Dear Salty Waitress,
I am an Australian who will be traveling solo to NYC next year and plan to eat out as much as I can. I have done all my research and plan to tip like a decent human being, etc.
My question is, coming from a country where tipping isn’t a thing, is it true that waitstaff dislike solo diners, as we obviously order and pay less than a bigger table might, and that I need to increase my tip to compensate for the fact you’re dealing with me rather than a bigger table?
Also, I know that sometimes restaurants prefer to seat solo diners at the bar rather than a table. If I go somewhere that seems to have plenty of free tables/banquettes but they try to seat me at the bar straightaway, is it rude to ask (politely obviously!) if there’s a table free as I’d prefer that if possible?
An Australian Person
There are a few things of Down Under origin that we here in the States don’t really get, namely: Vegemite, angry kangaroos, and Foster’s beer. But we will happily welcome your Bloomin’ Onions (authentically Australian, no doubt) and solo diners.
Here’s how I see it, Aussie: Any customer at one of my tables is extra tip money I wouldn’t have earned otherwise. Unless the restaurant would have been 100 percent full to the gills all night long with two- and four-top tables, you’re an extra “cover” and that means more money in my pocket. Solo diners also tend not linger for literal hours after they’re done eating, screwing up our reservations and asking for 8 billion water refills.
Inside my Salty heart, though, you know what I believe? Waiting tables is about hospitality. I don’t mind solo diners because they tend to be fun to chat with, especially you with your charming little accent. If you’re solo, it’s even more important to me that you enjoy the meal. I might slip you an extra dinner roll, if you’re lucky.
As for seating: A lot of places will try to steer you towards the bar, not just because it saves a table for a party of two or four, but because they think a solo customer might like to have a conversation with other bar patrons. If that’s not the case, just speak up. “I think I’d actually like more room, so is there a table available?” is a valid and not-bratty question.
There’s no need to be self-conscious. Since leaving my shitty ex-boyfriend, I myself do a lot of solo dining. It’s the cat’s pajamas. I don’t have to split dessert with anyone! When out by yourself, just tip your server decently and you’ll be A-OK in our books.
Enjoy America, toots.
Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: email@example.com