There is a fairly substantial travel component to my job. I currently oversee a product line that touches all states west of the Mississippi River (that’s 23 states for those of you keeping score at home). While I don’t travel to every state, I do hit a number of them. And, when I travel, I need to eat. And I hate to eat alone.
It’s not because I hate to be alone. I am, by nature, a rather introverted guy, and I have no problem with having a quiet meal by myself – particularly after a day spent on the outer edges of my comfort zone, schmoozing with clients.
Rather, I do not like to eat alone because I have found that walking into a restaurant and telling the host(ess) that I am a party of one automatically relegates me to second class citizenship, dining-wise. The inevitable response: “I see. Would you like to sit at the bar? Otherwise there will be a ___ minute wait.”
Sorry, I don’t like to sit at the bar. It’s generally noisy and smoke-filled, for one thing. There’s not much room, for another. And, I might (as I did tonight) have to deal with the antics of a Tom Cruise-in- Cocktail wannabe bartender standing 18 inches away while pitching glasses over his shoulder to catch them behind his back, trying to impress me for a tip. Or, I may have to deal with the guy on the stool next to me (as I did tonight) trying repeatedly to start up a conversation/friendship with me in an overly-loud voice, about the (1) baseball game on tv that I couldn’t care less about, (2) the weather, (3) his kids’ report cards, (4) you get the idea.
Here’s a memo to waitstaff of the world: unless your party-of-one is a regular (Cliff Clavin), he/she is generally going to be a business traveler. That means he/she is eating/drinking on an expense account. It’s probably a safe bet that Joe Blow business traveler (that would be me) who is 900 miles away from home and family (again, me) is not going to be overly concerned about the size of his tab. Pay him/her some attention. Invite him/her to a regular table, not a barstool in loserville. When it comes time to pull out the corporate credit card, it may well be worth your while.