Friday, 21 November 2008

Table for one is it? Awh......bless

Ah another weekend approaches and no doubt many of you will be making plans for mirth and merriment and quite probably jocularity too no doubt with the ones you love or even with your family. My cousin went out with family last weekend and arrived back late on Sunday night talking like a washing machine with a pizza in one hand and a tandoori chicken abomination in the other. A real renaissance man. But spare a thought for those poor unfortunates who aren't as blessed as the rest of you and able to waste away the lazy weekend hours with someone special having a frolicsome and gleeful time.

Table for one sir?

For once I'm not talking about waiters, although you should spare a thought, and your change, for us. No, for once I am thinking about other people, sadder people, more mournful people, people who for one reason or another have no one with which to frolic or enjoy high jinks, in other words people who have to dine alone. Bless. It's not unusual for people to dine alone at lunchtime but it is unusual to see diners eating alone at nighttime, especially at the weekend. There are three types of lonely single diners - the out of town business person, the Billy/Billie no mates, and the uber confident.

The out of town business person doesn't care that they are dining alone. They have their crackberry, their copy of some over important broadsheet or the latest John Grisham-esque borefest to keep them company. The difficulty with the out of town business monkey is that they cant be fobbed off with a tiny table in the corner. Which is disappointing from a waiter's point of view. They normally kick up a stink and mess themselves, and your doorway, until they get a large enough table to accommodate their mobile office.

You can, however, stick little Billy/Billie no mates on to a tiny table in the corner, they are used to it. Oh why am I trying to be even handed about this? Billy no mates is always Billy no mates and never Billie no mates. It's always the weird guy with the straight legged and suspiciously perfectly ironed jeans carrying a plastic bag. Billy doesn't care where you seat him as he is just glad to be out in the public and not cooped up at home with his dead mother and her cats that scare him. The only real problem with Billy, apart from the house smell he brings with him, is that they either talk way too much or not at all. I mean getting an order from these social amoebas can be like pulling teeth from a man with his mouth closed OR conversely they take every opportunity they can get to talk to you. They will ask about each and every menu item, line by line, ingredient by ingredient. They are so starved of social interaction that you reading the menu to them is enough to warrant a whole page in their diary. Sad, but they are easy.

And then there are the uber confidents. Not many of these about, I've probably only served five or six of them all year. There is one guy that comes maybe once a month, he's an uber confident sort of guy. He comes on his own, gets some food, chat's a little, tips and leaves. Nice work! The uber confidents don't make themselves small or have to hide behind a book or need the constant chirp chirp of their mobiles to have a good time. These are the sort of people who are happy and obviously confident enough in their own skin to go out on their own. I say huzzah for the uber confidents!

We waiters are a judgmental lot and will note the fact that you are dining on your own but that's not how we will judge you. Dining, like most things, can be so much better when you are on your own. So if you are intending to dine on your own this weekend here's my advice....

Book in advance. Waiters will use any excuse to put you on a the shit table they normally cant give away if you turn up without a booking. Plus tables for one that reserve in advance scare the bejesus out of waiters, chefs and restaurant managers. A table for one can quite often mean someone doing a review or evaluation of some sort. So bring a notepad with you if you want to get the best service and food you ever had.

Bring a book or something small enough that can fit into your bag or pocket. Seriously it can get very fucking boring very fucking quick listening to the next table overs conversation about the new house extension or Susan's promotion. I know because I'm listening too.

Put something, your coat, bag, etc on the other chair. This shows the rest of the restaurant and other waiters that you are dining alone and haven't just been stood up. You don't want to spend the entire meal getting sad sympathetic smiles from every waiter/customer that walks past. Or maybe you do.

Dress like the uber confident person you are. People are gonna stare at you as you chow down on your bread for one. So damn well give me something to stare at.

Order whatever the hell you want! There is nothing better than dining on your own. (Apart from dining with LMM obviously) But you can eat what you want without having to share or having to deal with disparaging looks when you order the cheesecake having just eaten your own body weight in meat.

Dining on your own is one of life's true pleasures, just as dining with someone you love is, so treat yourself and do it now. Eat for one and tip for two. [Ahem cough cough] I'm still a waiter with needs you know......

Any other advice?

35 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Medbh said...

When I travel alone to a conference I always eat dinner at the bar rather than in the dining room if possible. You take up less space so the waiter doesn't get pissy and the bartender's happy that your spending more money. Plus the bartender can offer chit chat and a buffer from any creepy dudes. I go for reading a paper or magazine over a book so you don't need to focus as much.

Manuel said...

medbh: that's a good call with the barman, but the bar doesn't suit everybody....waiters get pissy? pfft.....hehehehe

daisyfae said...

room service. in your pajamas... or kebabs eaten alone in your car. sorry. no one wants to see a solo diner... too depressing!

Manuel said...

daisyfae: get to the bar!!

Silverstar said...

I had need of dining alone whilst on my recent enforced vacation. Well, I really wasn't alone, I had my service dog, Friday, with me. Me, I just want the waitstaff to take my order and bring it and the check, but of course, they have to hang out and converse about Friday. That's because dogs in restaurants are rare here. And she's cute as a button. So I'm never alone even when I'm alone. But rather than reading, I watch all the other people in the restaurant. he, he, he.

CheeseMonger said...

I'm a woman who travels for business, and I always sit at the bar, and always have a magazine or work with me. The key to not getting hassled by creeps- when they speak to you, look at them puzzled, then go back to your read without saying a word. Shuts them down every time. I don't know about "tip for 2", but 20%+ okay for you? :)

MikeTheWaiterDotCom said...

As a professional waiter, I have no problem with single diners. They usually eat well, drink well, and never ask for separate checks... :)
One of the early Lithuanian Kings always had the house staff prepare him elaboarate feasts, much of which went uneaten. When asked why he went to the trouble, he replied "When I dine alone, I dine with the finest!"

MJ said...

Not only have I dined alone, I've gone to the cinema alone.

The shock! The horror!

KevanB said...

"The best number for a dinner party is two: myself and a damn good head waiter." So said Nubar Gulbenkian. And on my travels over the years I have found him to be correct. In fact given some of the inane shite I have listened to at the dinner table, it is not just on my travels.

Manuel said...

silverstar: people watching in restaurants is awesome.....

cheesemongor: do you sell cheese and cheese related products?

mtwdc: and he was damn right too....

Manuel said...

mj: awh....little lonely lamb.....ha!

kevanB: yeah but some waiters never know when to shut the fuck up.....

livesbythewoods said...

I must admit to taking the coward's way and ordering room service when in a hotel on business....too intimidating to sit on my own in a bar or restaurant.

But on the plus side, you can watch tv at the same time.

Mudflapgypsy said...

I eat alone all the time as I have to travel around for work. Am I Billy no mates/or uber confidant?
I don't have a crackberry thankfully. I have no problem eating alone as the company is always good and I never get into arguments with myself, well not since I started medication. ;-)

Cinema alone I haven't done since 1993 for no other reason that I can always get someone who wants to watch the same movies as me nowadays.

sheepworrier said...

I've never dined or even went to the cinema on my own. Just don't see the attraction.

btw, I'm headin to l'etoile next week. Om nom nom.

belfastyouthworker said...

i used to dine alone quite regularly in the Morning Star...oh yeah, i noticed the pitying glances from the waitstaff as i wept into my glass of apple juice and knew that beneath my heaving breast beat the heart of a dancer

*end of chapter one*

sheepworrier said...

BYW: You ate in the Morning Star!? Brave move.

paddy said...

i'm an eat in the bar guy - I'd feel too self conscious in a restuarant. I'm always waiting for a waiter to offer me a wafer thin after dinner mint in tribute to Mr Creosote as it is.

savannah said...

i'm too lazy to go out when i'm alone, sugar! besides, i just moved and i'm having too much fun playing house here! ;) xoxo


(seriously, when i'm alone, i eat at the bar if that's an option, if not, a table for one does not intimidate me!)

fatmammycat said...

I'm another eat at the bar when traveling for work, it's just lest hassle in the long run.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Dining out alone was pretty much my life till I got married and that was when I was 37. But I was the uber confident one.Now it is nice to go out with the wife to eat.

A.B. said...

I just dined alone for the first time (in a nice restaurant) this past June. It was harder than I thought it would be and I did come armed with a book, newspaper, cell phone AND sunglasses (I was sitting outside, but it helped.) I was shocked at how hard it was and by the end of lunch (and two drinkess) I decided I was the most fabulous lunch partner I've ever had.

CheeseMonger said...

Manuel- yes, I used to own a cheese shop, now I work for an importer/distributor specializing in cheese. So, I used to retail the stuff, now I wholesale. I travel constantly, and if I didn't eat out alone, I'd starve to death!

belfastyouthworker said...

sheepy: what's wrong with the morning star? once i found tinfoil in my soup and got a free meal, can't say fairer than that!! ;)

Jennifer said...

I eat by myself all the time. Usually I sit at the bar, either reading a newspaper, magazine or watching a game on the TV, or chat with the staff. I've come to be good friends with some of the bartenders at my regular spots because of this and have been invited to birthdays and children's christenings by these bartenders. If I do eat at a table at a restaurant I like to people watch.

I also enjoy going to movies by myself. Just the other day, I was out shopping and I had an inkling to see a movie. I checked the times on my phone and saw one that I had been wanting to see started in 10 min at a nearby theater, so I went. No calling to make plans and deciding what to see.

Tuesday Kid said...

This reminds me of the ending of The Closet (french movie) where he tells his ex-wife to leave him alone. Then he tells the waiter he'd like something rich and fatty to eat.
I never have money to eat out, but come the day I'll be using these tips.

Native Minnow said...

I've never thought about looking like I got stood up by dining alone before. I'll have to use the jacket over the other chair signal from now on.

B said...

what is the best way to tell the waiter you just want someone to go across the road and buy you a happy meal to eat at the table instead of everything on the menu?

ggwinner dot com said...

Hey Manuel,

First time here and I've pissed myself laughing...looking at my own guests thru your eyes
Really inspiring ...I work nights in a hotel in Auld Dublin and I know what you're going thru ( well, sort of ) :)
Keep up the good writing, you've got me hooked ... Cheers !

Old Knudsen said...

I dine alone all the time if only I could find someone as funny and as interesting as myself, better off doing without.

harried_dad said...

I watch movies on my iPod while I eat alone. So I guess I get to do both at once

Voluptuous Vegan said...

When I was 19 I went off travelling on my own and stayed in a hotel for the first few days of my trip. I dined alone quite happily but for the constant creepiness of one particular guy. Unfortunately, I couldn't get shot of him as he was my waiter...!

English Mum said...

Hubby does a lot of it due to the nature of his job, but tends to be in hotels and so just orders room service.

I've never had the opportunity but I think I'd quite like it. And doesn't a lone girly get to flirt with the waiter? Just a teeny bit?

Gwynneth said...

Thanks for the post and instructions, Manny. I shall now dine alone quite happily!

Manuel said...

Gwynneth: or....or you could phone a friend......hehehhehe

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