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Solo diners now being charged double in one London restaurant

I was searching for restaurants in London this morning, as I want to find a place that I can have dinner at on my birthday, which I will be celebrating there next year. While searching, I came across this article. Evidently, the Hotel Cafe Royal in London recently announced that it is imposing a surcharge on anyone dining alone, once the 1-2 tables designated for solo diners have been filled. A diner sitting along would have to pay twice the cost for a tasting menu, bringing the cost up from £165 to £330. It is especially ironic considering that a couple can share a tasting menu for £165 but a solo diner would have to pay twice that amount. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/cafe-royal-restaurant-prices-meal-b2380694.html

There has been a lot of backlash although the restaurant is standing by its position, pointing out that they have had an increase in solo diners. However, others have pointed out that maybe instead of charging more, they should offer seats specifically geared for people dining alone, or have a communal table. One tweet said it best: "A classic example of making the customer the problem, rather than finding a solution."

Just curious what you all think of this. As a solo diner myself, I am pretty appalled. Although I suppose I should have seen it coming. After all, single supplements in the travel industry are pretty commonplace, so maybe they're making their way to the restaurant industry. At any rate, I think it's pretty sad.

Posted by
6708 posts

I think it was another restaurant I saw that had done the same thing, and some of their justification was pretty derogatory about solo diners, bordering on the offensive.

They will soon change their minds if people (not only solos) blacklist them.

And what I think about 100% solo supplements in the travel industry is not really printable.

When cruising, irrespective of any other merits any line might or might not have, I would not entertain any company who wants to charge me a 100% (or more sometimes) solo supplement.
I don't eat twice as much or land twice at each port (thinking port charges). 100% supplement is dishonest profiteering.
Yes that rules out basically all the American lines and, for all intents and purposes, any Alaskan cruise.

So be it- it is their loss, not mine.

Posted by
1875 posts

As a solo diner I feel this is an example of discrimination. I would be in favor of a communal table for singles after the 1-2 tables were filled. It would also make dining alone feel less lonely. Thanks for posting this as it will give me one more thing to check before I go out to eat. I hate dining alone so don't go out much for dinner when traveling. I tend to stop at a small grocery or Co-op and buy things I can eat in my room. I try to eat my larger meal at noon (also gives me time to walk off the calories.)

Posted by
3242 posts

Unbelievable.
And now: we all know…so tell your friends.
These type of places need to be named and shamed.

Posted by
14250 posts

Thumbs up to everyone’s responses. That is piracy 🏴‍☠️ I’m not a foodie but I don’t mind eating alone in a restaurant. However having ANY kind of surcharge because I’m on my own…no way.

Posted by
11501 posts

Should prove to be an interesting experiment and how 'the marketplace' treats the concept.

Do they automatically put the 2nd meal in a 'to go' box?

Posted by
15690 posts

My attitude is very simple..."you don't want my business? That's fine. I'm sure there are plenty of good restaurants that do."

I refuse to let any business make me feel bad.

Posted by
8637 posts

There will come a time for pretty much everyone where they will find themselves eating solo in a restaurant.

I do like idea of a shared table option, but I have been burned once or twice after agreeing to a shared table. One table mate ordered 6 appetizers, and the rest of us waited while he ate each, one after another, before we received our mains.

There are options for tours, cruises, and restaurants where high solo supplements are not charged. Those are the places and the companies that will have my business.

Edited to add: This also makes me sad for another reason. I meet so many people that are afraid to travel solo already. They find eating in a restaurant alone an uncomfortable experience. I think policies like this would make it even harder for them to muster up the confidence to move forward.

Posted by
264 posts

I would make them box up the second meal and take it home/back to hotel for another meal. Or even just give it to someone on the street in need. I take bus tours and cruises and have to pay a single supplement, but what really got me was when booking a Viking River Cruise for next summer they charged me double for the insurance! Ugh. Does that mean I get double the benefits if I have to use it? I do understand that their cost/profit models depend on two in a room, hence the supplement, but really. And they advertise that they don’t nickel and dime…

Posted by
1808 posts

The only thing which will affect these restaurants is if all patrons stop going. As long as couples and groups support the establishment, they won't miss the business from solo diners.

"Just a single? No soup for you. Next!"

Posted by
1855 posts

No way I’d dine theee. If solo I’d much rather stop at a Pret or find a shake shack before going there.

Posted by
531 posts

People should not be punished for being single. Period.

Posted by
7646 posts

Single supplements are seldom double the base price. How popular is this place? Perhaps they’re not losing much business by turning solo diners away. But the attitude should drive away everyone else. Hope this isn’t catching on.

Posted by
8643 posts

If you went there as a party of two, would you even know this was their policy? I dont see a lot of sympathetic protest happening.

As a place of business, they are entitled to set their own policies without police interference.

Posted by
8637 posts

@ Stan. Where on earth did the police come into this?

We know that there are some policies that violate civil rights (I am not saying this is one of them) where it is indeed appropriate for government to intervene.

Otherwise it will be good old capitalism, supply and demand, that will decide how this business does. There will be no demand from me.

Posted by
863 posts

This place seems so pretentious that I couldn't imagine wanting to dine there. I would want a place offering a bit of fun to celebrate my birthday.

https://www.hotelcaferoyal.com/eat-drink/

A communal table would make a lot of sense, as would dining at the bar, if they had one.

Posted by
7013 posts

Do they automatically put the 2nd meal in a 'to go' box?

Haha, that made me laugh, joe! But see below about a Chicago restaurant and what it does.

There are options for tours, cruises, and restaurants where high solo supplements are not charged. Those are the places and the companies that will have my business.

I agree, Carol - that's a big reason why I signed up with OAT for their Egypt tour. No single supplement.

If you went there as a party of two, would you even know this was their policy? I dont see a lot of sympathetic protest happening. As a place of business, they are entitled to set their own policies without police interference.

I agree, Stan, barring any civil rights violations, but it's my impression that they've gotten a lot of backlash over this, including from other restaurants. In fact, one restaurant (Brutto) is now offering a free aperol spritzer (or non-alcoholic drink) to any solo diner solely due to the policy. https://www.instagram.com/p/CvFcwi5I3qb/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=2ae77930-f426-4f5a-bce0-fa119db44f28

I did a bit more research and found there is a restaurant in Chicago that does this called Alinea. But their policy is a bit strange (and wasteful). Here is a quote from an article: ...at Alinea things then get even more weird. Even sat alone at a table, two tasting menus are served in full, one to an empty chair. You have the option (they say) of eating both if you want, but if you quite reasonably think one tasting menu is enough for one person for one evening, the uneaten dishes are just taken away, and binned. Next courses arrive, one sits there getting cold while you eat yours, then again gets removed uneaten and binned. So not only do you have to pay twice as much as everyone else in the room for your dinner, you get the added humiliation of looking like you’ve been stood up by your date, on top. https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2023/07/how-to-do-solo-dining/

Posted by
3821 posts

Outrageous! Not going to any restaurant that does this. We are a couple.....but will boycott those restaurants. Will be checking websites for this policy, and not going to the ones doing this.

  • What Threadwear said.
Posted by
317 posts

Wow! A paying customer is a customer. Everybody has to eat.

Posted by
1380 posts

Agree with Laurie Beth’s opinion - discrimination. I have felt that in a popular restaurant in Sorrento. Dressed nicely, timing was good, I was willing to wait for a table for a little bit because I did not have a reservation. The host said no tables were available but I could come back in an hour and they would seat me. So, essentially, making a reservation for an hour later. I went shopping and browsing the many shops there in Sorrento and showed up an hour later. Host said no tables, but I pointed out that I had a reservation for one as I was at the restaurant earlier in the evening and that he assured me a table would be available. They gave me a table at the kitchen door. It irks me, this arrogant attitude toward solo diners.

At the time of this incident, I noticed the couple sitting a few tables away from me ordered one primi and one secondi, sharing the meal and asked for tap water-not even ordering wine or cocktails. I, on the other hand, ordered primi, secondi, dessert and wine with dinner. Think the restaurant came out ahead with my order. It disturbed me at the time and I almost walked out in a huff. But, I am stubborn to a tee, so stuck it out.
I Didn’t go back.

One of my daughters has been serving and hosting at an upscale sushi restaurant here in Seattle for 10 years now and I wonder what her opinion would be about this “turning away solo guests.” She did reveal to me one time that Valentines Day is the worst time for restaurants because (1) reservations are generally for two people where they could usually seat four people at the table, and (2) often the diners that reserved the table don’t show up or try to get seated later than their reservation.

Posted by
1979 posts

I am furious but I am also concerned. It frightens me. What more is coming and not just in restaurants? Will we have to pay for two to enter. a museum? Will we have to pay for one adult and one child to go to Disney World even though there is no child.

I have written about discrimination against me because I travel solo. I have posted about not being seated at some restaurants because I am one person. I was never told that but that is what I have come to believe.

I do not think it is illegal to deny someone service because they are solo. I do not believe that anyone can sue.

We solos are going to have to band together and form.a group and go from there.

One reason that I sail Norwegian is because they did something very revolutionary when they built the Epic. They included a lot of studio cabins for one person. This was unheard of in the cruise industry. If you traveled alone, you. had to pay for two. They call it the single supplement.

Other cruise lines have followed and made it easier tor solo passengers to travel alone but not quite as well as Norwegian.

Posted by
14250 posts

Mardee, if I were in to making a point, I’d take a bunch of leftover containers with me to that Chicago restaurant. I would carefully decant each course into a separate container and stack them up on the table like you were at Aunt Clara’s on Thanksgiving. Maybe I’d bring a brown grocery bag to stack them in to carry out.

I’d probably document with my phone.

That is infuriating.

Posted by
7013 posts

Pam, I know! The problem is these places with really upscale reps and high prices can get away with it because there are enough high rollers who frequent the place. Aliena's meals average around $350 pp and you have to make a prepaid reservation, but they only accept reservations for 2 or more.

Posted by
3336 posts

They gave me a table at the kitchen door. It irks me, this arrogant attitude toward solo diners.

This!

I worked in San Francisco for about a year back in the first decade of the 21st century. My husband would come to visit every other weekend, and unsurprisingly we had many excellent meals together. I would often go back by myself to eat at the restaurants that we had enjoyed together. At two of them, the contrast in the service toward me as part of a couple as opposed to me as just me was jaw dropping. I got the crappiest table, no recitation of specials, no nothing - just the feeling that I was being rushed through my meal.

Aside from those 2 places, I noticed no difference in how I was treated as a single as opposed to part of a couple. Tadich Grill would only seat singles at the bar, but that's where we would eat anyway.

Posted by
1380 posts

Pam, you are so funny. Oh, and be sure to put some condiments in the boxed dinners too!

Posted by
910 posts

As a life long single, I get so annoyed with the single supplements at hotels, on cruises etc. Even RS charges a single supplement unless you agree to share and if they cannot find a share for you then you are allowed the room at the lower rate. I did this once and got a really compatible share but decided not to do it again…I like my own space at the end of a day in the company of others. So, RS, as a leader in the travel industry, how about doing away with the single supplement?

I also think that singles have to speak up. It’s not just being given the worst tables in a restaurant, but also the worst room in hotels; a singles stateroom on a cruise is usually an inside one in the bowels of the ship or in the vicinity of the theatre, casino or dining room and so on. If we want daylight and air, we have to pay way more for it! We are being penalized for being single and this is indeed discriminatory.

Posted by
4298 posts

From the article,

Since achieving our two Michelin stars the demand for solo dining has
increased dramatically and whilst we make every effort to accommodate
solo diners, we also have to be considerate to the running costs of
our business.

I'm all for businesses to do what they think is best, and if I don't agree, I can go somewhere else. It seems from the article that many others are willing to accommodate the solo customer.

Posted by
7646 posts

Hmmm … do the incognito Michelin reviewers come by themselves, or with others? I’d not thought about that, but assumed they were on their own, dutifully doing research.

If they get double-charged while conducting their next review, there could potentially be fewer stars in the future. “You get what you pay for” … not always.

Posted by
7453 posts

Cyn, maybe that’s what we need to do. “Excuse me, I would like to review…ahem, I meant reserve a table for tomorrow night.”

Posted by
14250 posts

Oh, and be sure to put some condiments in the boxed dinners too!

Linda! Yeah, could I have some ketchup packets? This is a little dry…😂😂😂

Jean! Funny!

Posted by
531 posts

So I thought about treating myself to lunch or dinner at Alinea over the holidays, but after reading about how they treat their solo diners, I will never go there. The place already makes money hand over fist because they've won so many awards...why treat your customers like garbage? Wouldn't even go there if I had someone with me. Shameful business practice.

Posted by
4174 posts

Hell hath no fury like a 77 year old female solo traveler scorned. 😉

I looked at the part of their website that supposedly has an FAQ section in hopes of seeing something about this and found nothing, not even an easily identifiable FAQ section.

So I sent this message to their "general enquiries" email address:

"I recently read that solo travelers have difficulty being served in your restaurant(s?).  Is that true for solo travelers staying at the hotel?"

I'll report back with their response -- if I get one.

Posted by
4473 posts

I agree that such establishments should be named, shamed and boycotted by those of us who usually eat with a companion. I know it's difficult for single travelers, but I do understand why hotels and cruises charge so much for a single room, if it is large enough to also be used as a double. Viking's insurance policy makes no sense except to line the pockets of the insurance company/Viking.

Posted by
4174 posts

I did get a response back yesterday, 14 August 2023. Here it is:

"Dear Lo Parr,

Thank you very much for your email and enquiry. Please note that in all of our outlets we welcome solo diners at Hotel Café Royal. For those dining in Alex Dilling there is a select allocation of times for diners wishing to visit on their own without any surcharge, due to the low capacity of the restaurant itself.

For afternoon tea at the Grill Room, Cakes & Bubbles, the Gallery and Green Bar there is no limit to solo-dining tables. For guests staying with us and for guests visiting, we would be delighted accommodate parties of all sizes, and look forward to welcoming you very soon.

Kind regards,

Guillaume Marly"

So only the fanciest restaurant has the restriction and it's not only for the number of tables but also for "a select allocation of times for diners wishing to visit on their own without any surcharge." I wonder what those times might be?

By the way, the price quoted for the tasting menus is Per Person, so for example a couple would pay £330, not £165. The article is a little confusing about that and about the seating as well. So is the website: https://alexdilling.com/. Scroll down the page to the Sample Menus. Along the way, notice the information about this topic.

Posted by
719 posts

I've sat on this thread for a few days to see if I could muster any rage. I just cannot -- my fields of rage are barren.

I can appreciate that a restaurant has a certain amount of space, they want to maximize occupancy, have a good turnover of tables and need to put a certain amount of product out the door.

I do not see it any different than museums that have a minimum participant number for private tours or educational programs. Or a minimum base cost for private programs regardless of the number in the group.

It goes both ways too...

There was a camp ground popular with both AT hikers and regular campers. At the end of the season The site changed their fee structure so that fees paid would be per-person. The families and groups sure thought that was unfair because they somehow were being charged more for less camping space and that a solo or pair of hikers that got more space at a lower price.

Sometimes the benefit falls to the solo and sometimes to the groups.

Posted by
7013 posts

Sometimes the benefit falls to the solo and sometimes to the groups.

But we're not even talking about groups here. We're talking about one person vs. two. I would imagine that you have not traveled solo but for those of us who have, it can be a slap in the face to be told that you can't be seated right away, or you are relegated to a tiny table next to the kitchen, or you can't make a reservation unless there are at least two of you. All those things have happened to me and to others here.

Same with single supplements. Two people, probably 2 incomes, book a tour for one price, but a solo traveler has to pay that price plus an additional very large amount (anywhere from $1000 to $5000 or even more). There's nothing illegal about that, but is it fair? And ultimately, is it cost efficient? Because I think that more and more people are traveling solo, and those travelers are going to be patronizing places that do not charge solo travelers extra. I just booked an Egypt cruise with a company that does not charge a single supplement. I looked at many others, but the idea of paying an extra fee just because I like to travel alone left me more than a little miffed.

And your campground story is not an accurate analogy. No one is talking about group discounts, or senior concessions or any other kind of discount. The post is about one diner having to pay a "single supplement" to eat at a restaurant.

Posted by
531 posts

When it comes to single tour supplements, I'm 100% willing to pay the Rick Steves one because it's worth it for the privacy and not dealing with a roommate who snores.

I've done this for three tours now and have no regrets!

Posted by
719 posts

 I would imagine that you have not traveled solo but for those of us who have...

Well, I have only ever traveled solo. I'm not perpetually outraged, life just ain't fair, and I understand that some aspects of the travel industry are price structured based on double occupancy or priced per two. The operating expenses per two are not a significantly higher cost -- than the operating expenses for one -- but offers a better return on costs than the return made on accommodating a solo. Rick Steves does after all charge a single supplement. So, again I can appreciate that a restaurant institutes a minimum spend.

Posted by
2017 posts

Solo supplements for trips-fine as I can understand that tour groups have deals with hotels.

Solo supplements for restaurants-heck no. I've been dining solo on vacation and I've had only two restaurants refused to seat me because I was alone. Both times I gave them a bad review on TripAdvisor and Yelp. One restaurant actually threatened to sue me for my review and told me to take it down. Good luck suing me in the US.

I choose not to spend my money at thees places and will continue to call them out. People say we shouldn't get outraged are the same people who see nothing wrong with discrimination of others.

But then I rarely go to the "more money than sense" fine dining so they won't miss me either.

Posted by
14580 posts

Paying double here in a restaurant is not acceptable. This practice reminds me of my staying solo in a hostel in Vienna pre-pandemic but paying double, ie, as if a second person were with me, for a private room . There were times I was willing put up with that, other times I opted instead for a mixed dorm room filled with 5 other youngsters 1/2 or 1/3 my age.

In England I am going to be a solo diner anyway but won't be patronizing these restaurants practicing this type of discrimination.