Never Eat Alone?

Matt’s thought for the weekend…

I just had brunch on my own in the West Village. It was lovely. I rushed past the crowd in the overflowing ‘sceney’ restaurant I happened to be walking past at that hungry moment, and was ushered to a single seat at the corner of the bar. No one hour wait. Thank God.

I scribbled down a few notes about what I wanted to do today (including figuring out a last minute Halloween outfit so that I’m not completely under dressed going out tonight), ate a delicious meal, and came back to my apartment.

Whenever I dine by myself I hear the title of a book I see on the shelves from time to time called ‘Never Eat Alone’. I confess I’ve never read the book, but I hear the title echoing in my mind as a kind of unhappy mentor tapping their foot in disapproval.


Though I agree that going out to meals with people is crucial for networking, strengthening bonds with those we already know, and sparking ideas for our careers and businesses, I also believe part of the reason we don’t have people to do this with is precisely because we never eat alone. In other words, we confine ourselves to our homes in our loneliness, fearing we will be that person at the restaurant or bar who showed up on their own, and isn’t waiting for someone to join them after all. We all fear being pitied.

Actually the truth about eating alone is somewhat more exciting. We solitary diners are not waiting for someone, we are waiting for anyone. We know that anything can happen. Our trade is that we have to venture out alone, into the unknown. Sometimes nothing will happen, as in the case of my meal today. But the worst-case scenario is that I sit there alone, with my most treasured team-mate, with time to be present and simply think and people watch. Not such a risky trade after all. Best case, I engage in interesting conversation with someone I didn’t even know existed 30 minutes ago.

There are times in life when we should take the risk to call someone up and invite them to dinner. There are other times when the most rewarding experience you can have is to take yourself. It won’t by any means close off your ability to have the excitement of meeting people while you are there, because in the process you’ll have taken the most sociable step one can take anyway – the step outside your front door.

I therefore propose an amendment to the title of this post…

Never be afraid to eat alone.

Matt x

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33 Replies to “Never Eat Alone?”

  • I venture out on my own quite often. I used to have to force myself in the early days, but now I quite like it. I people watch, interact with the staff in the establishment I’m visiting. I find it quite liberating but I also enjoy the quite times of solitude I have at home. Best of both worlds – thanks for your continuous advice; I am finding it most enlightening :D x

  • Love this post! I have to agree wholeheartedly with this. Eating alone really isn’t a big deal. I find that eating alone at times, or travelling alone, actually invites more opportunity to connect with strangers. I think people are more likely to approach you when you aren’t in a group. I’ve made some wonderful, random connections when travelling or eating alone at a café. I think the key if you are feeling a little insecure about this at first is to bringing a little something to engage yourself with for those times when you may feel a little awkward, something like a good book to read as crutch. But I’d really advise to take a moment and look around and be open. I see far too many people being too engrossed on their smart phones whenever they feel uncomfortable or bored when alone in public – this sends out a ‘don’t talk to me vibe’. It’s ok to eat alone, it’s ok to feel awkward and it’s ok to not constantly feel like having to be ‘busy’ when out alone. I think feeling comfortable with this comes with practice, but it is very liberating to get to that place where you can just be in the world and not feel like you need other people or gadgets as a crutch.

  • True enough. New York is different and it’s very common to see people dining on their own without any fuss and easier to blend in. I come from a mid-sized town as well, and what has worked for me is to frequent certain favourite places where I’ve developed a little friendly banter with the staff. It feels less intimating. Also, the whole bringing a book or some work to do at a café can be helpful at first. A little something to divert your attention now and then, but something that is very easy to look up from and engage with others from time to time when dining alone.

  • beautiful “never be afraid to eat alone”! it depends on the environment how much joy it brings or how much confidence one needs to enjoy it. In a big city it’s no problem but around people that you know but don’t appreciate it becomes tricky.

  • I always admired a friend of mine who is comfortable with doing things alone when there is no company. She used to travel alone, went to the theater alone, went dining alone, attended parties alone and always made interesting experiences and met new people. In doing so,she valued her interests and stayed independent.

    1. That’s me! Movies alone, it’s like I feel (sorta) freer to react to to what I’m watching and to just totally relax :-). Last Christmas I made a point of just wandering the city by myself, found a new cozy cafe in the process. Planning to wander again this Christmas. There’s something really cool about being able to just chill with yourself :-).

  • I learn to feel comfortable by doing things alone. I just love it. When I went to movie, I could actually take 3 seat and make myself comfortable like I was sitting on the couch at home (can’t do that with a company). I love eating alone or going to coffee shop alone just to spend sometime isolating myself from the world that is happening around me. It’s not lonely, it’s just embracing solitude. I help me become stronger and more independent, not emotionally reliable on people

  • It’s really interesting how one’s perception changes when in a different environment and culture. I just moved to London for my studies and it’s SO different here-I’ve noticed that restaurants and cafes cater to solitary diners. My home country doesn’t have this kind of set up, so it definitely made me feel more self-conscious whenever I was out by myself. I never experienced eating a meal in a crowded restaurant alone until I arrived in London. It feels SO liberating, I go everywhere by myself! Life doesn’t wait for you, you can’t put your plans on hold just because you can’t find anyone to accompany you. Nothing would ever get done :D

  • I love this new concept, Matt! Thanks for sharing it. Just today actually I had a moment, when I felt the unhappy mentor tapping his foot, like you described and instead of eating alone (which I craved and wanted to do at that moment to get my “to do lists back on track) I joined other people and enganged in a meaningless conversation… When I actually, I should have spent my time with my most treasure team-mate!

  • I’ve often traveled alone and with that comes eating out and a plethora of tales. Now I’m inspired to take myself to a movie alone :)

  • Well last weekend when I took the step outside my front door I didn’t feel “alone”. But I felt adventurous because of it. Like I could be anywhere. Create anything. And anything could happen!

  • Today I tried it. I happened to be out of town at lunch time so I took myself out for lunch to the restaurant next to the gluten-free bakery I came for. I was all by myself and there was a small line up so I waited. When I got to the head of the line to my surprise the person in charge asked me if this group of people behind me came first. There were only tables for four. I politely said no that I was first. She pointed to a table and said that I could have that one over there. Unfortunately I’m also on a special diet which also makes eating in restaurant difficult. To make a long story short, the wait was long, I felt bad when other people that were behind me got served first, all the waitress said was how busy it was. I felt like nuisance with my special diet and taking a table for four when there were groups waiting. I don’t think think I’ll do it again.

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