The first time I had to eat out alone at a restaurant, it was during a work trip to New York City.
I was terrified, anxiety central. What if I can’t find a chair? What if people think I’m a loser? What do I even do with myself for that long?
But, once I sat down, had a little wine and put in my order, I realized the feeling I was having wasn’t fear. It was excitement. There’s something thrilling about having the freedom and confidence to dine out by yourself, even if you’re only doing it out of necessity.
The best part? You can double dip as many times as you want.
Do a dry run before you head off to your next trip. You can start small with a cup of coffee at a local café or a cocktail at your neighborhood bar where you’re comfortable. Sometimes the hardest part is taking that first plunge.
If even that seems too nerve racking, try eating by yourself at home while your partner is working late or off with friends.
Don’t turn to crutches like the TV or your phone to keep you occupied, just sit at the dinner table and eat your meal. It may feel a little awkward at first but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get comfortable with your own thoughts.
If you’re anxious about eating out alone, especially while traveling, preparation is key.
Research a few restaurants close to where you’re staying and identify when their off hours are. Finding a seat is easier if the restaurant isn’t packed. With fewer people and a more relaxed environment, it’s easier to feel comfortable not being with a crowd of friends.
Search review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp for solo dining reviews, it can help to know that someone else has had a good experience dining alone at a particular spot.
Family owned and local restaurants are also a safer bet for a welcoming, friendly atmosphere.
Socialize or Don’t
Eating at the bar is a great way to meet people, especially in a new city. This could be a good opportunity to strike up a conversation with another solo diner next to you. You can also ask the bartender for recommendations around town.
Exchanging even a few words with someone can make you feel more at ease.
That said, you may be totally drained from a day at a conference or a series of tough negotiations.
If you don’t want to talk to anyone, consider bringing a book or a newspaper with you. This is one way to stay occupied while you eat. It also signals to the other people in the restaurant that you don’t want to engage.
Fake It Till You Make It
The truth is, no one is pitying you. It’s like being at the gym; everyone is too worried about themselves to focus on you.
When you’re going out alone, fake it till you make it. Wear something comfortable and fabulous, an outfit that already gives you a confidence boost. Then channel your attitude to match.
If you really want to go all out, style yourself like the TV heroines. You know, the ladies who would never have a problem being by themselves.
How could you feel insecure rolling into a bar in a chic all-white ensemble a la Olivia Pope on “Scandal” or a sassy retro look a la “Ms. Maisel”?
A little look goes a long way.