Single Diners

The dollar signs may not exactly dance before your eyes when a single diner walks into your pizzeria. You’d much rather seat the party of four who will order a bottle of wine and an appetizer.

That might be your first mistake: not welcoming the solo diner warmly. Remember, you should be thankful anytime anyone wants to spend money in your pizza shop instead of spending it elsewhere. A customer is a customer. Sure, the solo diner that just walked in may only spend $11 this visit — but you have an opportunity to cultivate her into a real regular.

How? By treating singles not as a nuisance, but as valued guests. Much like senior citizens, single diners are a fickle bunch. They’ll easily dismiss a shop if they think said pizzeria won’t cater to their ilk. At the same time, they’re loyal and tend to frequent restaurants that make their dining experience enjoyable and take the time to connect with them. Just like the theme song for Cheers, solo diners want a place where people know their name.

In a recent Web poll, individuals that live alone were asked how and where they consume their meals. Nearly 63 percent said they cooked at home. Another 25 percent said they utilized carryout. The remaining 12 percent dine out. Since carryout likely accounts for somewhere around one-third of your business, your shop is a natural option for these customers.
Additionally, a report by the U.S. government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (titled “Consumer Expenditures in 2003” — true to government form, this report is the most recent available; newer data is still being analyzed and packaged), single-person households spent $1,525 on food to be consumed at home in 2003 and $1,306 on food consumed away from home. In other words, the average solo diner is going to spend around $1,300 on prepared meals. Your goal is for as much of that $1,300 as possible to be spent in your pizzeria.

Here are some tips to help accomplish this:

• Ask single diners where they would like to sit. Don’t assume they want to be stuck at the bar. This step alone will help win their hearts.
• Don’t be shy in offering an appetizer or attempting to upsell wine. Also, offering half-bottles of wine goes over well with this crowd.
• Have reading materials nearby. A good server will offer a solo diner a newspaper or weekly tabloid.
• Personal-size pizzas are a great option, particularly at lunch.
• Be sure to offer to-go boxes near the end of the meal.
• Don’t assume the guest is in a hurry because she’s dining alone.
• Do beer or wine tastings on a monthly basis. These events typically draw single diners.
• Beyond that, do the same thing you’d do for a couple or a party of four: offer great service, upsell dessert and invite them back soon. Good service appeals to everyone.

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