A table for one

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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.

Demographics

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 day4.4%
Often9.8%
Occasionally35.5%
Almost never39.2%
Never11.1%

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 reluctance48.5%
A little reluctance33.2%
Quite a bit of reluctance13.8%
Absolutely couldn’t eat out alone4.5%

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)

Lunch83.2%
Tea break34.3%
Evening meal34.3%
Breakfast11.8%
For drinks8.7%
Night-time meal7.1%
Other0.3%

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

 AllMale
N=2,876
Female
N=1,798
Fast food59.6%51.0%73.2%
Cafe, coffee shop47.1%29.4%75.5%
Beef bowl, curry restaurant41.9%59.0%14.6%
Ramen shop41.3%55.1%19.3%
Udon, soba noodle shop40.3%51.8%22.0%
Set meal restaurant30.4%48.3%15.9%
Family restaurant30.4%28.8%33.0%
Traditional-style coffee shop21.2%16.9%28.2%
Other restaurant20.0%17.0%24.7%
Bakery eat-in corner19.9%7.6%39.5%
In-station restaurant17.4%18.9%15.0%
Conveyer-belt sushi shop14.6%17.3%10.3%
Izakaya (Japanese-style dining pub)9.4%13.2%3.3%
Sweets, dessert shop9.2%3.0%19.3%
Bar6.3%  
Hotel restaurant4.5%  
Yakiniku (grilled beef) restaurant4.0%  
Standing bar3.5%  
Posh restaurant1.3%  
Other1.3%  
None in particular1.0%  

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 out48.1%
Usually decide before I go37.4%
Can’t say either way14.5%

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 time46.4%
When I want to eat at my own pace39.2%
When I want to eat my favourite foods35.7%
When I want to slowly pass the time32.4%
When I want to be alone31.6%
When I want to relax26.9%
When I want to do work, read, etc as I eat20.8%
When I want to treat myself, etc8.2%
When I want to secretly eat something tasty7.6%
When I’m feeling down7.3%
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 eat1.6%
Other1.9%
Never have a time when I think I want to eat alone14.2%

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

Comfortable62.0%
Can go when I want46.7%
Can relax37.4%
Can eat only what I want to eat37.1%
Can dawdle35.8%
Can eat in a short time34.1%
Can choose somewhere cheap24.2%
Can work, read a book, etc as I eat22.2%
Bill is small (ie, don’t have to pay for someone else too)20.7%
Can feel pampered, posh10.3%
Can go to places that are difficult to ask people to5.0%
Other0.8%
Nothing in particular9.2%

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 customers50.0%
Somewhere with a relaxing atmosphere47.8%
Somewhere with a counter, tables for one42.3%
Somewhere I’m in the habit of going to39.2%
Somewhere with an appropriate distance from the next customer36.7%
Somewhere quiet34.0%
Somewhere with small servings, etc, with an easy for one to order menu23.8%
Somewhere with many customers who have the same air about them17.1%
Somewhere where it is easy to hail the staff16.7%
Somewhere with few groups. couples15.4%
Somewhere with lots of customers of the same sex11.3%
Somewhere elegant9.5%
Somewhere lively5.3%
Somewhere where it’s easy to get to know the other customers2.6%
Other1.3%
Nowhere in particular8.8%

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

Somewhere lively50.2%
Somewhere with lots of groups50.1%
Somewhere with the seats close together41.6%
Somewhere with lots of regulars32.4%
Somewhere with a different class of customers32.3%
Somewhere I have no prior knowledge of31.7%
Somewhere with large portions, otherwise difficult to order for one menu29.8%
Somewhere with little or no counter space, tables for one25.9%
Somewhere with lots of customers of the opposite sex25.8%
Somewhere where it’s difficult to attract the attention of the staff25.2%
Somewhere elegant16.6%
Somewhere too quiet15.2%
Somewhere with counter seating only12.5%
Somewhere with lots of customers of the same sex1.7%
Other1.3%
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