Sitting guiltily alone in space

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Solo diner EDDIE WILLIAMS worries about the space he’s taking up in restaurants!

SPACE is a precious commodity for our restaurants, as they welcome back as many customers as possible, while complying with coronavirus restrictions. 

During a recent trip to Narooma, I found myself worrying that, as a solo diner, I was taking up more space than I deserved.

On a Wednesday night, I wandered over to an Italian restaurant near my motel, only to find a father and daughter lining up ahead of me. There were no free tables, so the waitress told them to come back in 15 minutes. 

When I told her I was on my own, the waitress sent me to sit at the bar, order a drink and wait for someone else to leave. I was happy to oblige, and sure enough, a table freed up well before my vegetarian pizza was ready. The father and daughter returned and found another table free. Happy customers and happy, if slightly hurried, wait staff.

The next night, I lazily returned to the same restaurant, this time for pasta, and this time a little earlier to hopefully avoid a table traffic jam. There was a table free for me and another table for a second solo diner. But when a third ungrouped customer arrived, the only table left was a much larger one – so big it could probably have accommodated Senator Zed Seselja’s whole family!

This was when I started to worry. The restaurant staff were too nice to turn us away, but by taking in solo patrons, they risked wasting space. To compensate, I ate my meal at breakneck speed, ordered an extra drink, and got dessert. To be honest, I probably ate enough for two. 

But is there some other solution? Should the solo diners sit together? Probably not – it’s a health hazard and, for many people, it would remove the pleasure of having a night out on their own. 

Can restaurants bring out tiny tables for single eaters? Should everyone have to make a booking? Or should restaurants crunch the numbers and consider avoiding solo diners? 

Whichever way you look at it, things were looking up in Narooma. I asked the waitress if it was normally so busy. She said yes, but not on a weeknight. In fact, since the easing of coronavirus restrictions, there’s been so much demand on weeknights that the restaurant had to roster an extra staff member. And that news made this solo diner breathe a sigh of relief.

Eddie Williams is an award-winning producer at 2CC.

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