that it is, in fact, even a desirable experience to have. The customer may sense your judgement, no matter what you do at the level of service.