How to gracefully dine alone

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Solo diners need not order-in or grab drive-thrus!

Early in my career, business travel was my life. Dining in several cities a week was not unusual. On the road, I did grab a lot of paper-wrapped cheeseburgers and fries in a hurry for lunches. However, dinnertime presents a wonderful opportunity to relax and explore new surroundings.

As a young executive woman, I found a bit of creativity was needed, if I was to enjoy an uninterrupted repast.

1. Make a reservation, if needed. Waiting alone for 20 to 30 minutes, just to obtain a table, is no fun.

2. Pick a scenic or private spot to sit. Eateries often try to seat solos in inconvenient spots. If you don’t want to sit behind the swinging kitchen door or next to the sizzling grill, be bold enough to speak up politely about it.

3. Be cordial, but not overly friendly, to those around you in the restaurant. If you really do not desire company, or unwanted advances, then you must convey that. Avoid extra eye contact or interest. If someone should greet you, then you certainly might nod or smile. Anything more will invite additional interaction.

4. Take a newspaper, magazine, or book with you to read at the table. An open book speaks volumes to those around you about your personal boundaries. If you have papers to review for work or school, you might peruse those instead. Grabbing a pen and making notes on papers is a surefire way to deter strangers from interrupting you. Even a crossword puzzle will occupy you enough to prevent this.

5. Select a seat near the television, if the restaurant offers one. This will give you something else to do, or look at, as you eat.

6. Avoid overimbibing. No one wants to drink a lot alone anyway. For social courtesy and safety’s sake, this is not the time to pound back the cocktails. After all, you will have to make your own way home with health and fortune intact!

7. Avoid loud, long cell phone conversations at the table. Even if you do not have a dining companion, those around you need not, and should not, hear your conversations. Why not enjoy your own company for a bit?

8. Be aware of your surroundings, particularly as you leave the restaurant. Walking to your transportation, hotel, or home, be cognizant of those around you. If someone seems to be following you, then you may choose to stop into a store or business as a detour. Ask for security assistance, if needed. (In a shopping mall, for example, security staff may accompany you to your vehicle.)

9. Leave a generous tip. Waiters and waitresses often cringe when solo diners are seated in their stations. One of their tables is occupied, for a time, with a presumably smaller dinner check and a minimal bar tab. If you receive excellent service, why not change their minds about this? Servers who care well for solos ought to be rewarded.

10. If you really prefer not to eat alone, then plan ahead. Ask a colleague, friend, or business contact to dine with you. Make it a working meal, and you may even file an expense report to cover the cost!

Of course, if you are uncomfortable with a solo sortee, or just plain tired from a long day on the road, take-out and room service are excellent options, offering the utmost in privacy. You can catch a movie or forty winks as you enjoy your meal.

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