Where is a good place to dine on the first date, and why

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The first date can be a daunting experience as it sets the first impression for both parties. And as a guy, choosing the location can sometimes be expected of us. So there are a number of factors that people generally think about when choosing the location for the first date, like the price of the venue, the type of food, the ambience and of course – the experience.

Typically a first date is a really important milestone as it sets the pace of the relationship, and is also a subtle way of presenting your character and personality. Note that the purpose of a first date is to present your true self and to know more about her. It is true that we should put our best foot forward on the first date, and definitely not pretend to be somebody we are not.

As guys, we were initially taught to pick up the ‘lady’, drive to a fancy restaurant, pay for her meal and send her home. And this would then be justified as a ‘date’. Let’s imagine 2 people on their first date, and all that has been handled. The guy has picked her up in a nice Mercedes, drove her to a fine dining Michelin-star restaurant, the couple are both seated nicely by the waiter and they have already ordered their meals.

When she tries to speak up, the man disrupts her question or interjects with more of his stories, continuing to share about his life, passions and successes. Finally, the date comes to an end and he picks up the cheque. He drives her to her doorstep/condo/HDB void deck and wishes to see her again.

One can say that the man did everything right in ‘bringing her out on a date’. He has taken care of her for the whole evening, brought her out to a nice restaurant, paid for her meal, sent her home and even shared about himself! The venue was spectacular and the meal was good. So what’s the problem?

Typically the first date is to know more about the other person, to know what they are like and if the both are at the same phase in life. It is a good place to start off to know if we intend to see the person again for a second date. And in the above scenario, though the lady did not say anything throughout the whole evening, she has read the signals loud and clear and probably concluded that she won’t be seeing him again in the future. Because she can be sure that the next date would not be much different from the first (Unless she is looking for another nice meal then probably she would take him up on the next offer).

This article is focused on where to bring her out on the first date and not so much about the way we conduct ourselves on the date. The purpose of the above example is to establish that the location doesn’t really matter and it sets the awareness of looking out for certain checkpoints when choosing a venue for a date. So I have listed out a number of key factors to consider when choosing a location, and they are the following:

1. Noise level of surroundings

Since the idea of the first date is to know more about the person, conversation is key. Therefore, looking out for a place with a quiet environment would be ideal. If there are kids crying or people talking loudly, it would be disruptive to your date. On the flipside, a place that is TOO quiet would mean that you and your date would need to keep your voices down as well, this would be a problem if either of you guys are having a good time and unable to laugh due to the type of environment you are in.

2. Pricing and if we can go Dutch

The price of the meal is going to be a key point for the first date. There is no ‘golden rule’ for the price, except for managing expectations. Generally on a ‘first date’ you want to have a good place to be comfortable in, if the food is nice, then that’s a bonus. The key element here is that the conversation is good. The price is the amount you are willing to pay or ‘risk’. It varies from a simple meal at McDonalds to a fine dining restaurant. It should reflect what you generally eat/spend on a meal anyway. If you are a student, and fast food is your thing, it is fine bringing her out on a date (assuming she is a student as well) to a Mos Burger. But if you are in your 40’s and have a large spending power, and you generally eat in a Chinese restaurant – Crystal jade might be a place you could consider. The price of the date should be a reflection of what you are willing to ‘risk’ for the dates in the future and with other potential ‘prospects’.

Going Dutch is an interesting factor. Most women today are really fine with going Dutch as modern women believe that the first date is to manage expectations and they don’t want to come across like a gold digger either. That does not mean they would turn down the opportunity if you wish to pick up the bill though. There are some establishments that kind of ‘force’ the date to go Dutch. Places like a fast food place, Mos burger for instance, if you claim that ‘you are still thinking’ of what to order and ask for her to go ahead to order. That would turn the tables on her having to pay for her meal before you order yours. This is a subtle way of splitting the bill. This is also possible in places like Astons whereby the order is taken BEFORE you get seated. This is a technique especially for younger guys without the spending power, or for guys who suspect that their dates are in for their money.

3. Location and ease of access

Singapore is a small country and travelling around can be easy. But it is still key to know that there are still some areas that are quite out of the way for people without personal transport. Places such as ORTO (formerly known as bottle tree park) and Punggol East Container Park can be nice places to dine in and they have nice and reasonably priced food. But it is a total hassle to get there with public transport.

The safest bet generally is at town in Orchard whereby it is convenient for everyone to get to. Another key aspect to consider is the convenience for the both of you. If you already know roughly where she stays (somehow it came up in your conversation), in Changi for instance, then you can think of a mall that is nearby to set up your first date.

4. Dressing

Dress for the occasion and the location! This cannot be emphasized more. Always consider how you are presenting yourself. The number of times I’ve heard ladies complain about guys wearing sandals and shorts to town amazes me! Always dress appropriately for the occasion and the location. If you are having your date at the kopitiam (nothing wrong with that), then yes, you can dress down a bit. But still be presentable! Ladies spend a lot of time and effort taking care of themselves, caring about their attire and appearances. If need be, get yourself a ‘template outfit’ for multiple scenarios.

If you are having your date at Mcdonalds, then it is alright to dress down a little (you don’t want to look like you are selling insurance or MLM on the first date). If you are going to a mall, restaurant, Changi Jewel or town, wear something that covers your entire bottom half! Basically long pants and nice shoes are a safe bet for most occasions. It is always better to dress UP than to dress down. You don’t want to be the guy in shorts and sandals when your date is dolled up appropriately.

5. Comfort

The both of you might be spending several hours at the venue. Do check the closing time of the place, because you do not want to be chased out of the location mid-way through the date or especially when things are going great. Now with the Covid situation, most eateries close a lot earlier than they used to in the past.

Take note of the air conditioning, the size of the venue, how long you can dine there (some hotspot places do limit the time you can spend in the establishment) and also the type of seats. And, if you are really particular, the lights as well.

This is a nugget of information that I had picked up in my life. Some establishments are meant for customers to stay in the venue longer, while some do want a fast turnover of customers. Usually expensive restaurants, co-working places and hotel lobbies are the kind of places that do expect people to loiter there for extended periods of time. These places would install lights that are calming to the eyes and are pricier. Some food establishments that want a faster turnover of customers would make the eyes of the customers tire faster by installing cheaper lights. We can tell the quality of lights by using our smartphones and pointing our cameras in slow-mo towards the lights. If the lights flicker, they are low quality lights.

6. Volume of food consumed

The volume of food that we order and expect to eat is really the KEY element of this article. This is an area seldom spoken about in the dating scene. If the idea of the first date is to have good and engaging conversation, it’s not really possible if our mouths are stuffed with food the whole time, is it? Have you ever had to finish chewing the food before continuing the conversation or reply to another person as they had stopped talking while you just took a large bite off of your plate? Or worse yet, just speak with the food in your mouth?

The ideal kind of date would be one with just coffee or light bites. There are multiple reasons for this. Coffee and light bites generally are cheaper (price), faster to consume (duration) and you don’t have to speak with your mouth full. As women generally eat slower than men, having a large meal usually would incur her ability to speak. And since you would have more air time than her, the date can easily convert into a lecture more than a conversation, since she is already encumbered with finishing her meal.

With this section in mind, light bites would be things like slices of cake, coffee and nuggets. This would already point you towards the ideal kinds of places to plan for your first date.

With the 6 pointers considered, there are 3 main genres of places that we can plan our first dates in. And I will list them in accordance to priority:

Coffee places

Coffee places would include places like Starbucks, Coffee Bean and any other coffee establishments. These are the safest bet as the costs are low, they can be convenient as they are everywhere and also either party does not have to commit too long to the date if the date were to go badly. And if it goes well – you can really sit there for an extended period of time!

The next kind of coffee place would be cafes such as Lady M. They are a little pricier with cakes and light bites. This can be a nice place to bring your first date to as well.

Fast food places

The second on the list would be fast food places. This might seem unorthodox, but it is a lot more casual than the other two options on this list. They also are relatively cheaper with light bites and also convenient for everyone. But if you feel your date has a chill and fun vibe, it is totally alright to casually mention having a quick meal at a fast food place and heading off to do another activity after. If you are a guy with a ton of dates and generally pulls off a fun and engaging vibe, fast food places can really work for you!

Restaurants

The standard answer when guys over commit to a woman. I have placed restaurants in the bottom of the list as they are not really ideal when it comes to the first date. I would usually save restaurant dates till much later into a relationship when the bond has been established and when it is somebody you are serious about (you can’t know if it is somebody to be serious with on the first date – you just met her!).

Restaurant dates generally are much longer, both parties are held captive till the food is finished, somebody has to fork the bill FIRST and there are higher expectations during the date.

But there are 2 kinds of restaurants that should be addressed. Let’s say we plan to head out for steak, there are 2 restaurants that have steak. One would be ‘Lawry’s The Prime Rib’ and the other is Astons. Lawry’s would be much fancier and the meal would cost $100 per pax while Astons is $30 per pax for a steak. Depending on your spending power and the image you wish to portray, one can work for you better than the other.

At the end of the day, it is really about calibration. There would be some sort of communication before the first date, either on the dating app or text whereby it would signal to you the type of girl she is. This would already indicate to you her ‘type’ of person, if she is a fun and outgoing person who does not mind coffee or fast food or if she is a liberal person who expects her first meal to be at a fancy restaurant. The key here is to know what type of guy YOU ARE; if restaurant dining is normal for you, then go for it.

There is one more tip at the end which would help when it comes to the first date. Since the ideal is to have finger foods or coffee and have your mouth available for conversation during the ‘date’, you can always have a meal BEFORE the actual date. By eating already, your mind is clearer and you are less agitated during the date as well. This makes sure that whatever you are eating during the meal does not concern you and you are much less picky with what you plan to eat. In fact, you would really opt for the coffee option during the date too!

It might take a while to find your ideal date location. But after you have found a good place that suits your style, you can always reuse this location for different dates! And change it up when you feel like it. It is always good to run with a ‘template’ answer when you are starting out. And experiment with different locations to know if it works!

For more date tips and tricks, follow CGull on our website and our social media platforms! And if you have any questions, do write in to chiawei.g@cgull.com.sg!

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