A Guide to the Perfect Dinner Date, According to Data

Couple having a dinner date

Food and dating go hand-in-hand. If films and television have taught us anything it’s that the dinner date sets the stage for rest of the evening, and hey, even the relationship. However, a dinner date can be full of obstacles.

How do you gauge the right restaurant for a romantic date night? Should I tell them that I’m veggie? Should I tip? Who pays? It’s no wonder a lot of people opt for something more casual like meeting in a bar, but where’s the romance in that? So to make things easier, we asked our members about their preferences for a classic dinner date and 1,800 responded.

The best restaurants and cuisine for a dinner date

We discovered some very surprising and interesting results in this survey and we’ll skip right to the most important question of all: where should I take them?

The answer to the question ‘what would be your ideal cuisine to eat on a first date?’ from both men and women was Italian (27%), proving that Italy still has the crown when it comes to romantic atmosphere and yummy food. Unsurprisingly, the next top cuisine on the list was Spanish with 14% of people saying it was their ‘ideal cuisine’ on a date. Spanish tapas has become a great staple for dates because sharing food is a great icebreaker for conversation and relaxation for both parties.

Men and women were again in agreement for the third most popular choice, ‘pub and bar food’ (11%) so if you’re stressed about a dinner date – don’t worry, most people choose comfort over romance.

Preferring home comforts over movie-style romance is also confirmed in our next question, ‘what would your typical date restaurant be like?’ Overwhelmingly, 60% of those surveyed would prefer to visit a ‘local gem’ style restaurant rather than go for ‘fine dining extravagance’ (17%). In fact, people would even prefer to go to a bar or pub for food (11%) than go to a chain restaurant (10%). People feel more comfortable in a relaxed atmosphere and that’s what you want to be creating on a dinner date so sparks can fly freely.

Home Cooking and Foodies

Cooking a meal for someone else is an excellent date. It shows care, commitment and also gives you a chance to show off your cooking flair to a rapt audience. But, important question, ‘what’s your go-to meal to cook?’ Men and women were slightly divided on this. With women opting for a pasta dish (36%) and men thinking that a steak dinner (38%) was the perfect dish to woo. However, they both agreed that a roast (16% for men, 20% for women) was also a good option for a home-cooked meal.

Surprisingly, men were less impressed when their potential partner could cook compared to women. Only 75% of men said ‘yes’ when asked ‘Do you find someone more attractive if they can cook?’ Whereas, a whopping 83% of women said it was something they found attractive in a date.

Whilst men and women generally agree that cooking is an attractive trait when asked if they were foodies only 54% of our survey said ‘yes, I consider myself a foodie’. So whilst you can appreciate your partner whipping the kitchen into a frenzy, most people would be fine if they were presented with a simple dish at the end – no need for Wolfgang Puck style perfection.

Bad Food Habits when Dating

No one wants to harp on negativity, but let’s be honest, there are some things that you don’t want to do on a dinner date. And eating something unpleasant is probably the most common concern.

Luckily men and women broadly agreed when asked ‘what’s the worst food to eat on a date?’ that if you order something with lashings of garlic – 33% of our survey says you might be going home alone. Although ordering a plate of ribs with sticky BBQ sauce doesn’t lag far behind with 29% and surprisingly, the oft-touted aphrodisiac oysters are third place with 11%, perhaps our surveyed thought ‘that’s a bit presumptuous?’.

Another contentious food etiquette question was posed in our survey, ‘is sharing food on a date a no-no?’ Surprisingly, men were a lot more lax with sharing food with 85% of men saying that they didn’t mind sharing food on a date. Contrasting this, women were a tad more keen to keep their dinner to themselves, with 23% of women saying they don’t share food on a date ever! Don’t take these ladies out for tapas…

Food, Dating and Behaviour

Do you change your behavior on a date? Most people, if they were honest with themselves, try and accentuate the best parts of their personality and minimize the parts that aren’t so delightful. Put it this way, how you act on the 1st date is very different from how you act on the 20th date… So, does this extend to food? Do you change the way you eat on a dinner date?

Women are more likely to change what they’d typically order on a first date, with 13% saying yes compared to only 8% of men. 14% of men would generally change what they’d order compared to 13% of women, meaning men are more likely to opt for something more classy on a date comparatively to women. However, in general, most (68%) wouldn’t change what they would eat.

Our survey also asked ‘would you secretly judge a date for..’ and then listed some common and not-so-common bad dinner etiquette to see how ‘on form’ you have to be at a dinner date.

Thankfully, men and women agreed that having ‘bad table manners’ was the worst offender with 73% of the vote in total, so as long as you keep your elbows off the table and don’t sneeze into a napkin – you should be fine.

There were a few differences between men and women though. Not tipping is something that particularly irks women with 57% saying they’d judge a prospective partner for it (compared with 24% of men). Whereas, men are a bit more likely to judge a date if they ordered too much food, with 13% saying it would be bad manners. Just 5% of women agree.

Dietary Requirements

The 10% of our surveyed members had a dietary requirement, that includes vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free diets. We wanted to know, how do you bring this up on a date? And when’s the best time to do it?

While the majority (57%) of those surveyed said they would tell their prospective partner before the date of their dietary preferences, it changed when we looked closer at gender differences. Interestingly, women tended to play it fast and loose and 39% of them said they would tell their date ‘during the date – I’m sure I’ll find something I can eat’. Comparatively, men preferred to be forward planners, with only 30% of men answering the same way.

Paying the Bill and Tipping

Here it comes, the grand finale, probably the first date question that gets asked the most and is typically very controversial. So, who pays for the date? Generally, in relationships between men and women, this has traditionally been seen as a male role – a throwback to when men basically earned all the money, so it made sense. However, in our modern world, what do our surveyed members think?

A whopping 67% of respondents said that men should pay for dinner, with 28% saying that it should be split evenly, 12% saying to pay for what you eat and finally, with a meager 0.8% thought women should pay for dinner.

So how does this split among gender roles? Surprisingly, it’s men who think they should pay more than women, 82% of men think they should foot the bill. And 55% of women agree, but it should be noted that 34% of women thought that splitting evenly was the best option.

It should also be noted that age doesn’t seem to play a major role in this thinking, answers only fluctuate a few percentage points between age groups.

Finally, we get to tipping. Another controversial topic with many differing opinions and a large difference depending on what country you’re from/living in.

When asked ‘would you tip a server to impress a date?’ we included a number of different answers. 73% of Canadians say ‘I always tip anyway’, highlighting that tipping is an accepted norm in Canada. Additionally, 20% replied ‘No, I wouldn’t do it to impress someone’ and less than 1%would put down more money than usual’, – so it seems Canadians don’t think about impressing with the tip. That said, if we refer you to our earlier question of ‘what would you secretly judge a date for’, 57% of women said they’d secretly judge a date for not tipping – so you might wanna cough up a few dollars just to save face.

What do you think of some of these contentious food and dating questions? Have a strong opinion? Share them with us at [email protected]

About the author: Emily Waddell

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