I remember in 2006 I was working at a restaurant in downtown Toronto, I had a regular who came in about 3-5 times a week during lunch, sit in the same spot, and order the same thing everyday (appetizer size caesar salad, margarita pizza, diet coke and after the meal a coffee, black with 1 sweetener). He would always be alone, just him and his newspaper which he enjoyed reading quietly. Although we would exchange pleasantries and brief small talk, he was never one to want to have long drawn out conversations.
Because that’s the way he wanted it, it wasn’t as if he was antisocial (quite the opposite, he worked in Public Relations for a TV network). Firstly if you have a single person sit in your section you should never ask if they are waiting for someone, or how many other people are coming. The reality is that sometimes they just don’t have anyone to dine with, others choose to do so because they enjoy eating by themselves, they are on break from work, and others get stood-up etc (plus if they are waiting for someone they will let you know before wanting to place an order), so it’s best to not ask this question.
Like any other table you serve you have to remember to try to read your guests (or in this case singular guest). You will have the individual diners who will want to talk your ear off because they are lonely, and you will have the individual diners who just want to keep to themselves. Regardless of how many people are sitting at one of your tables you have to gauge how you will serve each one.
When you have a table for one sit down, look for things like:
- Books, newspaper, magazine or any reading material. More than likely they will be buried in their literature (If you can call “Star Magazine” literature :)) but on occasion they will put it down and look for a chat, don’t just assume that they will always want to read.
- Maps, attraction/landmark flyers and brochures, Lonely Planet guide-book, you know…. travel stuff. This is a great chance to start-up a conversation and ask them questions about their travels/where they’re from. You could even offer your own opinion or advice on what to check out while they are here. Don’t disregard these people because you think that you will never see them again, you can create an awesome impression that they will then go and tell their friends and family about.
- Laptop. Some people need to get business done, or have studying to do and will do so during their breakfast/lunch/dinner break. Sometimes these people won’t even look away from their screen when ordering, although to me it’s a little rude I understand that sometimes people are just ridiculously busy.
Just because you have a single guest sitting at a table doesn’t mean that you give them any less attention than another table with more guests. Their average bill total may not necessarily be as large as a table with several guests, but sometimes you can make more money from solo diners with smaller checks if you amaze them with your service, than with groups of people with a higher check average.
What do you think you can do next time to make a solo diner’s experience memorable?
Thanks, and have a great day.
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Featured image by Alan Light