July 23, 2017

Community Table Concept a Boon for Solo Travelers


Maybe you’ve been there before: you’re traveling solo and in search of a place to sit down to a delicious meal. Popping into that restaurant you’ve heard so much about, the host, upon learning you’re a party of one, escorts you past a vacant table…and seats you at the bar where you spend the rest of the evening with your back to the action.

Sound familiar?

One of the questions I’m often asked by people curious about solo travel is how I deal with the whole dining thing. “Don’t you feel uncomfortable,” they say, “with all those people looking at you and knowing you’re alone?”

One tourism bureau in particular seems to have caught on to the plight of the solo diner. I was thrilled to stumble across a post on the Charleston Convention and Visitors’ Bureau blog Charlestonly (catchy, no?) that lists all of the dining establishments in the city that offer community tables.

What is a community table?

A community table, like its close-cousin “family-style” dining, offers the solo diner the opportunity to sit at a large communal table in a restaurant where they can eat with others, thus escaping the stigma that many feel comes with dining alone. Unlike family-style dining, however, with community tables you’re free to order whatever you like, just as if you’d been sitting at a table for one.

Resources like Invite for a Bite, a website that helps match women in search of meal partners at home and abroad, are valuable for solo female travelers who  prefer planning ahead to meet over a meal. With community tables on the other hand, the expectation is just a bit more chaotic–you have no idea who you’ll meet at your table, how many people will be there, or if anyone else will end up at your table at all. Something about that sounds delightfully appealing.

And if you’re a solo traveler who’s also single and looking, take heart: you just might meet your future companion for life across the table over a shared bottle of wine.

Factoid: did you know the word “companion” (com- with + -panis bread) literally means to “eat bread together”?

While I have no problem dining alone, I find it exciting that Charleston is catering to this unique challenge often faced by many solo travelers. It would be even more exciting if more restaurants, tourism boards, and visitors’ bureaus (ahem!) would follow suit.

What do you think about the community tables concept? Have you dined at a restaurant with a community table before? Please share! 

5 Responses to Community Table Concept a Boon for Solo Travelers

  1. Alouise says:

    You know I never really give dining alone a second thought, the way I used to. I think I’d be more intimidated to try eating at a communal table than dining alone, but maybe that should be a little motivation for me to give it a try.

    • Marsha says:

      I think the best part about community tables is that most people are going to be in the same solo boat and in those similarities is where you’ll find the common ground to break the ice. Hope you try it sometime!

  2. Matthew Cheyne says:

    One time a number of years ago when I flew up to Sydney from Melbourne to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I went to a Chinese restaurant that I used to frequent when I lived in that city. Unfortunately they had only the one table left and I got a seat on that table on the condition that I sat next to anybody who showed up. Luckily a couple from Sydney who used to reside in Melbourne showed up and we had a great time chatting all things Sydney and Melbourne for a good hour or so. So although I usually like to dine along, I can definitely see the benefit of community tables as a way of meeting new people for solo travelers who are new to a particular place.

  3. Hannah says:

    I don’t mind dining alone but the community table is such a great ideato help with meeting people 🙂