First dates are exciting but nervous occasions. First dates at a restaurant contain many pitfalls for the unthinking. Being aware of some dining etiquette for that important first date will ensure that you have a pleasant evening.
If you are choosing the restaurant, choose a mid-priced restaurant with a nice ambiance and atmosphere, not so quiet that it makes you or your date self-conscious but not so noisy that it does not allow you to talk and learn about one another. The menu should contain enough variety to suit different tastes, remember there are two people on this date and you may adore sushi, but there is absolutely no certainty that your date will. Manners are all about considering other people’s comfort and needs.
Attention to your dress and personal appearance shows respect for your date, dress should be smart but informal. Old jeans and a tee shirt are not suitable wear for a dinner date. Men should wear a jacket or blazer and remember that some restaurants still expect men to wear ties. Women should wear a nice dress, skirt and blouse or trousers, rather than jeans, and a blouse or tee shirt.
Do not order the most expensive item on the menu. Whether one person is paying, or you are splitting the bill, it looks as though you are greedy and taking advantage. When deciding what to have, avoid messy food, like spaghetti, and any food you need to pick up with your fingers, someone chewing on spare ribs, with grease running down their chin is not an attractive image. In addition, avoid garlic and onions you do not want smelly breath on a first date. If the menu puzzles you, do not panic, ask the waiter or waitress, for help or a recommendation, no one will think any the less of you and waiting staff are well-used to such requests.
Treat waiting staff politely, ordering waiters around in a loud voice, does not make you look important it only makes you look like a bully. If there is a problem with your meal or wine, raise the matter quietly and politely.
A first date is a time to learn about one another, but it does not mean that you can talk about whatever comes into your head. Keep the conversation light; heavy subjects like religion, politics, sex, money, past relationships, and the economy are not suitable for a first dates. Ask questions and listen to your date. Tempting as it is, to talk about yourself constantly, resist the temptation, it will make you seem selfish and self-centred. Asking about long term plans will make you seem as though you are sizing your date up as marriage material.
Bad language is not acceptable from either men or women on a first date. Keep away from sad and distressing subjects, family hurts, or history. Men should refrain from boasting about their careers, toys or other women.
Remember your table manners, sit up straight, eat with your mouth closed, and do not eat as though you are half-starved, even if you are hungry. Use your cutlery properly, and do not take huge mouthfuls. Have a glass of wine with your meal, but do not drink so much that your date has to carry you home. Men should not drink pints of beer in a restaurant on a first date, or at any other time, it makes them look uncouth.
When the time comes to settle the bill, it is quite acceptable in these difficult economic times for couples to split the bill, and women should not automatically expect the man to pay for the meal and should take sufficient cash with them to enable them to pay. It can be a tricky moment but indicating discreetly that you are willing to pay your half, by reaching for your purse when the bill comes, for example, is a tactful way to allow your date to retain his masculinity and a way to diffuse a potentially embarrassing moment, since he can easily say “I’ll get this”. If you are going Dutch just split the bill in half, do not sit going through the menu deciding what each of you ordered, that just looks mean.
Whoever paid, it is always appropriate to thank your date for a pleasant evening and if your date paid for the meal, you should thank him, or her, for your dinner.
Treating your date with respect and consideration and behaving politely in all respects make you a pleasant dinner companion. First dates can lead to a second date or not, but at least if you understand dining etiquette, you will be more confident and less nervous on your first date at a restaurant.