Question: What is the etiquette for using a laptop while dining alone in a restaurant?
Answer: First, we need to talk about what kind of restaurant where it’s appropriate to use a laptop at all. If the restaurant actively promotes the fact that it has free Wi-Fi, I think they’re expecting — even trying to attract — customers who want to have a bite to eat while they use a laptop. Most coffee shops and quick-service chains fall into that category. But if you’re at a more formal restaurant, leave that laptop in its bag. The couple at the table beside you at Le Bernardin are probably expecting a romantic dinner — someone sitting there typing away would ruin the ambience.
But if you are at a restaurant where laptops are OK, make sure you use yours politely. Take the smallest available table (this is true whenever you’re dining alone, actually). Do not hog the power outlets. These are usually few and far between, so if you arrive with a full battery, leave the tables near outlets for someone else. If you want to watch a video or listen to music, wear headphones, and for heaven’s sake, don’t sing along with what’s playing or tap out the beat on the table with your pen.
And most important, do not linger for hours over a small coffee if other customers carrying full trays of lunch are waiting for tables.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at email@example.com.