Parties Of One
QUESTION From Susan in NJ:
"My partner thinks that we should be more accommodating to solo diners and not sure how to market to them or even if we want to.
Not sure why i would want to market to solo diners in a full-service restaurant in the first place because they pose challenges. Unless they are in the bar, a solo diner will kill our table sales average. It's basically the same amount of steps/work for 1/2 or 1/4 of the check size. Plus we typically have few deuces, meaning all too often a solo diner is sat at a four top. So now that single diner is occupying space for 4 people.
I'll always happily take them and treat them the same as any guest, but what i want is groups and parties that will create energy and spend money. I want a fun vibrant place that has a personality, thats hard to do with solo diners.
There’s a difference between not wanting solo diners and not treating them like everyone else. Guess I’m just looking for ways to deal with them without having to fill our restaurant with 2-tops."
Every individual diner and every group of diners presents unique opportunities and challenges.
The minute any owner, manager or hourly staff member “doesn’t want” a solo diner they WILL treat them differently... unless of course you have Academy Award winning actors on staff.
Whether it’s in tone, eye contact, body language or some other non-verbal form of communication, they WILL be treated differently if it is believed they are negatively impacting the individual’s revenue or the revenue of the restaurant.
Not preferring a solo diner to a large party (or vise versa) is antithetical to the very construct of hospitality and indicative of a narrow view & short term perspective.
Any owner or employee who believes their salary is determined by any one specific diner at one specific moment as opposed to a culture and collection of experiences amassed over a period of time - does not realize that this is a game of pennies and a business built on repeat visits - daypart after daypart. Day after day. Week week and month after month.
Anyone (and I mean anyone) voicing or demonstrating such a belief should be counseled and documented - as such a mindset reflects a lack of understanding the precepts of hospitality or the vagaries of economy that support the fact that this solo diner is not only your guest but an influencer... and one that is likely not destined to dine alone forever.
Of course you need to read every table but solo diners, if anything, deserve more attention as they present a unique opportunity for easier engagement and thus the establishment of a stronger bond / sense of belonging to your establishment and with your brand.
There's no better bar, restaurant or communal table experience (for guests looking for an escape and/or community) than to meet other small groups or individuals with whom they connect while there.
Adopt more of a longview approach to your business and think about why you are in the line of work you are in the first place. Chances are - if you're not a banquet hall - you'll soon realize that's not such a bad deal if your restaurant is building community because community is the one thing all of those people have in common.