So it’s your first big dinner date, or maybe it’s your 20th
. In any event, here are some things you should do to make the evening go smoothly and make yourself look good.
Assuming you have done the requisite homework to pick a place
that is in the right location, with the right atmosphere and food for your date, the next thing to do is make a reservation. Nothing will make for an awkward evening like waiting around the restaurant for 45 minutes, or having to think of an alternative because the wait is unbearable and your date is starving. Also, if the reservation was made more than a few days in advance. Confirm the reservation! Also, it is always a good idea to have a backup, just in case things go south.
Study the Menu
Take a look at the menu at home beforehand, look on menupages.com
, or on the restaurants website. Familiarize yourself with the dishes, and if there is something you haven’t heard of, look it up. This is a way to impress your date with your new found knowledge. Plus, your date may appreciate being able to ask you rather than the waiter. It also helps you from making the wrong decision, like my vegetarian friend who ordered Sweetbreads thinking it was some sort of, well, sweet bread. They are of course an animal’s glands (thymus, pancreas, etc.). So, study up.
If you are arriving separately, make sure you are there first. Making a woman wait at the bar not only makes her feel uncomfortable, but gives her a chance to check out your competition. At this point you should also check in with the hostess so if there are any problems with your reservation you can do your best to resolve them then. If you arrive together, hold the door for her.
You should both check your coats. Depending on the restaurant, there may not be a good place to put your coat, if you sit in a booth for example. If it’s raining, your coats will be wet and you don’t want to be slinging them over the back of the chair. The same goes for briefcases, umbrellas, scarves, shopping bags, and hats. No one wants your dirty hat on the table. The only exception is the woman’s handbag. No lady wants to be without it.
Once on your way to the table, let her go first and take the seat of her choice. If it is a table that has a booth on one side and a chair on the other, proper etiquette says that the woman gets the booth so she can have the view of the restaurant and you can have the view only of her, of course.
Unless there is something you are adamantly opposed to, let her make the choices. “Bottled or tap water?", “A table inside or out?”, “Do you need more time to review the menu?” Let her answer.
Try to decide before the waiter gets there if you are both having appetizers or just entrees. It is awkward if one of you gets an appetizer and the other doesn’t. If she gets an appetizer and you don’t, she will think that you think she is a big eater. No girl wants that. If you get one and she doesn’t, she is left with nothing to do while you eat. If she spontaneously orders an appetizer, you should get one too.
Always let the lady order first, and while it may seem chivalrous, do not order for her. Most women in this day and age don’t like that. It makes an assumption that she should not, or cannot, speak for herself. The only time this is acceptable is if you are both having the same thing and there are no choices to be had. “We’ll both have the chicken.”
Be Polite to the Staff
From the coat check person, to the hostess, to the waiter, to the busboy. Be Polite! A woman will think you are the type that treats everyone badly (including her) if you are rude to those serving you. Say “Thank You” every time the staff does something. Whether it’s fill your glass, place silverware on the table, or bring and remove a dish.
Behave at the Table
We will cover more of this in a future article, but place a napkin on your lap, eat slowly, and carefully. Don’t talk with your mouthful, keep your hands and face clean. Basically, all the things your mother yelled at you for when you were a kid, it’s now time to listen to her.
Let her talk, don’t tell story after story without letting her get a word in edge wise. Stay engaged in her conversation, look at her and only her. Don’t look around the restaurant. And for God sakes, don’t talk about anything weird or controversial. The story about how your gay uncle committed suicide is off limits, as is your thoughts on the Religious Right, unless of course you know that this is her type of conversation. Also, having a conversation means being present. Unless you have some medical condition, don’t make frequent trips to the bathroom.
Silence the Cell Phone
It’s on vibrate, in your pocket, not on the table. It doesn’t get answered during dinner, and there are no e-mails or texts that get read or responded to unless they are an absolute emergency. The score of the basketball game, what your drunken friend just did, or the e-mail from your boss don’t count as emergencies. Should there actually be an emergency; the call takes place away from the table, preferably outside the restaurant.
Be Sensitive About Dessert
Most women want dessert, let’s face it. Who doesn’t? But not all are willing to order dessert for fear of looking like a fatty, particularly on the first date. When you ask her if she wants dessert and her answer is “No,” offer to split something. If she still refuses, it may be best to skip dessert. Like appetizers, it will be awkward for you to be face deep in an ice cream sundae, unable to talk, while she sits there.
Make a Classy Exit
Don’t argue over the check. You can suggest that she leave the tip if she wants to contribute. If she insists on sharing 50/50, that’s fine. Say “Thank You” and “Goodnight” to the staff as you exit, and don’t forget to tip the coat check person. Help your lady on with her coat, and hold the door for her on the way out.
Have a good night out!