The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Food Focus

Table for one: Solo dining is on the rise in the UK – here’s how (and why) to do it

Almost one in six of us in Britain enjoy eating out alone, and restaurants are catching up with a trend that is no longer seen as strange or taboo. Freed from the unwanted table in the corner, solo dining is booming, discovers Francesca Specter, who also picks out five places that are perfect for a glorious meal (without unwanted company!)

Saturday 20 January 2024 06:00 GMT
OpenTable has seen a 4 per cent rise in booking for tables for one in the past year alone
OpenTable has seen a 4 per cent rise in booking for tables for one in the past year alone (Getty)

Picture the scene: you’re sitting alone in a busy restaurant, an empty seat in front of you and a single place setting, with only the backdrop of other tables’ chatter for company. For some, this is a nightmare scenario – but, for a rising proportion of Brits, it’s a coveted luxury. That’s according to the latest data from OpenTable, which reported that almost one in six Brits (17 per cent) are fans of dining alone, with a 4 per cent rise in booking for tables for one in the past year alone.

Interest in solo dining has been steadily creeping up in the past five years, with Google Trends search data for “dining solo” rising 260 per cent since November 2019. Far from a shameful scenario, solo dining is increasingly becoming an “aesthetic food(ie) movement” in its own right, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Culture. New York based portrait photographer Nancy A Scherl’s 2022 book, Dining Alone: In the Company of Solitude, elevates the solo diner in its dignified portraits.

While the Living Well Index stats in 2018 found that a third of UK adults eat alone all or most of the time – a factor that, the report suggested, correlated with the nation’s declining sense of wellbeing – the conscious act of dining alone is increasingly identified as a favoured joy. Food critic Jay Rayner has described eating half a roast duck in London’s Chinatown as his “idea of heaven”, while Nigella Lawson’s description of solo dining, in her book Cook, Eat, Repeat, as a “solo ceremony for the senses” might just as aptly be applied to dining out. Actor and comedian Rose Matafeo has described eating alone as “her favourite thing ever”, posting on Twitter/X about her enjoyment of “one very huge expensive meal a day” during a solo holiday. Across the Atlantic, Rami Malek has been known to enjoy a solo feast of pork tacos and ceviche in New York’s Hotel Americano, and Ben Affleck’s been photographed dining alone on numerous occasions at various LA hotspots.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in