According to recent research by restaurant reservations and reviews platform OpenTable, reservations for one have grown in the U.S. by 62 percent. This makes “table for one” the fastest growing table party size nationally.
“Solo dining is about treating yourself to a delicious experience and savoring every bite,” said Caroline Potter, Chief Dining Officer at OpenTable. “From communal and counter seating to doting table service, restaurants are welcoming parties of one with open arms.”
The rise of solo dining is an interesting trend that restaurant and foodservice executives can leverage to attract more guests and run a more successful operation.
(Travel is seeing the same trend — more solo travelers — and similarly, hospitality brands are personalizing guest services and customer experiences to take advantage.)
Here are 5 marketing tactics that you can incorporate into your strategy in order to cater effectively to the solo diner.
5 Ways Restaurant Brands Can Cater to Solo Diners
Upload your menu
Solo diners conduct research online before making reservations. So make sure that your menu — along with other relevant information (location, parking, vegetarian or gluten-free options, etc.) — is available online.
You may want to indicate that your location welcomes solo diners, especially if you have tables with a view for one or a nice bar area where people can also eat.
Put the menu up on your website, on your Facebook page, on your third-party review site profiles and business listings like Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Zomato. Keep in mind that as you go about uploading your menu, consistency is a must. You certainly don’t want guests to come in and realize that what you’re currently actually offering is different from what you have indicated online.
Manage online reviews and customer feedback
Like solo travelers, solo diners are all about treating themselves. They want to be able to savor unique culinary experiences alone. This means that when considering factors that would influence their decisions on where to eat, they are likely to place less emphasis on the preferences and recommendations of their friends and family.
Online reviews and publicly displayed customer feedback, meanwhile, are a more vital source of information for solo diners. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat, Zomato: these sorts of sites matter for those looking to book a table for one.
This makes it critical for you to manage restaurant reviews and customer feedback. Track the sites where you are listed. Respond to what diners are saying. Address any issues that are affecting the customer experience. By proactively engaging with reviewers, you can build a strong brand reputation that attracts parties of one — or of any size, for that matter.
Have amazing photos
People searching Yelp for great local businesses spend 2.5 times more time on a Yelp page with photos than on a page without. It’s likely the same on other review websites. You can go so far as to say that a restaurant page without photos is as attractive to diners as pizza without cheese.
To cater successfully to solo diners, up your photos game. Give people a sense of what your menu items look like, how your place feels like, what the ambience or atmosphere is like. Show that your restaurant provides a comfortable setting for solo diners.
Collect feedback from solo diners
You may already be handing out comment cards or have a system in place for collecting feedback from guests. Extend these efforts to include parties of one.
One of the most widely used survey methodologies is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which helps identify which of your customers are happy and satisfied — versus which ones aren’t. Critical feedback can help you improve the solo dining experience, while positive feedback can be leveraged in order to generate great word of mouth and inspire new guests to your location.
Commit to delivering a positive customer experience
Embracing the solo dining trend means removing the stigma from the experience of eating out alone. Train your staff to gauge what solo diners are looking for. Make them feel comfortable and at ease.
Remember: great service and a positive customer experience — and not just delicious food — inspire loyalty, draw people back, and guests into regulars.