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Hungry for Love? How Food Etiquette Can Make or Break Your First Date

etiquette at dinner

Dating and food. Unless you’ve committed to exclusively going on “liquid-only dates,” eventually you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you’re eating on a date. After all, food is an essential part of being human and all of those endless latte/beer dates eventually get old.

When it comes to eating on a date, there are a lot of so-called “rules” that have been thrown around over the years – some more practical than others. For example, “Women should always let the man order for them,” (um, no thanks) and “Don’t order a giant rack of ribs with extra sauce and then force your salad-loving date to watch you eat them,” (not the worst idea.) We’re living in a time when it seems like all the old rules are up for debate. So, what is the current dating etiquette when it comes to food?

To get to the bottom of the food-dating etiquette debate, GrubHub and Tinder partnered together. They surveyed over 2,000 people in the United States and asked about expected food etiquette during the first three dates. Rosette Pambakian, Vice President of Global Communications and Brand for Tinder, said, “The findings are interesting and highlight the important role food plays in dating.”

Here are a few of the top findings and what they say about the state of modern dating.

1. Go ahead and order the steak.

According to GrubHub and Tinder’s research, singles tend to order heartier meals. Instead of counting calories, 62 percent of participants prefer to order fuller meals instead of their lighter counterparts. This statistic filled me with joy because it means that people aren’t holding back when it comes to their food choices (ie. ordering the paltry garden salad in lieu of the delicious enchiladas) because they’re afraid of what their date might think. If you want the enchiladas, order the enchiladas!

Food is something that I’m really passionate about and I always hope that my date will feel the same way. I want us both to feel comfortable enough to enjoy ourselves – copious amounts of salsa verde and all. I’m glad I’m not the only person who feels this way. Plus, if the date is less than awesome, at least you’ll be able to say that you ate something delicious, right? If your date gets all judge-y about your food choices, it’s a sign that you shouldn’t go out with them again.

2. Splitting the bill can go either way.

Although it’s always nice when a guy treats me to dinner or drinks, it’s not mandatory. Sometimes it’s nice to just split the bill because then there’s no sense of obligation (especially if you’re not sure you want to see the other person again.) With that said, no matter what the situation, I always offer to pay my share of the bill. It seems like who pays the bill is still up for debate. According to the survey, only 36 percent of respondents would rule out a second date if the other person didn’t offer to pay and 64 percent said it would not be an issue.

3. Sharing is caring …sort of.

Your date keeps stealing food off of your plate, what do you do? According to the survey results, 31 percent of respondents would be offended, whereas 69 percent would be totally up for sharing. This one interesting because so much depends on context. Are my date and I sharing a bowl of guacamole and chips, or is he literally reaching onto my plate with his fork to steal the filling from my enchiladas? Also, is this the first date or the third? Sharing food is very intimate. If I haven’t kissed someone yet (and enjoyed it,) I certainly don’t want their fork digging into my queso. Just saying.

As a rule of thumb, the best course of action is to ask before you share.

4. Don’t use a fork for sushi.

Most of my awkward dining and dating experiences begin and end at sushi restaurants. I suspect it’s because as soon as some people enter the doors, they lose all sense of table manners and/or good judgement. Yes, I’m talking about people who try and shove whole pieces of sushi into their mouths or (gasp) eat sushi with a fork. It seems I’m not the only one who feels this way.

What would you do if you saw your date attempting to eat a Dragon Roll with a fork and knife? Fifty-six percent of respondents said they’d find it “cringe-worthy,” while 44 percent thought “it’s adorable” to forgo the chopsticks.  If learning to use chopsticks properly isn’t in your wheelhouse, you might just want to avoid restaurants that require them. Just a thought.

In the end, this study showed that typical dating norms are changing. Where you eat, how you eat, how you dress, how you meet –  these are in constant flux thanks to new technology, changing perceptions and cultural shifts, helping relieve a lot of those first-date jitters. Chat, figure out what you each like and go out on a date you’ll both enjoy.

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