According to OpenTable, the online reservation service, tables for one have been the fastest-growing reservation requested over the last two years. In fact, reservations for one person have grown 62 percent.
Part of this surge, says The Washington Post, is related to the concurrent increase in solo travel. According to a survey from Visa earlier this year 24 percent of people who traveled abroad “for fun” went alone, which is up from 15 percent only two years ago. In a survey from MMGY Global reported in The Wall Street Journal, about 40 percent of travelers say if given the opportunity, they’d take a solo vacation.
But the biggest factor in the growth of solo diners is that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34 million Americans lived alone in 2014. That’s about 28 percent of all U.S. households.
There are several things you can do to make sure solo diners are comfortable in your restaurants or bar. In the “old days,” tables for one were relegated to the back of the restaurant, where diners couldn’t see or be seen and were likely to be situated near the kitchen. Today, more and more restaurants are moving these tables front and center, or offering larger communal tables where solo diners can mingle if they choose.
RMagazine, a magazine for restaurants, recommends restaurant owners try to accommodate the solo diner by offering “personalized, friendly service.” It reminds owners, “No diner wants to enter a restaurant only to be awkwardly greeted by a host saying, ‘Oh, just you?’ ” Remember, the more welcome diners feel, the more loyal they’ll become. Many local residents are looking for restaurants and bars, like the one on the TV classic show Cheers, where “everybody knows your name.” The magazine says many restaurants have already picked up on the solo dining trend and are training their hosts and service staff to “pick up on cues of solo diners, such as if they wish to be left alone or socialize.”
This trend is bound to grow as older people are living longer and younger people are getting married later. OpenTable says (in order) Dallas, Miami, Denver, New York City, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and Chicago have shown the strongest growth in reservations for one.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.