Many restaurateurs put a big focus on group dining. Whether you market to families or groups of friends, multi-person dining experiences have been “the norm” for many years. It’s even what most consumers expect from restaurant marketing. We’ve all seen commercials and print ads for restaurants and bars, and it’s a rarity to see someone eating alone.
But, in the real world, that isn’t the case.
Solo dining is becoming more popular. A study found that 46% of all adult meals and snacks are consumed alone. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are getting food delivery to eat alone or going out by themselves to stay safe.
So, what can you do to market to the solo diner? How can you branch out to this segment of individuals who enjoy eating alone? Let’s cover a few creative marketing tips that can draw the attention of individual diners to make them feel welcome at your restaurant.
Utilize Social Media
Developing a solo diner social media strategy should be at the top of your marketing checklist. About 50% of the population uses social media regularly, and most of them probably like to eat alone sometimes! Do larger groups bring in more revenue? Sure. But, most big parties visit your property on weekends, while solo diners can dine in or carry out their meal any day of the week. Solo diners can help fill in gaps and keep your restaurant busy every day.
So, how can you develop your social media strategy to target individual diners? Consider some of the following tips:
- Tailor your posts to the solo diner (not just to two-tops and groups)
- Diversify content (blogs, videos, photos, etc.) to include solo dining at your restaurant
- Use hashtags effectively (e.g. #solodining, #solodiningadventures, #solodiningnyc, etc.)
- Work with solo dining influencers to spread awareness of your offerings
Using social media allows you to get creative with your marketing. You could advertise solo dining specials on certain nights of the week or offer individual diners incentives to come back, like punch cards or “points” they can gather on an app. Engaging them on your social media platforms is one of the best places to start. Ask questions that will encourage conversation. Answer questions potential customers might have. By adding a human quality to your social media sites, diners will be more likely to feel comfortable coming to your restaurant and offer them a sense of belonging within your community.
Establish a Community
It’s important that every single customer feels welcome when they come into your establishment. Some restaurants have taken that idea to the next level by creating a communal, family-focused environment from start to finish. That often includes things like:
- Long tables and benches instead of individual seating
- Family-style meals
- Bar dining options
- Making the restaurant pet-friendly
- Having an open-concept layout
When a restaurant is closed off, it’s easy for solo diners to feel uncomfortable or unwanted. By making the design and layout as open and communal as possible, it doesn’t matter if someone comes by themselves or with ten people – they’ll feel like they’re walking into a friend’s house to dine.
From a marketing standpoint, if that’s the route you choose, make sure to publicize it. Post pictures of your restaurant and make sure people know what to expect from the moment they walk in. This style of dining might not be for everyone in a post-COVID world, so it’s important that the information is clear and upfront on your website as well. Food and dining can be communal experiences, and no one should feel “left out” unless they truly want to eat alone.
Make Every Experience Special
You never know who is going to come into your restaurant, or why they might be dining alone. Maybe someone is taking a solo road trip across the country and chose your place based on reviews. Maybe a diner is scoping out your establishment for a future “date night” or a potential proposal and wants to know what to expect if they’re trying to impress someone. Or they’re traveling for work and looking for a hearty meal and glass of wine.
That’s why every individual experience at your restaurant needs to be unique and special.
Don’t assume that a solo diner just wants a quick bite to eat or to rush in and out. They deserve the full experience just as much as a family of five or a large group of friends.
Customer service will make a big difference when it comes to these experiences. Make sure your wait staff is well-trained in engaging with your patrons – especially solo diners. While some people might want to eat without much interaction, it’s important for everyone to feel “seen” when they’re in your establishment. A little bit of conversation and attention can go a long way.
If you develop a reputation for being a great place for solo dining, your customers will do a lot of your marketing for you. User-generated content is huge in the restaurant industry, especially in this world of digital reviews.
Send digital comment cards to your customers the moment they leave your establishment. You can post those positive comments on your website or social media. Encourage them to also leave you a review online, post a photo on their social media channels, or share your restaurant with their friends. Every marketer knows the benefits of word-of-mouth advertising – it can oftentimes be better than whatever your marketing budget could bring in.
As solo dining continues to become more popular thanks to busy schedules, changing family dynamics, and personal choice, it’s important to make individual diners feel welcome. Keep these techniques in mind to do just that, and you’ll quickly become a solo-friendly eatery.