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

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


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. 61
    the foreigner


    Word! Though I think discussions like these show how educated your audience is – I mean really! The responses to DG are quite excellent.

    On topic, my experience is that the venue isn’t all that important. Just the other week a woman suggested to meet up for a lunch date, we spent maybe two hours talking, we couldn’t stop, it was great! Then she asked me to come by her place later that night and well, there’s your kiss right there.

    The experience I gained from that date was that you can show all your confidence and self esteem by leading the conversation. You know, be a bit like Letterman. Come well prepared with open questions that are specific to the person you’re dating, preferably about things that you can relate to as well. If there’s a funny story in there make sure you get the chance to share it, it really eases the tension.

    She wasn’t from around here and I was really interested in things like what she did in her home town on a Saturday night or what courses she was taking here.

    That coffee date was one of the best dates I’ve had so far. Okay, I’m not as experienced as most people here, and sure red wine and cozy settings makes it all a bit easier. But isn’t it also about what you’re looking for?

  2. 62

    Yes, but just one more Evan..please!! I havn’t had a chance to put in my two cents yet. I appreciate David’s approach to creating a sense of security when offering a 30 minute clause prior to showing a girl your place. However, I am not willing to see a guys place until at least the fourth date, and even then I usually preface my stopping by with “I can only stay for a few minutes.” Yes, stopping by a guys place is important in early stages of dating to build trust and rapport. However, single women are well aware and all too familiar with the serial daters out there who are like wolves in sheeps clothing. ie, They want to begin the date at their place so they can end the date at their place…and have the advantage. “Oh you really shouldn’t drive, it’s late..or you had too much to drink…just crash on my sofa…nothing will happen…I promise…you can trust me ” routine. Yeah right!
    Evan, this topic alone would be a great future thread for singles.

  3. 63
    Didi, a female

    This whole topic concerning about excepting a man’s invitation into his home, right? And “what he SAYS to you while in his house, right? Try this on for size?

    Although I was with a man for 10 years, we had several other mutal (male) friends that we had known over the years, we had invited everyone we knew to attend several of our parties, etc. I am now single.
    One night out sociallizing, one of “our” ( male ) friends saw me at a table and approached me, asked to sit down and began conversing. I always found him to be extremely attractive, very funny, and easy-going. Within a few hours we were laughing, enjoying each others company, exchanged phone numbers, wonderful chemistry together, and planned a date. (NOW REMEMBER: I’ve know this man “as a friend” for several years). On the night of the date, he was going to pick me up at my house. He calls to say to was returning home late because of work, asked not to cancell on him and that he was on his way to the house, still needed to get ready, drive to pick me up, and asked if it was ok. He mentioned where he lived, time break down of each step, all before he arrived. (My theory: by the time he was dressed, I could shorten the waiting time). I casually offered to meet him at hs place and start the date from there. Upon arriving there, he was putting on his shoes, he gave me a hug and short kiss, he thanked me for meeting him there, and we left for the evening. (Now, you see, I just received my first kiss prior to our first date. I loved it!). We left in his car. Upon returning home, ofcourse, I went inside his home, he said we could “talk, and I could leave at my own discretion…”. After about 30 minutes, I thanked him for the evening, looked forward to seeing him next weekend…then he… kisses me, and then again, and again. All the while, I think we both knew we were going to be dating each other…for a long, long, time. It IS…”all in the chemestry”! NOW TO MAKE A POINT: Now, IF he had said…”30 minutes ” or “my own discretion”, he was with a girl he had known for a very long time and he felt comfortable being around me. Chemistry makes a man “court me, chase me, wait for me… By the way, we are still together.

  4. 64

    Didi, that is why some couples, stay home most of the time, they are afraid of their partner making friends and moving on to someone else.

  5. 65

    Sorry, I can’t even understand the point of the last two messages. Must be my poor command of the English language. :-

  6. 66

    ROFL JuJu! Me too.

  7. 67

    JuJu, your post is humorous!…

  8. 68

    Does anyone posting here actually have to do work during the work day? This is my problem with the lunch date. I have no problem meeting an online suitor for the first time for coffee. I see the first date with someone I met online as an opportunity to see whether or not there’s any hope of developing chemistry.

    But during lunch I like to eat food so when I go back to work I can concentrate on my job instead of how hungry I am. I don’t want to drive 20 minutes somewhere, eat for an hour and drive 20 minutes back because I don’t want to be away from the office for more than an hour. I think it’s disrespectful to my co-workers, who are relying on me to complete my work product. So if I end the date after 45 minutes, I feel like that could send the wrong signal to a man. If I like him, I’d like to keep talking and not have to worry about my work assignments. So I’d prefer not to meet for lunch.

  9. 69

    It’s easier in a big city with plenty of cafes right next to your workplace, Sarah. No 20-minute drive each way necessary.
    Although, I personally don’t like the time limitation.

  10. 70

    Meet for lunch on you day off.

  11. 71

    I was mugged. About 4 or 5 months later, I went out on a first date with a man I met on Yahoo personals. He *insisted* on picking me up at my house. I guess he thought he earned the right by emailing me so much. I thought I had explained to him very carefully why having a man I don’t know pick me up at my house made me feel very unsafe and uncomfortable. He still insisted. I caved. Big mistake. I was on edge during the whole date. From the moment I got into his car, I was hostile to him, and in total panic-mode. His inability to respect my boundaries and to listen to my concerns ruined this first date. If he could have just settled for a few coffee/lunch dates in the beginning, my comfort level would have increased with him, so that having him pick me up for dinner on date number 3 or 4 would not have caused such a meltdown. While I agree with Evan’s argument in general, I think my situation is an example of a very real exception you need to make: NEVER FORCE A TRAUMATIZED PERSON INTO ANY DATING SITUATION THAT THEY HAVE ALREADY TOLD YOU THEY DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE DOING. Period. Your date mentions she was mugged/raped/pickpocketed/had her car broken into or anything else like that within the last year, you can bet she’s still walking on eggshells psychologically, whether she was physically harmed or not. I was lucky. I was not *physically* harmed. I *thought* I was mostly okay to go out on a blind date. Even I underestimated my level of trauma. I gave myself a nice long break from dating after that experience. But of course, I never went out on another date with that particular man.

  12. 72
    Karl R

    vlh stated: (#71)

    I would say that also applies to people who haven’t been traumatized.

    You don’t want to be uncomfortable on a date, nor do you want your date to be uncomfortable. You particularly don’t want to be the cause of your date’s discomfort.

  13. 73

    Why did you decide to go out with a man who had no regard for what you needed to feel safe — especially when you were not asking for anything at all unreasonable? If a man doesn’t do his best to make YOU feel comfortable and safe, he isn’t worth your time.

  14. 74
    Alicia G.

    I personally don’t think meeting someone for lunch (lunch break or not) is a bad idea. I think this should be the norm when going on a first date. It is a comfortable setting, great place to start the “is this person compatible with me” process, etc. A first date is a first date. There shouldn’t be any lip smacking or funny business going on, so the setting is fine. There are plenty of more romantic, creative dates to worry about in the future if both people are still interested. I wrote an ebook for guys (50 tips to keep in mind when going on a first date). Check it out by going to my website.

  15. 75

    Guys – an important thing to consider when asking a girl on a first date is that she will want to be looking her best. Dates involving sports or outdoor activities are a bad idea in this respect as she can’t wear her cute dress and heels and her hair might get in a mess, which will worry her. Anything involving a lot of walking will be a problem because of the cute but impractical shoes she has worn (for YOU). “Surprise” style dates are the worse of all cos then she won’t know WHAT to wear at all.
    Meeting an online date for the first time is hard work as its a bit like running a race from a standing start, but for that very reason its even MORE important that the setting is conducive to flirting and romance, should the spark be there. If it isn’t it doesn’t matter WHERE you took her, but if this DOES turn out to be someone you feel mutual chemistry with, there has to be a fighting chance to get things onto a romantic footing.
    My preference for a first online date is to meet MIDWEEK for a DRINK, lateish in the evening eg 8.30 or 9pm. Dinner can be a drag if you don’t hit it off. Weekend dates are too much pressure. A drink in a classy place that’s not too noisy, not too quiet is perfect, and by meeting late in the evening if you don’t hit it off you can decently leave after an hour and a half with the excuse thart you have to get up early for work. By then its 10pm so this works – if you meet at 7pm you can’t really use this excuse at 8.30!

  16. 76

    Excellent post that addresses one of my primary concerns as a single parent in my early 40s, Evan.
    I don’t like the work day lunch date or rushed coffee date because I am almost always rushed in those situations and feel like it’s difficult to look my best and engage in lighthearted conversation.  To make it more difficult, I’m more of an introvert and people don’t usually get a sense of my personality until they’ve known me for a little while. 
    If you will please forgive me for asking a question, what is a woman to do if that is what most men suggest?  I don’t want to dismiss all coffee dates out of hand, but I am doubtful about the value of  “drive by dates.” Any suggestions for feminine strategies to deal with these situations?

  17. 77

    When a guy ask me for coffee it puts me into a friend mode. I tell them i dont do coffee (cheap n means they r not romanric or dating way too much) lunch ? No to that .. Rush n squeezzze me in .. Save lunch for biz until ur in a relariinship then its a nice treat. Eve dates are more romantic and it doesnt have to be all out dinner.. Nice place , couple of drinks , appetizer! If u cant do that thn buzz off! And stop asking dor my number online and then u text me ! I give a number for a reason! CALL to hear ur voice.. N ask me out that way.. U lose me already if ur that insecure n stupid n lazy

  18. 78

    Sooooo true. I even put no coffee/lunch dates! Save for business meetings! My question is … They still ask me for coffee or lunch and i automatically lose interest. Is that wrong?

    Also, i state if i give my number after 2emails do not text me .. Whats point of givn u my number ? We can type for emails

  19. 79

    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.
    I so agree! This tip is really helpful for both men and women.
    Having an idea or giving some thought to the destination of the date definitely helps to set the tone of the date…A date born from this thought process will be much more fruitful and fun than one where you meet for dinner and ‘see how it goes’…

  20. 80

    I personally find coffee dates just fine.  I am always prepared for 30 minutes but they usually turn into two hours and 30 minutes.  When I get invited for a 2nd date, it will be much at a much nicer venue – but I always meet them at the place and they understand that I do that for personal safety.  I don’t share my personal address or go to a man’s home unless I know them very well.  I met one man for lunch (his day off) and it was very nice followed by more very classy dates.  I don’t like to have a man spend a lot on the first meeting in case I don’t want to go on a second date.  All the men I have dated for a longer time have paid for just about everything (and they spend a lot) — it is a struggle to get them to let me pay for anything.  So, I don’t think meeting for coffee or lunch is any indicator that a man is “cheap” or a “moocher”.

  21. 81

    I just came across a profile where the woman said she prefers coffee for a first date. So for those of you with a strong preference either way, you should just make it known in your pre-first-date exchanges or in your profile.

  22. 82

    Do what is best for you two, don’t listen to others, nobody else will understand your relationship better than the two of you.

  23. 83

    @ Katt # 77 & 78

    I agree it is more preferable for a guy to phone rather than text, and to arrange a slightly more romantic night-time date, rather than lunch or coffee.

    And the good ones are open to guidance on this.

    But I find the effectiveness of your guidance is very much in *how* you do it. If a guy wants to text, I always say with the utmost charm how good it would feel to get a phone call and that that feels more connected than texting.  The good ones are thrilled to oblige, the ones who feel this is too much effort, I agree, can buzz off.

    Similarly with dates, if a guy really has his heart set on taking you to coffee or lunch, I say let him. It doesn’t automatically mean you’re in the friend zone and I *definitely* would not give him the dressing down that you say you tell them.

    I’d say just next time he asks you out say how you think it would be great to have an evening date and that you’d feel more excited about that. 

  24. 84

    Taking her to coffee? Phooey.  Is she worth your time? What about if she/you has a work emergency and it’s not possible? Fabulous beginning, not.
    If a man suggested lunch/coffee, no way.  (Unless it was at the weekend or holidays and you can relax and have a giggle!)

  25. 85

    I don’t mind lunch first-dates, I’m going on one today. I own my own business so I can take the day off with a couple days notice. I’ve noticed woman are more comfortable with a lunch date, I’ll still go to a fancy restaurant. If it goes good then the days young, if not just go home and happy to go eat with someone new, no harm no faul ;). But I’m not dating just to get laid so maybe if that was the goal then plans would be different. 

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