''I VANT to be alone.'' That modus operandi worked for Greta Garbo for half a century. And now, the desire for privacy is picking up momentum in Hong Kong's dining scene. The demand for private rooms is sending designers, managers and chefs to the drawing board. While hotels have always had the luxury of space, independent restaurants, especially those opening in 1994, are juggling all sorts of design options. When Gaddi's and the Verandah Grill close on March 1 for renovation, part of the Verandah Grill will be used as a private room for Gaddi's. Two months before Quo Quo opened its cafe-restaurant-night club in Central, general manager Rogier Verhoeven was taking reservations for the three private rooms. Private rooms were not a consideration at China Max in Times Square, but privacy was. Design consultant May Kay Spears added several secluded areas to the floor plan as an option. At Tables 88, in Stanley Village, private rooms is what the restaurant is all about. ''When people call for reservations, they usually name the room they want,'' says manager Tony Henry. ''Privacy was intended in the design.'' The former police station features eight rooms. The average room seats 12; the smaller ones seat eight. Quo Quo fills a void in Central, says Verhoeven, for those customers, corporate or individual, who want exclusivity, convenience and a home-like feeling instead of hiring a room in a hotel. ''There is plenty of business for breakfast meetings, product launches, art exhibitions and cocktail parties.'' Warmth and a residential atmosphere were crucial to the design. Sofas with pillows and a piano feature in one of the three rooms. ''Because of our size [11,000 square feet divided into two floors], we have enough space. Smaller restaurants don't.'' The one-upmanship between hostesses always demanding something different poses no problem. Although details like stem-ware, cutlery, crockery and table linens count, Verhoeven believes ''it's not so much as changing the details that's important, but changing a mood''. Private rooms put more pressure on the staff. ''In our restaurant we set our style, and people come for that. But with private rooms, everyone becomes involved in what the client wants; the chef, the head waiter, the banquet manager, the florist. You listen [to the clients] and give them what they want.'' For China Max, design consultant May Kay Spears used mirrored panels, stationary bamboo blinds, screens and plants as room dividers. ''A room can be blocked off. But if things are hopping and you need space, you can open the rooms up,'' says Ms Spears. ''Clients can feel separated, if they want. The stationary bamboo blind gives the feeling of privacy without being closed off. But some groups don't want to be separated. It depends on the restaurant.'' If Indochine had more floor space, Paul Hsu says he could sell a private dining room. ''If you have one, people will ask for it. But, in reality, it's just like a presidential suite in a hotel,'' says Hsu, director of Elite Concepts, whose restaurants include Va Bene, American Pie, Tutto Bene and Indochine. ''It's never full 365 days a year. It is a showpiece. A private room allows owners to charge more. It's very much Hong Kong to keep up with everyone else.'' Even if she could, Michelle Garnaut would not stretch the 1,100 square feet of Michelle's at the Fringe to include a private room. ''Personally I like the concept of being in a restaurant, having people all in one room. A restaurateur sets an atmosphere, a style. People come because they want your style. With private rooms, you are leaving it open. ''Restaurants are more than food. They're about atmosphere and people-watching. Once you've created your own style, I believe it's easier to maintain high standards by staying with that style. ''Private rooms have a niche in Hong Kong. But it's not mine. You can't be everything to everybody.''