6 Tips For Eating Out Alone, Because There's Nothing Embarrassing About It

There's a lot to be said for going out alone. You'll get time for reflection, you'll have nobody to compromise with, and you'll be open to meeting new people. But that doesn't make it easy for everybody. There's a lot of stigma attached to people spending the evening by themselves, particularly when it comes to going out for a meal. So, how do you get over that and enjoy the benefits of eating alone?

"Though it may seem daunting at first, try dining alone once and you’ll quickly wonder what all the fuss was about," Amanda McNamara, restaurant expert at Toast, tells Bustle. As McNamara points out, dining alone is getting increasingly popular. Between 2014 and 2016, the proportion of people making reservations solely for themselves on OpenTable increased by 62 percent. So, at the very least, you're not really alone.

"If going out to eat alone fills your head with images of Cady Heron week one at North Shore, it’s time you retire that tired 2004 thinking and join us up here in 2018," McNamara says. "Whether it be spending a day at the beach, going for a hike, visiting a museum, going to the movies, or enjoying a cup of coffee at your favorite neighborhood spot, doing activities alone is a phenomenal way to boost your self confidence and make you more secure with who you are.

Toward that end, here are some tips on making the most of a solo meal out.

1Forget What Other People Think

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Do you judge people you see eating alone at restaurants? Probably not, and they're not judging you either. Oh, and neither is the restaurant staff. "Your server is NOT judging you for eating alone," says McNamara. "If anything, they appreciate you for your business and for leaving a one-person-sized mess to clean up."

2Take Advantage Of Tech

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If you can't get yourself to reveal to other people that you're dining out alone, there are ways to reserve and attend a meal by yourself without ever interacting with humans. "For your first time dining alone, make an online reservation ahead of time on OpenTable or Resy, cutting out the potential for an awkward “just you?” at the host stand," says McNamara. "If you’re dreading an awkward one-on-one interaction with a server or bartender, check out a quick service restaurant with kiosks where you can order yourself, like Panera."

3Eat At The Bar

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Restaurant bars are full of people dining out alone and people in groups who are open to meeting people, McNamara points out. Or, if you prefer not to talk to anyone, many bars have a TV nearby that you can watch.

4Talk To The Staff

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If you can't find fellow diners to talk to, bartenders and servers are often up for talking to customers. This could give you interesting information about what you're eating. "Dining alone gives you an opportunity to spend time talking with your server or bartender and learn more about the menu, how dishes are paired, which cocktail compliments your meal, and where they source their ingredients from," says McNamara. "Who knows, they may just whip you up something special that’s off the menu or have you taste test new concoctions."

5Bring A Book

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Instead of burying yourself in your phone, challenge yourself to stay away from the screen and bury yourself in an interesting story. "Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be hard to hunker down and make progress on that book currently taking up valuable real estate on your nightstand," says McNamara. "A book is also a great way to keep yourself entertained if casual conversation with your server isn’t really your scene."

6Savor The Meal

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Another benefit of dining out alone is that without anyone distracting you, you can focus on enjoying the food. Eating slowly and paying attention to every taste and smell is a great way to cultivate mindfulness.

"We have a tendency to rush from one thing to the next and don’t often get the opportunity to sit and slowly enjoy a meal," says McNamara. "One of the best parts about dining alone is that you’re on your own time: Enjoy it! Try ordering a few courses and take breaks to read or chat up your server. Dining isn’t meant to be frenzied or rushed. It detracts from the experience the kitchen and bar worked so hard to put together for you. Go at your own pace and indulge."