This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on my affiliate link and purchase something (at no additional cost to you!), I may earn a small commission that helps me keep the blog running. Thank you so much for your support!
Eating alone at a restaurant is the thing most people say makes them the most nervous about solo travel.
As a species, we are social beings, and eating has always been a place to meet up with friends, family, coworkers, whoever and shoot the breeze.
Eating at restaurants, in particular, has become synonymous with socialization and groups of people.
So, it makes sense that a lot of people are hesitant about eating alone at a restaurant and are nervous about that aspect of solo travel.
In this post, I’m spilling my top secrets for eating alone at restaurants. I’m leaving the generic fluff out and going straight into the expert solo dining tips that nobody else is telling you! You’ll be much more prepared to eat alone after reading this post!
The generic tips for eating alone at a restaurant are good, and you should pay attention to them.
But you’re not going to find any of them here.
You can find the same old tips about eating at the bar, brining a book, or planning a picnic anywhere and everywhere on the internet.
Get your note pad out because I’m spilling the top tips for eating alone at a restaurant you haven’t heard before!
Understand Local Customs
I cannot tell you how important it is to research and understand local customs when eating alone at a restaurant!
Knowing what to expect and how to act in a restaurant in a foreign country makes the whole process so much more enjoyable.
You don’t have to worry about committing a faux pas or doing something that draws attention to yourself.
Before you go to a restaurant by yourself, you should know the following:
- What the expectation around tipping is
- Whether you seat yourself or wait to be seated
- If the check is brought to you automatically at the end of the meal or if you have to ask for it
Knowing just those three simple things will make eating alone at a restaurant in a foreign country so much more comfortable.
It eases your nerves and allows you to enjoy the experience rather than being nervous about doing the wrong thing.
Of course, once you know the customs of the local culture, it makes every other meal you eat alone better.
Plus the more you dine out alone in any particular city or country, the more comfortable you feel and the more confidence you have.
The first meal in any new country can definitely bring up a feeling of nervousness though!
Don’t Wait Until You’re Hangry
If you’re anything like me, being hangry makes dining alone so much more difficult and frustrating.
I end up getting too hungry, walking into multiple restaurants, walking out because I changed my mind and don’t actually want to eat there, and repeat the process about half a dozen times until I force myself to sit down or just give up on eating.
It isn’t a pretty sight!
You’re all alone, and there is nobody to snap you out of your hangry state and force you to make up your mind or choose where to eat for you.
So, learn how to anticipate your body and feed it before you get to the point of no return when the hangry side of you takes over!
It is one of the most important (and difficult to follow) eating alone tips I can give you!
Cafés are Your Best Friend
One of the biggest eating alone tips that nobody is talking about is to eat at cafés rather than traditional restaurants.
Cafés are filled with people eating alone, and you won’t stick out at all!
Plus they have a much more relaxed vibe. They are the perfect place to relax for a bit and people watch!
Cafés aren’t just Starbucks or other chains where the food isn’t that great. Mediocre at best.
All over the world you can find cafés that serve delicious food.
You can find anything from a simple muffin to a full blown meat entree, or some of the wildest and over-the-top desserts in the world.
Just pop into basically any café in Seoul to see what I mean!
The options are cafés are basically endless, and it is one of the best ways to get comfortable eating alone.
Just find yourself a seat in a corner, and you’re good to go!
Make Lunch Your Main Meal
One of the best tips I can give people who are nervous about dining alone at a restaurant is to dine at lunch rather than dinner.
Lunch is normally the quieter meal for restaurants, and more people tend to dine alone at lunch on their lunch break or between meals.
You will definitely fit in more when eating alone at lunch rather than dinner.
Plus a lot of restaurants offer deals at lunch, and it is a great way to save money while you travel.
You can often get an appetizer, main, and dessert for half the price the same meal would cost at dinner!
Be on the lookout for those lunch deals!
I guarantee you won’t be the only person eating alone at lunch when there is a lunch deal involved!
Don’t Underestimate Malls
I know. I know. This tip sounds really weird and out there.
But trust me!
You will be amazed at the quality of food you can find in mall food courts. Especially in Asia!
Seriously! I ate at mall food courts in Taiwan far more often than I would like to admit.
I’m Canadian, so I tend to think of mall food courts as only having greasy fast food, but I’ve learnt in my many years of travel that that simply isn’t the case everywhere.
A lot of food courts have a mixture of table service restaurants and quick service restaurants where you dine at communal tables.
They are also a great place to look if you’re trying to find a grocery store! You can quite often find grocery stores in the basements of malls!
In my experience, you can find some hidden gems at mall food courts.
You kind of just need to wander around a bit to find the good stuff, but it is there!
And, again, eating at food courts is a great way to save some money when you travel!
But do be sure to check out local restaurants and street food as well!
Join a Food Tour
Okay. I admit this one is a bit of a stretch.
You’re not eating alone at a restaurant and technically not eating alone at all.
But hear me out!
Food tours are one of the best ways to eat the best food a city has to offer.
You are shown around by a local, get to sample amazing food, and learn about the city’s culture and history alone the way.
You can’t tell me it doesn’t sound amazing to go on a food tour in Italy and sample some pasta, gelato, and some wine!
Yes, technically you’re not eating alone, but it can help you get more comfortable with being alone in a food-related setting.
A food tour helps you get over the initial awkwardness of eating alone by being alone in a group setting.
Weird sentence, but you know what I mean (hopefully)!
You have people around you that you can chat with, but you are still alone. You don’t have any friends or family, and you have to get outside your comfort zone just a little.
It is a great first step to take if you’re nervous about eating alone at a restaurant.
I suggest taking a food tour early on in your trip. That way you can go back to your favourite spots and enjoy an entire meal!
Don’t Practice at Home
I’m well aware that this is controversial advice and goes against what a lot of other people tell you.
But hear me out!
Dining alone in your hometown is without a doubt the most awkward place you can dine alone.
Even to this day after years of solo travel I will not eat alone in my home city.
Eating alone at a restaurant in your hometown is not the same as eating alone in any other city in the world.
It is far more awkward.
You’re always worried about running into someone you know and having to explain yourself.
Or at least I am!
I personally think the best way to get used to eating at a restaurant alone is to dive into the deep end feet first.
I suggest waiting until you’re on your first solo trip before eating alone at a restaurant for the first time.
It may make you feel awkward at first, but you’re already on your trip, and you have to eat somehow.
Your options are street food, grocery stores, or eating alone at a restaurant or café.
You’re forced to practice eating alone when you wait until you’re on the road to rip off the bandaid.
You can’t use the fact that it feels awkward or uncomfortable at first as an excuse to back out of your trip.
You’re already there, and you’re on your own.
Trust me. It gets easier and easier to eat alone, and it feels completely normal and natural in no time!
Watch the Video
So, do you feel more comfortable with the idea of eating alone at a restaurant now?
I hope these tips have helped prepare you for your first solo dining experience.
I’ve eating at hundreds of restaurants alone, so believe me when I say that it isn’t nearly as scary as you’re building it up in your head to be!
It becomes easier and easier with time until it gets to the point where you feel just as comfortable dining alone as you do dining with someone else.
If you use the tips on this list in combination with the advice everyone else tells you, you’ll be a pro at eating alone at a restaurant in no time!
You got this!