A table for one


How often do you normally eat out by yourself? graph of japanese statisticsA recent survey (well, a recently-published one) looked at people’s habits regarding eating out alone.


Betwen the 16th of September and the 1st of October 2009 (they are slow to report some times!) 9.409 members of the DIMSDRIVE monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 50.8% of the sample were male, 1.1% in their teens, 10.9% in their twenties, 31.9% in their thirties, 31.7% in their forties, 16.3% in their fifties, and 8.1% aged sixty or older.

I would have preferred to have seen people who regularly go out for lunch at work alone for a simple meal eliminated from the survey and a clearer distinction made between a cup of tea and a full meal, but even without that, we can see some interesting trends.

For myself, Mister Donut and Subway are occasionally used for a snack or meal – Mister Donut‘s free refills in particular make the place very condusive to sitting there for hours translatings surveys, although my private life doesn’t often afford me the time. Going upmarket, I can go into Dear Soup except on busy days, as the tables are a bit close together and sitting beside a slurper is an ever-present danger. Nearby my usual Dear Soup is a slightly upmarket but still cheap Italian (Portofina) where the staff know my face, so that’s very easy to enter. Oddly enough, the last time I went there alone another solitary foreigner came and queued up behind me.

Research results

Q1: How often do you normally eat out by yourself? Cup of tea at a cafe included; work, school dining facilities and hostess bars, etc excluded. (Sample size=9,409)

Just about every day 4.4%
Often 9.8%
Occasionally 35.5%
Almost never 39.2%
Never 11.1%

Men were more likely than women to have eaten out alone, and older people more likely to never have done so. Furthermore, almost 30% of those living alone often or every day ate out alone, versus around 10% to 15% of those living with others.

Q2: How much reluctance do you feel towards eating out by yourself? (Sample size=9,409)

No reluctance 48.5%
A little reluctance 33.2%
Quite a bit of reluctance 13.8%
Absolutely couldn’t eat out alone 4.5%

In every age band almost twice as many men were not bothered at all by the idea of eating out alone, and over thrice as many women could never eat alone.

The following questions were for those who eat out alone occasionally, often or almost every day according to Q1.

Q3: At what times do you often eat out by yourself? (Sample size=4,674, multiple answer)

Lunch 83.2%
Tea break 34.3%
Evening meal 34.3%
Breakfast 11.8%
For drinks 8.7%
Night-time meal 7.1%
Other 0.3%

Q4: At what kinds of places do you often eat out by yourself? (Sample size=4,674, multiple answer)

  All Male
Fast food 59.6% 51.0% 73.2%
Cafe, coffee shop 47.1% 29.4% 75.5%
Beef bowl, curry restaurant 41.9% 59.0% 14.6%
Ramen shop 41.3% 55.1% 19.3%
Udon, soba noodle shop 40.3% 51.8% 22.0%
Set meal restaurant 30.4% 48.3% 15.9%
Family restaurant 30.4% 28.8% 33.0%
Traditional-style coffee shop 21.2% 16.9% 28.2%
Other restaurant 20.0% 17.0% 24.7%
Bakery eat-in corner 19.9% 7.6% 39.5%
In-station restaurant 17.4% 18.9% 15.0%
Conveyer-belt sushi shop 14.6% 17.3% 10.3%
Izakaya (Japanese-style dining pub) 9.4% 13.2% 3.3%
Sweets, dessert shop 9.2% 3.0% 19.3%
Bar 6.3%    
Hotel restaurant 4.5%    
Yakiniku (grilled beef) restaurant 4.0%    
Standing bar 3.5%    
Posh restaurant 1.3%    
Other 1.3%    
None in particular 1.0%    

Q5: How do you most often choose where to go to eat out by yourself? (Sample size=4,674)

Usually just suddenly decide when I’m out 48.1%
Usually decide before I go 37.4%
Can’t say either way 14.5%

Younger people were more likely to suddenly choose somewhere.

Q6: At what times do you think rather than going with other people you’d like to eat out by yourself? (Sample size=4,674, multiple answer)

When I want to eat in a short time 46.4%
When I want to eat at my own pace 39.2%
When I want to eat my favourite foods 35.7%
When I want to slowly pass the time 32.4%
When I want to be alone 31.6%
When I want to relax 26.9%
When I want to do work, read, etc as I eat 20.8%
When I want to treat myself, etc 8.2%
When I want to secretly eat something tasty 7.6%
When I’m feeling down 7.3%
When I want to go somewhere that’s difficult to ask people to go to (maid cafe, etc) 4.5%
When people I’m with have different opinions or wishes for what to eat 1.6%
Other 1.9%
Never have a time when I think I want to eat alone 14.2%

Q7: What are the attractions of eating out by yourself? (Sample size=4,674, multiple answer)

Comfortable 62.0%
Can go when I want 46.7%
Can relax 37.4%
Can eat only what I want to eat 37.1%
Can dawdle 35.8%
Can eat in a short time 34.1%
Can choose somewhere cheap 24.2%
Can work, read a book, etc as I eat 22.2%
Bill is small (ie, don’t have to pay for someone else too) 20.7%
Can feel pampered, posh 10.3%
Can go to places that are difficult to ask people to 5.0%
Other 0.8%
Nothing in particular 9.2%

The following questions were for those who have eaten out alone according to Q1.

Q8: What kind of place is somewhere that is easy to eat out by yourself at? (Sample size=8,363, multiple answer)

Somewhere there are a lot of single customers 50.0%
Somewhere with a relaxing atmosphere 47.8%
Somewhere with a counter, tables for one 42.3%
Somewhere I’m in the habit of going to 39.2%
Somewhere with an appropriate distance from the next customer 36.7%
Somewhere quiet 34.0%
Somewhere with small servings, etc, with an easy for one to order menu 23.8%
Somewhere with many customers who have the same air about them 17.1%
Somewhere where it is easy to hail the staff 16.7%
Somewhere with few groups. couples 15.4%
Somewhere with lots of customers of the same sex 11.3%
Somewhere elegant 9.5%
Somewhere lively 5.3%
Somewhere where it’s easy to get to know the other customers 2.6%
Other 1.3%
Nowhere in particular 8.8%

Q9: What kind of place is somewhere that is difficult to eat out by yourself at? (Sample size=8,363, multiple answer)

Somewhere lively 50.2%
Somewhere with lots of groups 50.1%
Somewhere with the seats close together 41.6%
Somewhere with lots of regulars 32.4%
Somewhere with a different class of customers 32.3%
Somewhere I have no prior knowledge of 31.7%
Somewhere with large portions, otherwise difficult to order for one menu 29.8%
Somewhere with little or no counter space, tables for one 25.9%
Somewhere with lots of customers of the opposite sex 25.8%
Somewhere where it’s difficult to attract the attention of the staff 25.2%
Somewhere elegant 16.6%
Somewhere too quiet 15.2%
Somewhere with counter seating only 12.5%
Somewhere with lots of customers of the same sex 1.7%
Other 1.3%
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