Solo Dining in Australia Update

Return to: Home | Information | Restaurants | Tips | For Restaurateurs | Newsletter | List of Popular Topics thanks Anna Brain for including's tips for dining alone in this fascinating article that appeared on November 3, 2006 in the Travel Section of NEWS.COM.AU
We thoroughly admired and enjoyed the "Autralianized" version of our solo dining tips!

Sole Provider:

EATING alone in a restaurant, cafe or bar is something all travellers do at some point in their journey. Anna Brain explains why it no longer means you're a loser. *

By Anna Brain

THERE was a time when eating alone in a restaurant was an exercise in public humiliation.

Waiting staff would look down their noses or other diners would cast glances of pity or disdain.

But the rise of living alone and being "cash rich, time poor" has turned the prejudice on its head, making booking a table for one no longer a cause for shame.

Guy Grossi, of Grossi Florentino fame, said many of his customers dined alone, and not just business people or travellers.

"We have some people who live locally and dine on their own just for the experience of the restaurant," he said.

People living alone now account for 22 per cent of Australian households, which also explains the trend towards dining solo, as it's often cheaper and more convenient to eat out rather than cook for one.

Peter Sullivan, co-owner and maitre d' of Aria at Circular Quay, values his solo dining time.

"I think it's symptomatic of what I do," Sullivan said.

"I'm surrounded by people all day. I need to have time in my own head space."

Sullivan said many of his customers ate by themselves, both men and women.

He doesn't believe there is any stigma attached, although his staff try to be aware that some people feel paranoid about being on their own.

"It's human nature to feel like you're in the spotlight on your own, so based on that assumption we have a little chat, find out where they're from," he said.

"We try to engage them in conversation unless they make it clear they don't want to."

And it seems that dining alone is a worldwide trend.

British food editor Richard Harden said restaurateurs now see the single diner as a critical part of their business.

"Virtually every restaurant opening in London today is making a point of providing facilities for people who want to eat alone," he said.

"You only need look at the rise of sushi bars to see the way things have changed.

"The food bar has been incorporated into most new restaurants to cater for the single trade, and it has become a critical part of their business. The switch in attitudes is certainly noticeable."

But eateries may have to lift their game with the rise of the sole diner.

Tony Eldred, founder of Eldred Hospitality, said whether you eat alone or with company can make a big difference to your perception of a venue.

A veteran of solo dining, he has experienced all kinds of service. "I was often left sitting for long periods, waiting for the food to arrive," Eldred said.

"Naturally I would spend that time examining everything happening around me in great detail.

"It's easy to adopt a critical outlook in these circumstances, and I often did."

Eldred suggests the canny waiter should always have reading material on hand for a nervous customer, and that it should be connected to the meal, perhaps background on the wine list.

Grossi agrees, saying he often allows customers to peruse his cookbooks while they wait.

"It's an extension of our service, and it's also a very good marketing tool," he said.

However, asked if he personally goes out for meals on his own, Grossi was adamant.

"No. Definitely not," he said.

"I'm very insecure. Unless I have an entourage of about 25 people I get very lonely. I would rather sit at home and eat takeaway."

Clearly eating alone is not for everyone.

But it was for two lonely souls one New Year's Eve.

Sullivan mentioned to each diner there were two single bookings, and it went from there.

"When the guy found out there was another single booking he was so paranoid about being a loser single he asked to be allocated to the table," he said.

"They actually liked each other and became friends."


Avoid a bad seat
Don't take a dodgy seat just because you're on your own. If you're not happy, speak up and tell the waiter where you'd rather sit.

How much is too much to tip?
There's no right or wrong answer, but if you enjoyed the service and plan to return your tip should signal this.

Doggy bag wine
It's OK to take home an unfinished bottle when you're dining alone. Don't feel obliged to leave it behind, the restaurant can't sell it.

Degustation menu
Too self-indulgent for one? Hell no. You deserve to enjoy the full experience.

Be confident
The most important factor of a satisfying solo experience is your comfort. If you're not confident on your own, take a book or paper to read. The restaurant won't mind.


* Emphasis added by

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