Ignore Perceptions to Embrace New Experiences

When was the last time you had dinner alone in public without paperwork or technology to keep you occupied? It may feel awkward or give you anxiety to walk into a restaurant with nothing but the pleasure of your own company, but if you can get past the stigma of dining alone and the “Is she by herself?” looks, the experience could be one to remember.

 

Some restaurant owners say eating alone lets the diner fully experience the flavors of their meal and they are working to change the perception associated with asking for a table for one. Eenmaal is a new one-person restaurant in Amsterdam that encourages eating alone and taking in the culinary experience. The restaurant does not offer two-top tables or WiFi. Owner Marina van Goor says diners who eat alone may have a better culinary experience. “The taste of persons eating alone seems different and even more intense, according to our guests," van Goor says in Businessweek. "I wanted to show that a moment of disconnection, by eating out alone, sitting alone, can be attractive, especially in our hyper-connected society."

Will we ever get past society's perception of eating alone to dare and try this new way of dining? Single men and women account for nearly 30 percent of all households in the United States, but yet the public perception of eating alone remains negative.I inadvertently tested the social reaction of being a solo diner at a local restaurant/bar this past weekend while waiting to meet friends after work. It felt like all eyes were on me, curious if I was meeting people or alone.

To pass the time, I found myself frequently reaching for my cell phone as a distraction and well, honestly, to appear busy responding to an important text message or social media post. I learned quickly that yes, the negative connotation around dining alone is still very prevalent. Even the top search results for “eating alone” from Google produce columns about how to eat alone, tips on dining alone and even how to defend eating alone. Some restaurants have found more interesting ways to solve the "problem" of eating alone.

The Moomin Café in Tokyo makes sure its diners always have a companion. The café is designed after the Moomin franchise, a series of Finnish picture books about a family of hippopotamus-like creatures, and waiters seat solo diners with one of these large stuffed characters to, as it says, “reduce any discomfort.” If eating alone with a large stuffed animal across the table doesn’t sound like your idea of a great night out or for that matter, a way to make things less awkward, a number of mobile apps also offer ways to connect solo diners, share meals with your neighbors and even swap your leftovers.

EatWith created by Guy Michlin allows solo travelers to search for a local dinner host in 23 different countries. The WhatsApp app started by bringing neighbors together in Utrecht in the Netherlands to share food with each other when they cooked too much. Today, the app is used across Europe as a meal-sharing site. If you can stomach eating your neighbors leftovers, Leftoverswap, allows users to offer their uneaten portion of takeout for a small fee. Although the food industry has come up with some innovative ways to help people eating alone feel less like social pariahs, only time will tell if the stigma will lift to embrace a possible new fad and way of experiencing cuisine – solo.

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