Dining Alone

Solitary dining is an occupational hazard of traveling executives and salespeople. Too often you are given a table behind the potted plant only to face a waiter who openly despises you for inhabiting a table that could produce two tips.

If your waiter wants you to leave quickly to make room for a couple, you will be served your soup, entree, dessert, coffee, and check in rapid succession. Otherwise, you might be ignored-the interlude between courses wilt be as long as waiting for a bus on a street corner at 3:00 A.M.

Tips for dining alone:

Seek interesting diversions-for example, by eating in an out­door cafe that has tables well situated for people watching. Some diners find discreet eavesdropping equally exciting.

Avoid restaurants with a romantic or intimate ambiance. They tend to make solo diners feel lonely.

If you are in a garrulous mood, visit a restaurant where you can sit elbow to elbow with other diners. Sushi bars, community or "captain's" tables, and long banquettes are ideal.

If you are going to be isolated by choice or circumstance, select a restaurant with interesting food. Many ethnic restaurants fit the bill.

Make reservations. Self-confidently say, "a table for one," instead of the apologetic-sounding "only for one."

If an acquaintance knows the maitre d', ask this person to make the reservation for you.

Dress well-this will help assure you an accommodating reception.

Should you be treated as a second-class customer-for instance, by being assigned an undesirable table-politely but firmly demand your due.

Don't accept the restaurant's profit-oriented suggestion that you share a table with a stranger unless the idea appeals to you. A sure way to lose your appetite is to sit facing a dullard or a chatterbox.

A woman's best defense against macho staffers and obtrusive male diners is to deal with them in a self-assured and assertive manner. Sadly, some women sidestep the sexist problem by eating in crowded coffee shops or in their lonely hotel cell where room service typically arrives late, lackluster, and lukewarm.

Be your own guest-indulge yourself as much as your diet and pocketbook allow.

Some restaurants have an unwritten policy that they turn down reservations for singles on busy nights. I know of some solo diners who beat the system by booking a reservation for two, then-when seated-moan to the waiter, "Oh, it looks like my date stood me up."