Two years ago, a Dutch creative agency opened a concept restaurant in Amsterdam that would be, in the words of its founder, “the perfect place to dine in pleasant solitude.” The restaurant is called Eenmaal—this name has been translated into English as “dinner for one”—and was launched in an attempt to start dissolving the stigma attached to going out alone. Apparently picking up on the same cultural drift, a new fast-casual restaurant in Washington, D.C., has tiered, bench-like seating with individual trays, an arrangement that caters to solo diners.
As antisocial as those ideas may sound, it’s surprising that the world hasn’t seen more of them. Today, more than a quarter of American households are home to just one person—a figure that has tripled since 1970. Also, the median age at which Americans get married has recently reached a record high. Given these demographic shifts, one would think that by now, going out to the movies or to dinner alone wouldn’t be the radical acts they still are.
A study in the Journal of Consumer Research gets at why most people are so reluctant to leave home and do fun things on their own. In a series of experiments, the University of Maryland’s Rebecca Ratner and Georgetown’s Rebecca Hamilton demonstrated that when it comes to going to the movies or to dinner, individuals consistently think they won’t enjoy themselves as much if they aren’t going with any of their friends. "People decide to not do things all the time just because they're alone," Ratner told The Washington Post. "But the thing is, they would probably be happier going out and doing something."