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10 Good Reasons Dinner Dates Suck as the First Date (And What to do Instead)

Dinner? Oh my... Dinner? Oh my...

Besides a lot of questions on relationships, I am also getting quite a few questions on dates. Seems like most guys handle all the stuff in between the two pretty good?

Nonetheless, today I want to talk about the subject of dinner dates.

A dinner date is the most common type of date in the world today – and that’s both its positive and negative side.

What I mean by that is that the dinner date is very predictable. You kind of know what you get, and the only real difference in one is whether you get a kiss at the end of the night or not.

What you do know though, is that it’s going to drain your wallet pretty quick, especially if you go on lots of dates.

You also know that it can get really awkward, and that the restaurant environment by itself is rather boring. It’s just you and her.

We already have a small list of negative things about dinner dates, but let’s make it official:

Dinner dates suck because

  • It’s the first part of the traditional courtship ritual. The boy is chasing the girl. This is baaad. Usually involves a lot of waiting too. And I hate waiting.
  • You’re buying her attention. You’re buying her stuff to eat, just to get her to listen to what you have to say. Is it just me, or aren’t that kind of weird?
  • It’s boring. Not only for her, it’s also boring for you.
  • It’s not a natural way to get to know someone. Do you usually eat dinner with somebody you don’t know? I don’t.
  • They’re hard to escape. You’re tied to a chair for a few hours. And what to do other than run when she catches you looking at her cleveage? It’s hard to just focus on the food when you sit down for that long.
  • Awkward silence. Do I need to say more? You are nervous and feel a pressure to say something if she doesn’t. The nervousness also translates into your other movements… This makes it very possible to do stupid stuff like dropping your fork while you’re eating. Not good!
  • Dinner dates are predictable. 9 times out 10, the same thing happens. This also makes it very hard for you to stick out of the crowd, you’re probably just one boring date out of hundreds.
  • Did I say before that you’re in fact feeding her?
  • The environment also makes it hard for you to escalate things. It’s kind of strange to kiss her over the table, or to stroke her hair, or to in any way touch her. This usually makes dinner dates very “cold”. You’re just two talking heads.
  • Because they’re not fun. And having fun is (for me anyway!) the most important aspect of a date.

Still not convinced?

Well, then you need to read the above points again.

coffee date

What to do instead:

Have her come pick you up at your place. Invite her in for five minutes, and then go out to one of the local coffee shops.

Talk and just have a good time. If things go good, you can invite her back. If things go “ok”, say you’ll do something else another time. If things go really bad, just leave.

It’s really simple!

I have used this exact same model with tremendous success for the last few years myself.

Try it out, and let me know how it goes!

Talk to you soon,

Images by seoulman66 and javaturtle.

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52 thoughts on “10 Good Reasons Dinner Dates Suck as the First Date (And What to do Instead)

  1. JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You

    you are totally in my head lol – I was JUST talking about this last night to a new friend I made online over the phone. I am not a big “dater” I guess bc despite how super friendly I am, I abhor having to survive a dinner date if I am then finding out that the person is just.. not.. interesting *stiffens at a very bad memory*

    *giggle* at your “I hate waiting” comment

    I can’t argue the escapable coffee shop :) Handy, Handy.

  2. William Zanelli

    Agree – dinner dates dont normally work, if your insistent on taking her to one, take her to some really exotic restaurant [I once took a girl – 2nd date – to a tradiditonal Moroccon restaurant, you sat on the floor, shared a massive plate, ate with your hands] – sounds gory but it worked for her..!! She loved it..

  3. Alex

    Haha JEMi! That’s great! I think everyone has at least one bad dinner date memory…

    William, that sounds really cool! I love Moroccon food, and I have been to Morocco several times actually. Sushi restaurants can also be really fun – it just has to be something *special*, and not just the local italian bistro or something like that.

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. Simple Zack

    I never liked dinner dates either. They aren’t comfortable and they seem really artificial. Instead, go to a coffee shop as you’ve suggested, or the park or the mall (not to buy her things) and just have a good time doing the things you like doing, and not just eating.

  5. Jason

    Guess what else sucks as a first date… movie dates, for all the reasons above except the awkward silence and feeding parts. They’re good later once you know her, but not great for the first time in my opinion.

    The coffee shop is a great one, and alot of those places have chess boards (if you’re willing to risk losing a game to her). But I think you can learn alot about her by how she reacts to a game of chess. Some girls don’t pay any attention while others get really competitive. It’s fun to try.

  6. Alex

    Zack, exactly! Going to the mall, or park as you suggest, can also be excellent first dates. Thanks :)

    Jason, I agree about movie dates! There’s just not any good reason to do it. Unless you want to feel like shit all night because she “didn’t held your hand at the movies” or something like that.

    I have actually never thought about playing chess with a girl before, it sounds like a really good idea. It will definately show me some traits from her personality… Unlike going to the movies.

    Thanks for your comment mate :)

  7. Alex

    Hey Adrian,

    Bowling or shooting pool CAN be a lot of fun, but it can also be really awkward. These kind of activity dates are perfect for a second or third date, but I would not recommend them to a “beginner”.

  8. Tony

    I think dinner dates can be okay not the best option but okay.. You can have conversation and learn some new dish from whatever she orders and taste her food if she is down with that..

    A good ice breaker for all ages is a video game location.. This way you can compete for a kiss, or something else.. some women love the compition and it’s a good way to show your skills..

  9. Alex

    Hey Tony,

    Always great to hear some different opinions!

    Tasting each others food can be incredibly sexy; it’s just not very common on a first date.

    Video game places can also be cool if she’s competetive… and if you’re having a lot of fun while playing.

    Thanks for reading :)

  10. Tom Stine

    Dinner dates BLOW! I’m not as young as you kiddies (I’m 43), and I can tell you they get worse as you grow older. Monotonous. They were really when I was married. You’ve seen the bored married couples having dinner? *sigh*

  11. Alex

    Yeah, I think we have all seen those…

    Just talking about the usual boring stuff like they would at home. Yikes!

    Thanks for your comment, I’m glad to have a few “older” readers too :)

  12. Jay

    Hi all,

    Some great advice here can wait to try them out. I like the idea of taking a walk in a park as it can be nice and relaxing. My friend took a girl out once, they could not decide where to go (I think they were both too shy to name a place) and they both enjoyed it, walked around the local park for a good two hours.

    There is a girl in work I am interested in, I have been told she likes me but i am just building up the courage to ask her out. I have just split-up with my EX of 5 years so it is going to seem really strange.

    Do you have any more ideas on a first date?


  13. Alex


    I am actually going to write a post on dating people from work soon. So I would say subscribe to my RSS feed, either using email or a reader, and wait a bit :)

    Or just use the suggestion here: Go for a cup of coffee.

    Good luck man!

  14. Jay

    What do you guys (and girls) think about taking a date to the local Zoo? I think it’s a great idea, what do you guys think??

  15. Alex


    I think it’s a great idea too. The animals produce some entertainment, and you stand for the rest.

    It’s a great match, especially if its your first date in a while.

    Let me know if you need any help! :)

  16. The Texas Trucker

    The coffee idea is real good. Dinner and/or a movie is just too cliche. It’s a GREAT date for a girlfriend, but not so much for a date.

    I myself dont do the coffee date. It’s ok, but it’s still close along the same lines as the dinner date. Much more informal but you cant really dominate the situation which is what you want to do. Take control of the date and you will stand out. Let me tell you what I use for a first date which has only failed me twice (but that was due to taking out two non-talkative women)

    I live in San Antonio, Tx. Do a websearch for Hemisphere park and the Riverwalk. Find some pictures of this area to get an idea. In the late night these two areas (which are big tourist traps for SA, the riverwalk is the second largest tourist trap in TEXAS) are VERY peaceful and romantic at night.

    I basically take the woman for a walk. There are areas here and there where we can get ice cream, drinks, maybe food if we decide it’s going well enough to do the dinner thing.

    The women I tend to date love romance, so this sort of environment is perfect in that case. What makes it better is that since you are going for a walk, if you hit it off well with her it is REALLY easy to put an arm around her.

    What I suggest to your readers is this: Go out and drive your city. You may know the streets but you dont know the area. Go, park, and walk. What you see on foot is ALOT different than in car because you have more time to look around. Now, you need to use discretion. DO NOT try to have a date on the bad part of town.

    You want your date to be relaxed, not fearing for her body, purse, or life. Start with your cities tourist traps, out door ones. These can work very well. Look for ambiance. Waterfalls or fountians are relaxing and often a great thing to sit and enjoy. Areas that allow some privacy are another good quality as they allow you to steal a kiss.

    The best time to go looking for potential places to take a date would be around the time you normally go out on dates. If you take your dates out at 9pm…don’t go looking at 2pm. Places look different at different times. While something doesn’t look good in the daylight, it might look alot better at night.

    In short, the basic idea is to look at your surrounding. City parks often work well as do tourist traps. Your local walmart parking lot is not an option. :-P

  17. Alex

    Texas Trucker,

    Thanks for sharing! Great advice, couldn’t agree more.

    Living in Europe and not in the US, walking around is much more normal for me than driving. But knowing your city is just as important here as it is ‘over there’.

    Take care, and thanks again :-)

  18. Bristar

    I’ve had pretty good success with a good first date that’s worked a ouple of times now.

    Shopping date…

    With one girl we met up for coffee near my flat and got on great for a bit, so i decided to get her to help me with buy some stuff for my flat. Told her i needed to make my flat look a bit better, colours etc and girls are good at the stuff, would she give me a hand? Took her back to mine showed her around and then we went shopping for lamp shades, cushions etc… had great fun round all the shops in town playing around taking the mickey out of each others tastes etc… and at the end of the date ended up back at my place again ;-)

    Shopping dates are my new favourite… i get to spend cash but on me, and have a great time with someone else.

    More recently on another first date, after a quick 20 minute lunch we went beanie shopping. It was winter and i needed a hat… spent the afternoon with each other trying on silly hats.

    It’s all good as long as you can have a lot of fun.

  19. Jonah Triumph

    I had great success taking a girl to a gay dive bar down the street from my house. It was really close, and she got to come in to my apartment and feel comfortable. The bar was a tiny little hole in the wall. It had a good vibe to it, and worked well for me because I seemed like a very social guy when everyone their was talking to me.

  20. Alex

    Good job Jonah!

    Bristar, sure sounds like you had fun. Shopping dates are great for a number of reasons – lots of fun and connecting.

    Keep it up guys ;-)

  21. Jennifer

    You are all a bunch of goobers….to see it from the girl’s perspective, and actually, I’m not a girl, I’m a woman, you all just want something cheap and uninvolved in case it turns out that, 5 minutes in, if you aren’t interested, you haven’t invested anything. Surprise, fellas!! We aren’t wired up that way….we are looking for the investment, or at least the illusion thereof. Taking me to a nice dinner makes the statement that you really want to spend some quality time with me. Taking me to Baskin-Robbins tells me that I’m one of 31 flavors….no thanks. And, you know what, if the cofee-house/ice cream and walk in the park thing has been working for you for several years….shouldn’t you be through with first dates by now? Just sayin’….

  22. Angel

    Are you all nuts? If the guy doesn’t want to me buy me dinner right off, I assume he is cheap, uncaring (does he care if I’ve eaten yet or if I had to eat alone?), impractical (does he think I will live on air for 3 or 4 hours?) and not that interested. Dinner followed by a movie is fine, you can hold hands and cuddle then if things are going well, if not, you get to see a film. By the end of the evening, you have spent enough time to know if you want a second date.

  23. Alex

    Hey Angel,

    so, honestly, it’s a man’s job to feed you? Really?

    You can get stuff to eat at most coffee shops, too…

    Let me know, I’m just interested in hearing your opinion.

  24. Jay

    I’d agree with most of these comments, but the women bring up a good point. Are these women you’ve met through work or some other place already, or is this truly a first date not knowing her interests at all? If you know her somewhat, take her to dinner (or another more investing place). If it’s truly the first time you’re really meeting, then coffee or something similarly quick makes for less pressure and stress. Buy her drink and a small bite and you’re good to go.

    Just my two cents.

  25. Sebastyne

    This is very cultural thing it seems, because nobody has ever taken me for a dinner as the first date. :D I didn’t want them to either, because dinners last long, and I’m fairly picky about what I eat so it can be embarrassing, but the worst part: You’re stuck, and if the guy is a moron, you’re obligated to sit there because he bought you dinner. It’s bad for everyone if you ask me.

    Coffee dates have been a lot more common in my experience, but they’re okay. If you’re hungry, you can check the date out first and if you’re comfortable, you can order something a to eat too – most coffee shops have stuff to eat too.

    And speaking of cultural stuff: In Finland, where I did most of my dating, it was perfectly cool for a girl to pay for herself, because that way she can’t be tied down “because he paid”. But Scandinavian girls in general are a lot more easy going about this stuff – a lot less hassle! :D

  26. Lori

    I like the park idea and the zoo. The coffee shop feels like an interview, and the dinner date feels like a trap. I definitely would prefer a much more relaxed environment where I’m doing something with my date, and I don’t want anyone buying me dinner…exactly what are they buying and should they expect (dreading the parking lot scene)….and let’s face it, I have money and am perfectly capable of paying for my own meal. Shouldn’t his company be as important to me as mine is to him, without the need for the wine and dine to prove it?

  27. fred

    get a clue – coffee, dinner is beyond boring … movie is beyond stupid … go DO something … hike, bike, fly a kite, museum, walk at the beach, bowling, so on and so forth…
    ladies – men don’t really care about sharing and talking (over coffee or dinner) for the sake of sharing and talking…let the man direct the date…which should involve going OUT and DOING something

  28. whodat

    Dinner dates are as only boring as the ppl there whether it’s a first date or 15th. For me I like to look at the person I’m talking to for one thing. Usually things go so well I don’t realize dinner is almost finished, time flys.

    Movies are the worst, you sit next to each other and have very little conversation or eye contact. And besides if one of you happens to be really tired, it wouldn’t good when the lights go down one of you is in la la land, lol.

    I do like the non-traditional date places very well, often that will be the next place to go after dinner.

  29. Jay

    ugh, I hate dinner dates with a brand new person. I’m sorry, but when I eat, I eat. I don’t want to take little baby bites and do innane smalltalk conversation in between. And I don’t know the ins and outs of table etiquette to begin with, so that’s another strike against me. At least when you’re with someone you know you can just shove your face full, holding the fork whichever way you please and chew and not worry about the reaction.

  30. Freesia

    Hello. I’m a girl, and I agree with this article. Dinner dates are awful, no matter how much we like the guy. It’s so awkward sitting there waiting for the food or just sitting there eating. Awkward silences! And then there’s the worry of having food stuck in your teeth. That’s a big worry.
    I really don’t care about the whole “guy showing that he cares by buying a girl dinner”, because most ANY one can take a girl to dinner. It’s easy. And I can eat on my own, before or after the date. And I WANT to pay for my half, because I feel guilty about anyone paying for my food.
    Dates are not for mainly consuming food; they are for having fun and talking and getting to know each other better. I liked what you all said about the coffee shop and chess idea. It’s very informal and interesting. Also, carnivals are fun too. You both get to have fun like kids!
    Zoos, however, are a big no-no. Many people are vegetarians or animal lovers and they know that the animals are not treated the best in zoo cages. Plus, the poop smells bad.
    If you live near a beach, an evening walk down the beach to watch the sunset would be the perfect, ideal date. No awkwardness since you’re walking and it’s fine to walk quietly and look at the ocean or lake. And then it’s evening so it’s not 90 degrees hot. Do this. :)
    tell me what you all think.

  31. Kit

    I like dinner dates if the conversation is interesting. I like food and eating and I prefer that than going bowling or an activity because usually I would only want to to an activity like horseback riding or hiking with someone I know I like first… I feel it’s easier to get out of a dinner date than horseback riding for example – also.

  32. Al

    I completely agree. Just grab a tea or coffee, or go for a drink, perfect! Dinner dates are what you do for your girlfriend when you’re further into the relationship, in which case they are fine.

  33. Al

    Oh, AND cinemas are the worst places to go first date-wise. I did so with a girl once, it’s awkward because you don’t have the undivided attention of each other.

  34. tiffany

    um… Question.

    why do you suggest that she pick you up so you can hang out at a coffee shop? lol… I understand that dinner with a strange woman might be awkward (might i suggest dating someone you already know from work, school, or have had a chance to talk to on the phone first before deciding), but i don’t see why doing something nice for someone you HOPEFULLY actually LIKE (u know, like FEEDING her or PICKING HER UP like a man) is such a bad idea.
    Doesn’t have to be boring — but doesn’t have to be totally lazy, cheap, or selfish either, lol.
    What if you realize that you actually like her AFTERWARDS — but she now thinks you’re as mentioned above?
    Oh well…

  35. Bob

    there’s nothing wrong with dinner dates…it all depends on the girl.

    also i don’t get why so many people hate on movie dates. There is before and after the movie that you can give each other attention and it helps break the ice with someone you don’t know that well because you don’t have to spend the whole time talking to each other.

  36. Jason

    The dinner date does suck. its just not interesting for both parties. What works for me is a coffee shop or a walk, but often I like to change it up mid date. This allows you to gauge her and her likes but then get out of the normal conversation and go do something fun. Its spontanous! I will be sitting at a coffee shop and be like “lets get out of here and go for a walk or lets go to the mall I wanted to look at something” the mall or any store is great because it gives you things to talk about and interact with to make her laugh. If you gauge she has a good sense of humor and is playful. head to the toy section and just mess around. Women love a guy who is interesting and loves to have fun and laugh. You can sit at a dinner all day and say I’m funny, love to laugh, and outgoing, but if you can’t do those things at dinner then your screwed. I can make a girl laugh. I am just no0t the joke kind of person so i need different outlets to do so, which dinner doesn’t give me.

    My girlfriend broke up with me after a year because our relationship became to boring and predictable. we just didn’t fit. It wasn’t for a lack of trying to make things exciting she just didn’t want to do anything. all we ever did was sit around and watch movies every weekend and i did everything she ever wanted me too. BECAME THAT PUSH OVER GUY THAT NO WOMEN WANTS.In the beginning we went out a lot and had fun with others. I realize now i actually didn’t like her that much either. in the end it was all sexual for me thats y i kept with it so its good we are done. That’s the first time i had ever been broken up with. The other 3 times the girls wanted to be with me all the time because i kept it exciting. In the end i admit i was an asshole in the relationship but that don’t matter now

    WOMEN LOVE AN UNPREDICTABLE GUY! ATTRACTION ISN’T A CHOICE. You can have the best job, be caring and be a great guy, but that don’t matter. what are you doing to excite her. If one doesn’t work out there are always more trust me.

  37. Jason

    You don’t even have to treat it as a date either just be like I am going here and u wanna come? or you should come with. 8/10 a women is going to wonder is he interested in me or not because a couple of days ago he approached me and got my number. ITS THAT MIXED SIGNALS CARD! its hard to do that with an actual dinner date. It doesn’t have to be asshole either because your intentions really are to be with, but you don’t let her know that. know rhat your intentions are before you start dating. is it casual dating, relationship, or just sex. What is your ideal at this point in time. This makes it easier to approach women to ask them to go out and can make you ,ore comfortable when dating

  38. Annie

    I agree. As a girl, I like dinner dates, but I would prefer something out of the ordinary. Dinner is predictable, and unless I really hit it off with the guy, it can really become a drag. Happy hour is also a great idea. Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable going to a guy’s house on a first date and picking him up… what have been the feedback from women whom you have used it on and what percentage was “Yes” to the date idea?

  39. Doc

    A lot of good suggestions here. Tonight I am taking a girl out to dinner date, but have questioned if it’s right or not. But due to lack of options, it was what I could come up with. I live in a small coastal community that is tourist driven, so there is a lot of restaurants, and all the other little things close early because tourist season is over. The girl I am taking out works in a hospital that I bring patients into. We have had good conversations so far, with a little bit of flirting. I am having her meet me at a laid back road house with some live music for dinner, and then if we hit it off and things are going good, there is the option for a walk along a beach that is close, bowling, coffee, or ice cream. And if things go south, her car is there, and we can easily part ways.
    I am recently divorced and this is my first date in close to 10 years. So tell me, is this a good idea?

  40. monika

    I did no0t read the responses here, just the post. Yes, dinner dates can be boring if it is not a match, but how do you find that out otherwise?

    I dont know f guys like you consider, but having a woman pick you up at YOUR house is showing no respect for her physical or emotional security. Dont you realize here are rapists and stalkers out there? we women need to sit down and find out who you are before coming to your “diggs”. I suppose your #1 goal here is to kiss, stroke her hair etc ie: make a move. A reall gentleman would understand that is totally improper. If that is the way you intend to go about it, expect women with no self worth coming to your door, and then you can take advantage of their vulnerabilites, or lack of self esteem. If you want a real woman, pull up your big boy pants and treat a woman specaial and take into consideration her feeling. Just a tip for the guys, women with their shit together would never tolate sich a low budget advance. You cearly are tying to get laid and not lookng to get to know someone. if that is the case, go to a bar and pick up a super drunk person and just go for it and stop pretending you are dating when your motivatons are not pure!

  41. Jenny

    I agree with coffee for a first date. I don’t agree with inviting her back to your place. This says to me that a guy just wants sex. I also don’t like being asked to a bar for alcoholic drinks. Guys argue that it’s cheaper but it isn’t and besides which most bars are so loud you can’t talk. Isn’t the point of dating getting to know each other?

  42. Connor

    Why not take her flying? You can hire flying lessons for both you and her. Make sure you can do it together with one in the back. True, it’s not intimate, but if you’re showing you’re spontaneous, fun, and willing to try something new, then it’s great. Plus you can go out for dinner after, talk about the experience, and both be involved in something that absolutely keeps you both outside of your comfort zone. If you pay for the flight, it’s about $100, which is around what a first date is anyway.

    Worst case, you just experienced something new and can now have something to relate to with that person.