A famous scene from the movie The Lonely Guy rightly depicts what single diners go though when they order food. In the scene known as ‘Dinner for one please’, when actor Steve Martin walks into a posh restaurant and tells the maître d’ ‘am alone’, the room grinds to a halt while a theatrical spotlight follows the sad sack to his seat. This situation perfectly dramatised the fears many of us have about dining alone.
Unfortunately, restaurants have an infrequent attitude to single diners on busy weekends. To increase revenue and attraction, lone customers could be pushed to corners and cold ambiences. Some do not even entertain people who show up alone. Knowing a few people who seem destined to be single, I have seen them succeed nicely to conceive an inspired lifestyle, fill gaps of loneliness and happily talk about it. Shabeer, an IT professional in London says, “I am a foodie. I do not care about people. I love my food and go alone anywhere as I am more excited about exploring flavours and easily forget everything around for great food.”
Douglas Carnall, a cheerful fan of Rasa touched this subject and instigated us for a delightful journey to Haarlem, a city near Amsterdam where you will discover the world’s first ever restaurant for solo diners, reassuring people to celebrate disconnection and dine alone in style. Marina Van Goor is a designer by profession and she has developed this hugely talked about restaurant called Eenmaal. She developed a cool brand out of a social issue and is soon expanding to other parts of Europe, London and the US.
Goor passionately tells her story to the world today. She had a terrible experience of walking into a restaurant alone for dinner where she was shown a table next to the toilet and surrounded by staring fellow diners and unfriendly servers. She walked out in disgust, thought about her experience and also many other people who may be hiding away in fear of being ridiculed as loners.
Goor says, “I came up with this idea of Eenmaal to show people that eating alone can be attractive, thus breaking this popular stigma with a sexy moment of disconnection. I call it a social design to address millions of people and their solitude.”
In London, we have been extremely caring for single diners. Almost 50 per cent of our customers at Rasa Maricham in Holiday Inn, Kings Cross are singles and they are mostly regulars from corporate houses. Sarah Brig, who comes alone every Thursday to Rasa near Bond Street, has been so close to our team and even on the busiest days her table will be kept ready.
I must admit, behaviour of service staff in restaurants could change during busy evenings. Sometimes there are genuine reasons to deny a table for a single guest without reservation on a busy evening. Still it could be seen as unreasonable by people.
Goor’s concept is a great success for a woman with determination and especially her ability to talk about personal experience of loneliness and appealing people to acknowledge it and celebrate self-company from time to time. Silence and being alone could add stimulus to your happiness and self confidence. Once realised, it could cleanse all hidden emotions just like fire assimilate spices to come alive and enhance harmony in a dish.
In a recent research, they found too many singles avoid eating out and seek convenient food to evade
restaurants. Last but not least, loneliness happens to all of us. However, we should confront lonliness to win over and get the best out of it.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants