Solo-dining hospitality: Marketing to a new wave of guests

Why hospitality brands and restaurants should embrace the solo dining market; Exploring top cities in Asia for solo dining plus essential tips for solo guests

TableCheck

TableCheck

Apr 10, 2024 - 7 min read

Solo-dining hospitality:  Marketing to a new wave of guests

With globalization, increasing travel options, and better digital connectivity, a growing number of people are drawn to independent travel, prompting the global hospitality industry to adapt to the needs of this new market.

The rise of solo traveling has also led to the emergence of solo dining with more people now becoming more comfortable dining out alone as reported by the Michelin Guide.

Around the world, solo dining is already prevalent in many cities. In Asia, this trend is gaining momentum with individual travelers flocking to the region for its culinary diversity and affordability. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates, renowned for its robust hospitality industry, attracts a strong expat community and business professionals, many of whom may need to dine alone due to busy schedules, travel for work, and other various factors.

Waiting staff holidng a plate for service

From table to one to profits: A guide to marketing to solo diners

The solo diner market presents many opportunities for restaurants and hospitality operators. From backpackers who like affordable eateries, luxury travelers yearning to experience five-star fine dining restaurants, or business travelers who travel to other countries for conferences and meetings, restaurants can market to this broad customer base to boost sales and improve brand visibility. Even locals, who may find themselves opting to dine solo occasionally, are an additional target demographic for restaurants.to cater to and connect with.

A positive solo dining experience can foster customer loyalty and lead to more repeat business and more profits!

Why restaurants need to be solo-friendly

  • Broader clientele: When hospitality operators invest in creating a solo diner-friendly restaurant, they can attract a wider customer base which includes locals and employees who enjoy dining alone, tourists, remote workers, and business professionals. Catering to a wider clientele can help boost sales profits for the restaurant.

  • Increased table turnover: Solo guests enable restaurants to serve meals more efficiently because they can accommodate them more quickly.

  • More simple seating arrangement: Compared with large groups that require bigger tables, seating solo guests is easier because they only need a table for one, or a small table.

  • Smaller orders and portions: Solo diners require smaller orders so the kitchen can prep them quickly.

  • Less food waste: Solo guests naturally tend to eat all their portions leading to less unconsumed food going to the bin.

  • Dwell times: While some venues are more appropriate for quicker meals, there are some restaurants and eateries where solo diners prefer to stay longer to hang out, leading to more orders and sales for the restaurant.

Guest holding a mobile phone to place order

How to attract solo guests to your restaurant

1. Make everything solo-friendly

From offering tables for one, making single seats available on bars or booths, to serving ample yet appropriate portions for one person, hospitality operators can implement thoughtful strategies to transform their restaurant into a warm and solo-friendly atmosphere. This concerted effort will give solo guests an unforgettable experience and get the best out of their culinary journey.

Here are other things for restaurateurs to consider when implementing their marketing and operational strategies for their solo guests:

  • Menu price and portions: Restaurants should have better pricing options for solo diners and provide them with enough choices to be able to try out dishes without needing to order a ration that's big enough for two!

  • Boost sales during off-peak hours: Solo diners are usually looking for someplace quiet to hang out. Off-peak hours, when there's less customer activity, is a perfect time to host these solo diners.

  • Offer free wifi connection: While solo diners enjoy eating alone, they do appreciate staying connected. Offering free wi-fi can elevate their dining experience. Staying connected can also get them to stay longer in the venue where they can consume additional orders and drinks.

  • Add QR-code menus: Having QR-code menus on the table makes it convenient for diners to review their preferences at their own pace before calling out a front-of-staff to order.

  • Connect with the solo travel community: While solo guests may prefer their private space, sometimes they do like to connect with others especially when traveling. Adding long benches or communal tables is a great way for solo diners to get to be part of a community.

2. Provide a seamless booking experience

Restaurants should make booking at their restaurants easy for solo diners and other guests. This will provide customers with a good positive dining experience right from the start which will be further enhanced with great customer service during their time at the restaurant.

Here's a guide for restaurant owners to find the best booking platform for their business while catering to solo guests: A restaurant owner's guide to finding the right booking platform

3. Boost social media activity

Ramping up social media campaigns is a great way to attract this new wave of solo diners. Restaurants should craft relevant content that tells the story behind the restaurant. This includes promoting their seasonal dishes and giving a peak at the behind-the-scenes featuring their chefs and front of staff. The more inspiring stories the restaurant shares on its website or social channels, the more engaged its target market of solo diners will be, with the possibility of converting them into repeat guests.

Here are a few ways restaurant marketers can use social media to connect with these guests:

  • Research the target market: A solo business traveler has different needs compared to a local solo diner. By getting to know the preferences of a different range of solo guests, restaurants can promote their offerings much more effectively.

  • Craft content specific to an audience: If the restaurant wants to target individual guests, emphasis should be placed on promoting solo-friendly amenities, seating, and tables.

  • Use a lot of visuals: From showcasing how attentive the staff is to featuring the restaurant's solo-friendly atmosphere, restaurant owners can use photos and videos on their social channels to make their brand stand out to these guests.

  • Get testimonials from guests: What better way to boost the restaurant's brand than by asking guests to share their insights and unique culinary experiences? Testimonials serve as authentic proof of the positive experiences of these solo guests, building the restaurant's credibility.

4. Use guest data and EDM marketing to attract repeat guests

Solo diners could potentially be repeat guests especially if they frequently travel to that city, or reside there permanently. By gathering their guest data during the booking process, restaurants can build better profiles to help them create specific EDM marketing campaigns where they can highlight their solo-friendly perks and offers.

TableCheck EDM helps restaurants to run successful EDM marketing campaigns. Restaurants can automate sending emails to solo guests or any selected clients on a certain day and time.

Top cities for solo dining experiences

Discovering the perfect solo dining spot is an adventure in itself. In Asia and the UAE – where TableCheck has partners – restaurants in this region are now finding ways to adapt to this growing trend of solo dining. Here are the top cities that cater well to solo guests.

Man eats in a counter table in Japan
Tokyo has a range of restaurants that cater to solo guests

Bangkok: A vibrant metropolis that blends tradition and modernity

As a travel destination, Bangkok is a blend of urban and cultural elements, with towering skyscrapers and sprawling malls coexisting alongside stunning temples. As there are so many sights and activities in Bangkok that don’t necessarily require company, this city attracts a sizable number of solo travelers with said sights varying from taking a ferry to the 17th-century-built Wat Arun or dancing with tourists from all over the world on Khaosan road. Bangkok is known for its irresistible Thai cuisine and it's a common occurrence to find solo travelers tucking in some massaman curry in the solitude of their own company.

Phuket: Culinary paradise with sandy beaches

A quick Google search for solo travel in Phuket yields an abundance of blogs by solo travelers, emphasizing the city's popularity among solo explorers. There are solo adventure options second to none, from sea cave kayaking to indulging in beachside relaxation with a beer at one of the many beachfront clubs. Phuket City warmly embraces solo souls, making dining alone an enjoyable and engaging experience in this lively coastal haven.

Kuala Lumpur: A melting pot of cultures in a bustling urban landscape

This vibrant city provides a range of activities geared for solo guests, including discovering ancient temples and museums, relaxing in serene parks, and more importantly, indulging in local delicacies. Guests can enjoy the rich and aromatic flavors of Nasi Lemak, enhanced with the delightful infusion of coconut which can be savored by a solo guest while enjoying a breathtaking rooftop view of the city's impressive skyline.

Bali: The island of the gods

Bali, a haven for digital nomads and wanderlust seekers, boasts lush landscapes, delectable cuisine, and a warm local vibe that lures globetrotters. Savoring the island's culinary delights is a familiar sight in Balinese restaurants. Bali's allure lies not just in its stunning rice terraces, thrilling surf, or yoga retreats, but also in the freedom it offers individuals to immerse themselves in activities, from the sunrise hike of Mount Batur to the simple joy of digging into a plate of Gado Gado. 

Singapore: A multicultural hub in Asia

Singapore is ranked among the safest cities globally. For the solo traveler, Singapore holds irresistible appeal because of its safety, myriad attractions, and gastronomic excellence. In this cosmopolitan hub that graciously welcomes both independent wanderers and corporate visitors, a solo meal at a fine-dining restaurant is commonplace. Solo wanderers can unabashedly tuck in some Hainanese Chicken Rice and sticky Rojak at a nice restaurant after strolling through Singapore Botanic Gardens, and Little India.

Hong Kong: Eastern traditions with Western modernity

Hong Kong attracts solo adventurers with its vibrant city energy, boosted by an excellent transport network, and the distinct appeal of being among the world's most walkable cities. Additionally, Hong Kong boasts low crime rates against foreigners and attracts a significant number of business travelers. The best part is that some of the city’s restaurants are exclusively for solo diners. Inclusivity defines Hong Kong as a tourist destination, making it a city that warmly embraces travelers of all kinds.

Ho Chi Minh City: French and local heritage alive in modern Vietnam

The bustling, vibrant, and affordable city of Ho Chi Minh City has, in the past decade, fast evolved as a home for digital nomads. Amidst the lively chaos of roaring motorbikes, the city pulsates with the aroma of robusta coffee and steaming bowls of pho, creating an irresistible rustic and nostalgic appeal. Travelers can dig into local Saigon favorites at the city’s most popular joints without anyone batting an eyelid.

Tokyo: The culinary gem of Japan

For solo travelers, safety is critical and Japan emerges frequently at the top of the list of the world’s safest cities. Imagine pairing this essential quality with a city that not only excels in safety but also offers an array of enticing options for solo dining – it's practically a dream come true for a solo traveler. Tokyo takes solo dining to a new level, with even locals embracing the practice, making it an effortlessly comfortable experience. Many restaurants feature counters overlooking open kitchens, and long tables accommodating solo diners, and there is also a dedicated noodle chain exclusively for solo eaters. The city emerges as a fantastic city for solo dining, where the exquisite cuisine, solo-friendly ambiance, and abundance of activities collectively create a paradise for solo wanderers.

Dubai: A multicultural city friendly to solo guests

Dubai's diverse culinary scene offers many dining options to solo diners. From casual restaurants to cosmopolitan bars, cafes, and even fine-dining restaurants, there are many solo dining experiences and cuisines that guests can choose from to enjoy their time in this multicultural city.

Embracing solo dining: Tips for solo guests

While many restaurants around the world now offer solo dining options, navigating the dining scene alone can be daunting. Here are some tips for solo diners without compromising on the dining experience, food, or service:

1. Booking in advance for solo seats

It's still advisable for solo guests to book in advance, especially for popular restaurants and peak dining hours to secure their seats. In the booking process, solo guests can also inform the restaurant in advance about their culinary and seating preferences, which can give staff time to personalize their service, guaranteeing solo guests a memorable dining experience.

2. Picking the right dining timing

To guarantee better seats and a quieter experience, solo guests should consider their dining timing preferences. Avoiding peak hours or when restaurants are crowded will ensure a more relaxed dining experience, with the staff also being able to attend to them with greater care and attention than when the restaurant is full.

3. Prioritizing safety when dining alone

Solo diners can dive into solo dining adventures by prioritizing safety. They should research the restaurant, read solo traveler reviews, and ensure the place respects solo diners. Simplifying the process by checking platforms and review sites like TripAdvisor and Google Reviews.

4. Exploring local flavors

Solo diners have the opportunity to immerse themselves by savoring dishes crafted from local ingredients and time-tested recipes. When dining out alone, solo guests have the chance to go beyond just eating a meal, and instead dive into a cultural culinary exploration.

They can decode a city's culinary scene by seeking advice from locals or connecting with residents to uncover hidden dining gems. 

Moreover, they can opt for a tasting menu to explore a new country's culinary offerings comprehensively. Set menus and tasting menus help solo foodies break free from group dining and embrace solo gastronomy.

5. Embrace the bar seating

Opting for the bar when dining alone is a smart and convenient choice. Seating there opens doors to bartender tales and shared experiences with fellow solo diners. Moreover, they can get a good view of the restaurant and enjoy the lively ambiance of this dynamic setting.

6. Building rapport with the waitstaff

Solo diners can elevate their in-restaurant dining experience by being friendly to the staff. A kind gesture ensures impeccable service and personalized recommendations, even during busy times.

7. Discovering Michelin marvels

Award-winning restaurants are always in demand. Solo guests should try to secure a spot in advance understanding that some delicacies demand meticulous preparation and rare ingredients. Moreover, Michelin-star restaurants, such as in the case of Japanese omakase restaurants, may sometimes have limited seating, and open their doors to only a few diners at a time to ensure that food and service are impeccable.  

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