I eat out alone a lot. Traveling as much as three to five days a week, I get hungry, and I wind up in restaurants all over the country by myself. It totally sucks, but who can afford to look like a loser? Perception is everything, as they say, so, for the sake of all of my fellow lone-dining road warriors, here are seven ways to avoid looking like a loser when you find yourself doing a solo at Denny’s.
1) The Self-Contained Party. Enter the restaurant like you just came from The Grammy Awards and are still high on seeing all of your favorite music icons. Greet the hostess with that European double-kiss thing you see in the movies, shrug your shoulders wistfully and say, “Oh, isn’t this a grand night to be alive?!” Be sure to laugh out loud at least four times during the meal and blow dreamy kisses to the wait staff.
2) The Famous Food Critic. Wear a London Fog trench coat (letting it hang off of your shoulders), an apricot-colored ascot, and a felt hat with a long bird feather of some sort. Dark sunglasses are optional. Order a random sampling of the entrees and side items. Taste small bites of several dishes and make notes on a pad while chewing slowly, as if deciding whether you like it or not. Check the health rating, being sure to write it down, as you exit.
3) The Out-of-Towner. This one works anywhere except in your own city. Enter the restaurant asking if their reputation stands up to all that you’ve heard. Ask questions of the host and the wait staff about the area and get them talking about their town and its interesting sights. While you eat, they stand at your table and drone on and on about the zoo, the museum, etc, that you have absolutely no interest in seeing, but all the while it appears that they are terribly interested in you.
4) The Cry Baby. Upon entering the restaurant appear terribly distressed. Tears are a great start to any evening alone. If you are able to produce a break in your voice, all the better. If anyone asks what is wrong, mumble something about “the breakup” and then tear up again as quickly as possible. Dab your eyes through the meal, sniff, and blow often. Most people in the restaurant will feel sorry for you for your recent relational breakup rather than think you are a loser who has no friends and is eating alone.
5) The Architect. Carry a set of building plans with you and spread them out on the table before you even look at the menu. Set your cell phone alarm to go off several times during the meal and raise your voice as you become angry with sub-contractors, etc, and make sure people overhear that this is a multi-million dollar job that you will not let them screw up. Shake your head and slam the phone down several times during the meal to emphasize how important you are.
6) The Secret Service Agent. Borrow someone’s satellite phone or create one using a small black bag and an old handset. An earpiece with a squiggly wire dangling down into the back of your shirt is convincing, as well. Peering over dark glasses, mumble something into the phone describing several diners around the restaurant. Ask probing questions of the wait staff about the comings and goings of the manager or owner. Talk into your cuff and act a little paranoid.
7) The Fashionista. Scrunched and studded at every possible point, devise the most outlandish outfit imaginable and waltz into the restaurant with an extremely superior attitude.. Order a salad with dressing on the side, only eating three bites. (Special thanks to Mallory at Firebirds in Omaha for this one!)
If these approaches don’t fit you, I’m sure that a little thought and ingenuity will help you devise your personalized way to look cool in a restaurant alone. It is important to maintain your composure at all times and to remember that on any given day over half of America is sitting in a lonely booth in a diner somewhere in the midwest, slogging through a lonely bowl of chili that resembles pre-digested baby food. The next to the last thing you ever want to do is to appear desperate. The last thing you want to do is to sit there and read a book.