When it comes to dining out on your own, we are at an uncertain place. Some people have been doing it for ages and think nothing of it. Others think it sounds awful and can’t imagine ever trying it. (They should try it anyway. Research suggests they may be pleasantly surprised.)
For most people, regardless of where they fall on the openness to solo dining spectrum, the most comfortable places to dine on your own are the most casual and inexpensive ones. Fast food? Not even an issue. A sort of nice place? That’s harder. Upscale, expensive, fine-dining restaurants? That’s the most daunting option.
One of the challenges of going out on your own to a really nice restaurant is that those kinds of places do not advertise in ways that make you feel welcome. They often brag about what a great place they are for romantic dinners. I have never seen a solo diner featured in an ad for a restaurant like that.
Look at the picture at the top of this post. It is an ad that appeared in a recent issue of a local newspaper. The sketch of “Mr. Whistle,” smiling, with cool-guy sunglasses and drink in hand, sits next to the caption, “Mr. Whistle enjoying lunch on a sunny day outside on the patio at Stonehouse” at the San Ysidro Ranch.
The Stonehouse restaurant is in Montecito, California, one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. It is home to celebrities, millionaires, and billionaires. Oprah may be the best-known of them. (I live in the modest adjacent town of Summerland.)
The San Ysidro Ranch, where the Stonehouse is located, is where John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned. Other famous guests have included Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby and Groucho Marx, Somerset Maugham, Sinclair Lewis, Vivien Leigh, and Laurence Olivier.
And now, the Stonehouse wants you, solo diner.
Was the ad a deliberate attempt to woo solo diners? Was it inspired in some way by the pandemic? I don’t know the answers, but I am going to declare the ad a big step forward. It normalizes and even celebrates dining alone. Not at McDonald’s but at a “hospitality haven for celebrities.” Now if only I could afford it.