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Entertaining & Etiquette 61

Dining Alone - Experiences, treatment by restaurant staff

huiray | Jan 30, 201107:30 PM

What are your experiences when dining alone, particularly in fine dining places or at least 'nice' places? How does the staff treat you? How do you manage 'signals' you wish to convey?

I am mulling thoughts about these topics yet again after eating by myself in several fine dining places (established places, but new to me) over the last few days. I had formal reservations for ONE (i.e. just myself) at all the restaurants, with bookings made online.

At all places I was seated promptly upon presenting myself [the reservation being noted at once], although at one place I suspect I was shunted to a 'marginal table'.

At place A (a high-end chain) I then waited for 10-15 min before a server even appeared table-side and he was hesitating before putting down water and bread + a veggie munchies plate. Another 5 minutes before the waiter came up to me with the menu and wine list. It also took a while for him to get back to me with my wine, but service was fine from then on.

At place B (a local place) I was seated with a menu furnished by the Maitre 'd and the waiter appeared tableside after 5-10 min, not as long as at place B. I had to ask for the wine list, however. Once I had made my orders, service was fine and the waiter was obliging.

At place C (a high-end famous local establishment, an "institution" of sorts) I waited for 5-10 minutes while watching newer arrivals (couples) being seated and furnished with menus and bread and water immediately. I watched the waiters passing a quick eye over me but ignoring me. I was indeed waiting to see what they would do so did not specifically call them over. A busboy whizzed by and placed two glasses of water on my table before I could stop him from putting the second glass down. Eventually a waiter finally walked over with the menu (and I muttered to him that I was wondering when they would decide to get round to me...perhaps with an edge to my voice). No wine list. I had to call him back and ask for it. Once he took my orders, however, service was fine.

In all three cases the cutlery for the other place at the table was left on the table, and it is probable in all three cases the waiters were "waiting" for my supposed companion to appear. I considered moving the "spare" cutlery to one side to signify that my table was complete (i.e. just me) but it seems to me that (i) the Maitre 'd or person who seated me should have been the one to do so [which indeed is done at some other places I've dined at], or (ii) the waitstaff should either be in better contact with the reservation desk/Maitre 'd, or should approach me much faster and at least ask if I would like something to drink while obliquely inquiring if I was waiting for a companion.

What are your experiences and how would you handle such situations?

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