The last five years have seen a significant increase in solo dining visits to restaurants while other party sizes have declined, according to The NPD Group. The market research company reports that in 2019, solo diners represented 35% of restaurant visits (15.4 billion) whereas parties of two represented 27% of visits, parties of three represented 14%, parties of four represented 12%, and parties of 5 or more represented 13%.
There are several reasons for the increase in solo dining excursions. The need for speed and convenience from food and drink options while going to and while at work is a top factor. Another is the ease and quickness of parties of one to use restaurants thanks to an increase in digital ordering for delivery and pick-up, self-service kiosks, and other technologies. Additionally, there are more people living alone, 11% more than a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Quick service restaurants get the most solo dining visits (89%), and full service restaurants are next in line at 10%. As far as meal times, 48% of solo dining visits are for lunch, 29% for breakfast and morning snack, and 22% are at dinner.
“My best advice for restaurants is to acknowledge that they have more solo diners as customers and accommodate them,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “They are looking for convenient and quick meal options and if eating on premise, they may want single seating areas. In other words, solo diners are a large customer group so make them feel welcome.”