In New York City, Restaurants Welcome Tables for One

Customers dine at Boqueria for lunch. The Spanish restaurant’s tapas, or grazing-style menu, appeals to solo patrons.

In New York City restaurants, the party-of-one is becoming a cause for celebration.

OpenTable, the online reservation platform, said that bookings by solo diners at restaurants in the city jumped by 80% from 2014 to 2018. And while OpenTable said those parties-of-one represent a very small slice of overall bookings, some restaurants said that business from solo diners can now account for up to 10% of their sales.

Even on Valentine’s Day, the most couple-oriented dining occasion of the year, New York restaurants are making room for patrons dining alone. OpenTable said that Valentine’s Day solo reservations in 2018 increased by 33% over the previous year. And perhaps for good reason: Restaurants said solo customers represent the ideal, as they are truly there for the food and experience rather than the social occasion.

“The way we approach it is that when we have a solo diner, it’s more of an honor than anyone else,” said Andrew Kuhl, the dining-room manager at Eleven Madison Park, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.

Restaurants are doing their part to encourage such business. At such establishments as L’Artusi, an Italian restaurant in the West Village, and Odo, a Japanese spot in the Flatiron District, solo diners are given a free offering—say, a small serving of an off-menu item or a glass of sparkling wine. And on Valentine’s Day, some restaurants said they make an extra effort to welcome the solo crowd. For example, at Jones Wood Foundry, a food-driven pub on the Upper East Side, a communal table is set aside for party-of-one diners.

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