I Want to Take a First Date to Lunch During the Work Day. Why Is This a Terrible Idea?

couple having coffee at lunch


I met a girl online and we are meeting for the first time for lunch this week. We talked on the phone for hours already and she texts me often. We seem to connect very well.

Are there any tips you have for me to make meeting her a bit more special? We are both busy people, so the lunch idea came up, because we both work near one another in town. Since this is the first contact in person I will have with her, I didn’t want to make it too high of pressure or a formal date.


Dear Matt,

My philosophy for first dates was first outlined in “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book – A Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating”. The chapter was called, “How Caffeine Kills Chemistry, and Other Controversial Theories on Dating”, and, in essence, it said this:

If you can’t kiss at Starbucks, what’s the point of going to Starbucks for a first date?

There was more… but that was the gist of it.

While I won’t retract my theory entirely, I do have some modifications I’d like to make.

I am still firm that slowing down is an essential component to making your first dates pop.

The problem with online dating is its illusion of instant gratification. Guy gets rejected by 100 women and becomes convinced that if he only goes FASTER that he’d get a chance at a first date. Woman emails a guy for a month, only to find out he’s 5 years older and 30 lbs heavier than he stated; she becomes convinced that if she only goes FASTER, she wouldn’t have wasted so much time.

If you can’t kiss at Starbucks, what’s the point of going to Starbucks for a first date?

The reaction to our respective failures is to cut to the chase TOO fast. As a result, you email total strangers and say, “You look cute. Let’s meet at Starbucks on Tuesday”. But you’re missing an important part of the dating process – namely, the getting-to-know-you part. By circumventing the normal process of courtship – you’re skipping an integral building block for a first date.

Believe me – I get why you do it. You’ve been burned. You’re busy. You don’t want to waste time. Got it. Then you have no one but yourself to blame when you go on a series of blind dates with unscreened losers. That’s what you get when you meet strangers after only a brief email exchange.

Matt, to his credit, didn’t do this. In fact, he spent hours and hours on the phone, building trust, rapport, and comfort. What does this mean for Matt? It means that if his date’s considering 5 guys from Match.com right now, and 4 of them are emailing her: “You’re hot! Let’s meet up!”, Matt’s going to stand out, just by being a little patient. Restraint is a very powerful tool in a man’s arsenal.

Just by taking a little time to make a woman comfortable – a few emails, a couple phone calls – Matt can earn the right to pick her up at her place for a Saturday night date. The same exact woman who would otherwise insist that a first date meet her at a coffee shop. If you doubt me, I have a few hundred examples suggesting otherwise. Slowing down really does result in better first dates.

But you already know this, Matt. Thus, your real dilemma is in figuring out what a good date looks like for you. And that’s personal. For some people, the ideal date IS coffee/lunch. A quick meeting to determine basic physical chemistry. Well, if that’s the case, then you don’t need my advice. Find a place that’s mutually convenient, well-lit, and inexpensive. Ask questions. Pick up the check. You’re all set.

So what’s wrong with disco bowling and beer on a Friday night? What’s wrong with mini-golf on a Saturday afternoon?

My question to you is this: do you LIKE lunch dates? Low stakes, low price, low romance, “I have to be back in my office in an hour” interview type scenarios? God knows, I always HATED such dates. And if you find them lame and you want your first meeting to have a bit of a spark, you have to work backwards from how you want your date to end. For me, ending on a kiss was important. Thankfully, you’ve already earned enough equity with her to take her on a real date that doesn’t involve a midday break.

So what’s wrong with disco bowling and beer on a Friday night? What’s wrong with mini-golf on a Saturday afternoon? What’s wrong with night-time appletinis at a speakeasy on Saturday night? What’s wrong with taking her hiking (or sledding?) on a Sunday afternoon?

None of this is formal. None of this is high pressure. None of this is terribly expensive. None of this means you’re locked in to six hours together. All this establishes is that you’re a man with a plan. A little creativity and atmosphere goes a long way in setting the TONE of the first date.

And if I have any objection to coffee/lunch, Matt, is that it is the wrong TONE for romance. It’s the wrong tone for laughter. It’s the wrong tone for anything but an interview that assumes failure. You don’t set up a half-hour $3 date if you think it’s going to go swimmingly well.

Take it from a guy who has gone out with hundreds of women:

If you treat her special, she’ll be special.

If you show her a good time, she’ll have a good time.

If you give her a chance to shine, she’ll have a greater opportunity to shine.

And if you want to get a kiss, you’re much more likely to get it at night. I have not once had a great date at the Coffee Bean or Quizno’s or Jamba Juice or the Daily Grill. It could be just coincidence, but the sample size is large enough to conclude that certain settings are more conducive to romance than others.

Be the generous guy who really wants to show her a lot of fun, and I’ll bet you have a lot of fun, too.

Click here to understand how to conquer the frustrating world of online dating!

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  1. 1

    I’m a big believer in the theory that if a chick is into you, she’ll be into you at Starbucks or at the most expensive restaurant in town, or at a bowling alley, or on a hike in the woods. But given that Matt has already invested so much time in this woman, and is essentially already in a relationship with her without having yet met her, it would be best to take her on a “real” date as Evan suggests.

    Marc´s last blog post…Getting Their Kirk On

  2. 2

    Another reason it’s a bad idea. Even if nobody is stressed from work, the people probably are dressed for work, with its often unsexy associations and not most flattering looks.

  3. 3

    Great advice Evan (as usual!!) I can only speak from the female perspective. A first date is REALLY important. I tend to take the man’s lead on where he wants to take me. Therefore, I have had enough Starbucks and Jamba juice to last an eternity. The men I have given a real priority to (just a handful), have put time and effort into our first date. Think about doing the best you can to create an alluring, captivating first date…because you just never know. If you treat her like “well, it’s just a first date or a first meet”, that will definitely come accross during the course of the date. If you never treat her special…she won’t be. Put another way, if you knew in advance that you would be meeting the love of your life…would you still meet her just for lunch? Make each date and moment count, because you just never know. Be selective (which it sounds like you are), and that will avoid the “OMG another first date to wine and dine and nothing will come from it” scenerio. Romance her, have fun, and Good luck!

  4. 4

    Evan’s suggestions are ideal, but even drinks after work would be 100 times better to me than a mid-day lunch date.

  5. 6

    I do everything I can to avoid the dreaded coffee date and, if I can’t get the guy to consider another option, I politely beg off. Its just not worth it…..before I learned this I met at least two men on coffee dates who, if we had met in another setting, I am convinced could have turned into something — at the very least a second date. I didn’t get second chances with those men and I believe it is solely because of the “ambiance” (or lack thereof) of our first “date”. Plus, I don’t like coffee 😉

    1. 6.1

      Coffee is underrated. The place is key. I’m never going to suggest Starbucks. I’ll suggest a cafe, or a loungy mom & pop. You can drink whatever you’d like.

  6. 7

    All great Evan except for the hiking/sledding idea. I’m not getting in a car at the beginning of a date or going to a remote location alone with a guy that I haven’t met and spent time with in person. I’ve had plenty of introductory first emails from men asking me to go off-roading, camping, hiking and to Paris and I get the same gut reaction every time – “Are you crazy?” Call it self-preservation or paranoid, I doesn’t give me the feeling that is getting me on a date. A walk in a busy park, that’s a different story. But I totally agree with you that the men who invest in getting to know me a bit before asking me out, who have a plan, who tell me something other than I’m pretty, and who plan something that is likely to end with a kiss (night helps)…but who don’t push for too much too fast are most likely to succeed.

  7. 8

    I’m actually all for short coffee dates, but after reading this EMK makes a great case for why the quick lunch date would suck. They are pretty boring and sexless. If she’s already hooked, I say meet for drinks on Friday night. There are much more possibilities that way. Also, remember, it’s important to have FUN on a first date and not just do a Q&A.

    Another point…when I’m at lunch from work, I’m wearing work clothes that totally don’t fit the attitude and image I project at night. Again, do drinks in the evening and sex it up.

    Lance´s last blog post…Here’s How a Bankruptcy Works

  8. 9

    I agree that the atmosphere at a coffee shop may not be ideal, but I also feel that if this is the first time meeting a man, I usually know quite quickly whether I want to proceed or not.

    And, if a woman walks in who is 30 lbs over what a certain man expected, it doesn’t matter to him just how great the last two months of emails were. He is going to see the next 2-3 hours at a romantic place as a chore, and maybe even a letdown. If he is the type who enjoys socializing and is lonely, perhaps he will enjoy the conversation, but I don’t know how many people fall into that category.

    Therefore, although it is very nice and sweet to suggest a more romantic venue, it really isn’t going to make me feel chemistry when there isn’t any. So what happens is that it now puts you in an awkward position. If you are at a coffee shop and it is your lunch break from work, you have a great excuse to leave after an hour. If you are at a nice place sipping martini’s after work, it is more awkward to try to leave, as you no longer have a good excuse as it is now after work. And, if I don’t hit it off, or find the person even somewhat creepy (this happens), I really don’t want to spend an afternoon doing outdoor sports with them.

    If the coffee shop is such a turnoff, perhaps a quick meeting in a park of something might be better. It can still be held during your office break, and that way you have an excuse for a quick exit.

    Just because you really hit it off online, does not translate into a great first meeting. You certainly can pre-screen for the obvious problems, but there are still a lot of people who can come across wonderful online, and you can spend months chatting to them.

    I guess both ways can work. If you don’t mind spending the time, fine, try a more romantic venue. I just don’t think it would work for me.

  9. 10

    i will never go on a lunch date again simply because of the bad association I have with it- a few years ago I went out with this guy- he looked like a supermodel. I’ve always wanted to go out with a supermodel (yeah, I’m like a guy that way). Be careful what you wish for!

    In the middle of our date, he starts slapping the table and singing Zeppelin out loud in front of everyone at the cafe! I wanted to die.

    Needless to say, that was the first and last date.

  10. 11

    I don’t think a work day lunch date is a terrible idea for the same reasons Li-Ann stated in #9. I don’t want to be committed to an activity for a few hours with someone if I get a strange vibe from them. And you know, if you do hit it off in person you can always suggest getting together again after work to pick back up your conversation.

    Personally, I’d rather meet for a drink after work though when there wasn’t such time pressure and I’d be more relaxed. You can go to dinner from there if you hit off, and you can also change clothes before meeting if you want to.

    Evan made great points though. If you’ve already done some ground work of getting to know each other, a more interesting date might go over better than a “meet and greet” type of one.

  11. 12

    I’m not opposed to the coffee date as first date, but I don’t like the idea of a lunch date during a work day. I’ve never been on one (I get 30 minutes for lunch as I’m a teacher) but if I worked a regular job I’d probably have one hour. So if you meet somewhere close by then it might be 5-10 minutes each way to travel. So, say 20 minutes total to travel (get in/out of building to parking lot, drive, find parking, and get to restaurant). That leaves 40 minutes to get a table, order food, eat it, and pay. That is one heck of a rushed lunch, and I’d be more worried about scarfing the food down quickly and getting back to work on time than getting to know the person opposite the table.

    A date that’s not in the middle of the workday, however, leaves it open to last for as long or as short as you want, but you don’t have the time constraints to give added pressure to the date. Most of the time if a date isn’t going well for one person, it’s not going that well for the other one and there won’t be a big scene because you want to cut the date short.

    But if you want to be more creative, go on ahead. My first date with my boyfriend was going to play putt-putt and we had so much fun we added dinner in afterwards (during a major bowl game too; that’s how I knew he was smitten!).

  12. 14

    Casualencounters – sorry, not sure which part of my a bit too long post you refer to. I don’t think I’m being dishonest from what I can see, but I’m willing to be proven wrong.

    Like any person, I can be excited about a person that I’ve never met nor seen, but am having a fantastic conversation with online. I can eventually meet them in person, hoping for the best, and find out the chemistry isn’t there. I have no way of knowing before I actually meet the person whether I’m going to feel interested or not.

    If what you meant was that I should tell them I only want a short meeting, obviously, few people are going to say beforehand “I just want a short meeting with you in case it doesn’t work out”. People are just going to figure that is the way it is, and it goes both ways. After all, at the time of these great email conversations, before I have even met the person, I am hoping that our real life meeting will work out.

    I chatted to one guy online for about a year on and off. We hit it off online, and we shared so many interesting discussions, but I never actually met him in person. In this case, I went into finally meeting him with tons of enthusiasm. It did not work out, he was very different in person. I still spent something like 3-4 hours chatting to him mid-day as I was on vacation at the time, so I didn’t cut him off or anything. I tried one more meeting with him, and it didn’t improve. I was never dishonest with him up to and before the meeting, it just didn’t work out.

    In this case it happened to be me who wasn’t interested, but I’m sure that it could have been the other way around. I would accept it if a man met me, and I wasn’t what he wanted. I wouldn’t expect him to be honest and upfront and tell me that it was because of how I looked or something like that. We both get the message when subsequently I didn’t agree to any further dates.

    I hope that explanation addressed the question. 🙂

  13. 15

    LiAnn I like what you say in the last part of your post. If I am at first meeting with someone, and they’re not interested, unless they’re a really good actor, I will be able to tell and I don’t want to be stuck for an entire evening with a guy who doesn’t want to be there. I don’t like to waste time, so the lunch idea is good for simply moving on if it doesn’t work. And I know that if I don’t even get so much as a hug, that dude ain’t callin’ for a second date.

  14. 16
    David Gideon

    Don’t meet her for coffee; kinda boring. Meet Saturday or after work. Plan a few fun places to go and let her stop by your place first. Make each place a surprise. As soon as she comes inside your place go get your stuff and go.. You’re showing her that coming to your place is safe by not trying anything.

    The places you take her can be low cost or even free, just make sure they’re physical and fun. Also make sure the last venue is near your place. While at the last venue invite her back to your place for a drink or to show her some fun photos or a funny video you made.

    Be sure to give this invite a time-constraint. Tell her she can only stay for 30 minutes because you have some other important thing to do; this is just in case either of you feel uncomfortable, it’s a free “out”. If things go well you can always change your mind. As an added benefit, time-constraints make any romantic interludes spontaneous instead of pre-planned and awkward.

    Have fun on your date!

    David Gideon

    David Gideon´s last blog post…Neil Strauss Dating Course Part 7

  15. 17

    “Tell her she can only stay for 30 minutes” – you must be joking!
    A girl has to invest a minimum of 3-4 times that amount (60-90 minutes) in getting ready for and getting to the date venue and getting home after the date, and in return she gets that minimal sliver of your time….
    Talk about putting people under pressure / inducing performance anxiety… Sheesh…!
    If a guy told me he could only spare 30 minutes to meet me for the first time, there’s no way in hell I’d accept that invitation. An hour minimum is decent / reasonable as a first “coffee” / “after-work drink”.

  16. 18

    David Gideon,

    I would definitely not agree to go with a man I had never met before to his place first. The fact that he would even suggest such a thing would make me wonder about possible bad intentions – it most certainly wouldn’t make me feel ‘safe’.

    Also, if I did hit it off with the guy and agreed to go back to his place for a drink after our date, I would be VERY put off if he told me I could only stay 30 minutes because he had some other important thing to do. What the ….?

    I think you have some learnin’ to do about women dude.

  17. 19

    I just popped over to your blog and I can’t believe some of your *techniques*!

    Such as:
    “It’s really fun to bust on girls in a fun and teasing way to increase sexual tension. Remember, you never want to be mean.. you’re simply taking the frame of big brother and putting her in the frame of bratty little sister. For example, if she says excitedly that she just saw the movie The Notebook, you might say sarcastically, And your point is? Or if she trips you might say, What a retard. Or if she mispronounces some text she’s reading you might say, Oh my God, you can’t read.

    How the hell old are you anyway?

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