Really, if we are honest, how many times do you hear those words when you eat out in a restaurant? Not many. Yet 38% of my bookings are from people who come along alone, booking just one seat.
Sometimes, it takes some effort and a little bit of hand holding to make my guests feel comfortable coming into a strangers home to eat with people they have never met before. From their side, just the process of booking a seat and arriving at my front door is a huge commitment, they are putting their trust in you not only to serve up great food but to make them feel at home in your home and to be comfortable. I always hope that by the end of the night, my guests feel like they have spent an evening with friends. In my experience, solo diners will come back again and again bringing friends, spreading the WeFiFo word and very happily – sometimes becoming my firm friends.
Here are my top tips;
When guests book a seat, the WeFiFo platform allows you to check out their profile. Do take advantage of this, it will allow you to see if they have attended an event with other hosts or if it is the first step on their WeFiFo Supper Club journey and depending on how they have filled this profile section in may give you a little insight into them, their food loves and any hobbies or interests they have.
Contact the guest directly using the private message option and introduce yourself, thank them for booking and ask them if they would like to turn up a little earlier than everyone else, this will give you the opportunity to spend 15 minutes with them to have a chat, get to know them and will make them feel like they own the space because they were there first, it will also mean that as people arrive they can be introduced to everyone and they are not then walking into a room full of strangers, the strangers are walking into their room so to speak.
Before the event I log on to the booking section of the page and write down everyone’s name and from there I can usually remember if they have been to one of my events previously and I can quite often recall information about them their interests, upcoming holidays, etc and whilst chatting to the new guest who has come a bit early I can tell them about who is joining them for dinner and perhaps if they and another guest have anything in common, I can make that connection for them which then gives them someone to watch out for and something that they can connect and talk about with them.
Before my events start I sit everyone in the living room, welcome them, go through housekeeping bits and bobs, I chat through the menu and let them know if there are any changes and I get people to introduce themselves sometimes with just a name, sometimes with a question or a discussion about anything that has happened that day locally or in the news and then dinner is served.
My food is served on big sharing plates which means that every dish gets passed around and people have to talk to each other – it helps get things started! I sometimes give the new guest a “job” and it can be as simple as giving them the dishes first with an explanation of what it is so that they eat first and then have to pass the dishes round remembering what’s in it! Or asking them to be in charge of water, whatever it is that fits in with your dining offer. This can help guests feel useful, part of the team and gives you an opportunity to use their name. Don’t forget I am from up north and this works for me more often than not but not all the time and not on everyone – you kind of have to use that first 15 minutes to quickly work out if this plan of attack is going to work – I know some people would be horrified…
At the end of the evening I usually take the time to make sure I say goodbye and ask if they have enjoyed the evening, what their favourite dish was etc and at this point I explain how the review system works. If I am organised I give them a little bag of meringues kisses or biscuits to take home or to take to work as a reminder of their evening, a small thank you from me for coming but also has them leaving with a gift which in anyone’s book has to be a great thing.
Quite often guests that have been once do come back and very much appreciate and remember that first visit and how they were made to feel, they will then more often than not “look after” other first timers for me and there my job is done…
Because food tastes better together.
Maria Grieco – WeFiFo Home Chef and Mentor