Best seat in the house
While some single diners may still favor a stool at the bar, others are seeking a wider range of seating options. In response, operators are building their restaurants to include window-facing seats, communal tables, and more.
David Tracz, partner and principal of D.C. architecture firm //3877, says that in many instances, the bar is the best option for a solo diner, but the actual layout is changing. “On the more extreme end of things, we’re starting to see more open-concept bars, where the back bar is a larger service station, and the bar is really a group of tables loosely grouped around that service station,” he says. “This opens up a new realm for people to congregate.”
Located inside one of the busiest malls in Houston, Peli Peli’s Galleria store anticipated a high volume of solo diners. Accordingly, the restaurant, which specializes in South African fare, tweaked its operation to accommodate a crush of individual shoppers.
“We offer longer hours for happy hour and brunch and built a two-tier bar where diners can eat and keep their drinks on a secondary ledge, not the bar top itself,” says co-owner Thomas Nguyen. “The two-tier bar makes the seating more private and comfortable.”
For restaurants that don’t have bars, Tracz recommends communal tables and high tables, both of which generally make people feel more at ease when sitting alone. By configuring the tables so they’re grouped together, guests can “feel alone, but together,” he says. After all, some solo diners are comfortable sitting among strangers while others would prefer more solitude.