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How to Plan the Perfect Dinner Date, According to Science

Despite the best options, when you combine dating with food things seem to have a way of going awry fast. Take for example, a date I went on a few years ago.

As a preface, I have a rule of thumb: if I haven’t met someone before, I abstain from going for dinner with them. I prefer to just grab a drink and see if we have a connection before I commit to a full meal with a stranger. So, when I met Greg* online and he asked me out, I suggested we meet at a local wine bar. I’d already eaten, so I ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Greg, on the other hand, was hungry and ordered a massive charcuterie platter. I sat there, gingerly sipping my wine and nibbling on the occasional piece of Prosciutto while Greg shoveled bites of stinky cheese (gorgonzola, perhaps?) and garlic-laced meats down his gullet, while the space between us filled with a scent reminiscent of dairy mixed with smelly feet.

A little wine and a lot of charcuterie later, the bill arrived. To add insult to injury, the bill was close to $100. I was put off when Greg suggested, “how about we go Dutch on this?!”

(All I could think was, “Dude, I still barely know you. This is exactly why I suggested we just have wine. I am not about to subsidize your love of cured meats.”)

In hindsight, I wish I’d said something or maybe suggested he order something other than nightmare cheese. However, being the overly polite Canadian that I am, I paid my share. Needless to say, the date literally left a bad taste in my mouth.

Food and dating go hand-in-hand and often, that first experience eating together can set the stage for rest of the evening, and even the relationship — for better or worse. Planning a successful dinner date is an art form (and as another rule of thumb shouldn’t involve stinky cheeses — but that’s just me). Online dating platform EliteSingles recently surveyed their members and discovered some really interesting data when it comes to dating and food.

Planning a dinner date? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Discuss dietary restrictions BEFORE the date.

The last thing you want is to show up to a date at a pizza joint only to find out that your date is gluten and dairy intolerant (or vice versa). When surveyed, 10% of singles had a dietary requirement – that includes vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free diets. While the majority (57%) of those surveyed said they would tell their prospective partner before the date of their dietary preferences, this varied according to gender differences.

Surprisingly, 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 more upfront, with only 30% of men answering the same way. However, to avoid any potential awkwardness, it’s probably better to be upfront before the date, so there are no surprises.

Italian is the way to go if you can avoid garlic.

Maybe it’s because we associate Italy with romance, but Italian food still ranks number one when it comes to ideal cuisines to eat on a date, with 27% of singles stating it as their preference. Funnily enough, while people seem to love Italian food, 33.5% of singles say that the worst food to eat on a date is anything with garlic (for obvious reasons). So, if you’re going to eat Italian, avoid anything with garlic (good luck with that!)

Tapas or Pub Food are also good options.

If you’re not willing to take the chance with the garlic, the next top cuisine on the list was Spanish with 14% of people saying it was their ‘ideal cuisine’ on a date  — which makes total sense. Sharing a plate of Spanish tapas is a great icebreaker for conversation!

Men and women were again in agreement for the third most popular choice, ‘pub and bar food’ (11%), which actually makes a lot of sense — dates are already stressful enough, so eating comfort food definitely has its appeal.

Local gems win over fine dining.

Movies would suggest otherwise, but if you think the only way to impress your date is by taking them to the most expensive fine dining restaurant in town, you might want to think again. Overwhelmingly, 60% of those surveyed would prefer to visit a ‘local gem’ style restaurant rather than go for ‘fine dining extravagance’ (17%).

However, if you’re going to keep things really casual, you’re also better off choosing a place with local flavor. People prefer to go to a bar or pub for food (11%) than go to a chain restaurant (10%). At the end of the day, you want to choose a dining experience that’s fun but not pretentious, so that you can relax and focus on what’s important: getting to know each other. If you’re lucky, sparks will fly!

*Greg is not his real name


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