How to Make Your Restaurant a Solo Dining Destination

We’re seeing more and more of it: people at our restaurants choosing to sit by themselves and have their meal alone. It’s been identified as an emerging dining trend – with a 2020 study by NPD Research Group finding single diners have increased their share of U.S. restaurant visits to a record 35 percent.

This shift in consumer behavior underscores the need for restaurants to cater to this growing customer demographic. Embracing solo diners not only opens doors to a wider customer base but also presents an opportunity for establishments to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. 

At Doherty Enterprises, we’ve watched with interest this growing trend and we’ve taken a number of steps to enhance their dining experience and foster a welcoming atmosphere.

First impressions matter. Creating an inviting ambiance is critical for attracting (and retaining) solo diners. For this, flexible seating arrangements are the key – from cozy booths to communal tables and counter seating, offering options that cater to individual preferences ensures that solo diners feel comfortable and valued. At our Shannon Rose pubs, in addition to numerous bars available for dining, we have several different dining rooms where we have solo seating tables set up.  That’s key because it allows diners to enjoy their meal without feeling crowded or conspicuous.

Typical appetizer portions are designed to cater to larger groups, which can end up intimidating a solo diner who doesn’t want a full plate of hot wings, for instance. It’s one reason we offer smaller portions at our Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas locations. These solo-friendly plates can be thoughtfully curated to showcase the restaurant's signature flavors and specialties, enticing diners to discover their favorites, essential for securing a dining guest who wants to return to your venue.

Another tweak we made at our restaurants was conveniently located power outlets and providing complimentary Wi-Fi ensures so that solo diners can stay connected while dining. Whether catching up on emails or scrolling through social media, providing access to technology enhances the overall dining experience, allowing your solos to seamlessly integrate their meal with their digital lifestyle.

Beyond physical amenities, we trained our staff to welcome solo diners. Encouraging servers to engage with solo diners in a friendly and attentive manner can help alleviate any feelings of self-consciousness or awkwardness the guest might be feeling. Simple gestures such as offering menu recommendations or striking up casual conversation can go a long way in putting solo diners at ease, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Moreover, implementing initiatives such as solo dining specials or loyalty programs tailored for individual diners can further incentivize solo dining experiences. Whether offering discounts on solo-sized portions or exclusive perks for solo diners, these initiatives not only attract solo diners but also encourage repeat visits, driving customer loyalty and satisfaction.

We have found embracing this rise of solo diners presents a significant opportunity for our restaurants to innovate and tap into these new arrivals on the restaurant landscape. By adopting a customer-centric approach and implementing thoughtful amenities and initiatives, restaurants can create a welcoming environment that caters to the unique needs and preferences of solo diners. From flexible seating options to solo-friendly menu offerings and attentive service, embracing solo diners is not only good business but also a testament to the inclusive and accommodating nature of the modern dining experience.