The Dos And Don’ts Of a Dinner Date

by Brett and Kate McKay on January 31, 2008 · 31 comments

in Dating, Marriage, Relationships & Family


Photo by freeparking

Almost every date involves taking a woman out to eat. It is not only fun, but offers a perfect opportunity to show your date your manners and character. Below are a few of the do’s and don’ts of dinner dates. If you do the do’s, you’re guaranteed to impress your date and score a second one with her. If you do the don’ts, she won’t be returning your calls.


  • Open the door for your date and pull out her chair for her.
  • Place your napkin on your lap.
  • Break off a chunk of bread to butter it instead of buttering one huge slice.
  • Come prepared with interesting conversation topics to discuss.
  • Say thank you to the waiter each time he or she brings you an item.
  • Pre-bus the table to make the waiter’s job easier. (This shows you respect those in the service industry.)
  • Pay for the whole bill, and make it obvious you are going to do so to avoid an awkward conversation.
  • Leave a generous tip. A tip speaks volumes about your character.


  • Wear a ball cap during the dinner. You shouldn’t be wearing one at all, but if you are, take it off when you enter the restaurant.
  • Chew with your mouth open.
  • Make the waiter’s job difficult with anal orders and requests.
  • Obviously check out other women

Remember that many of these rules apply for dinner dates at home.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ian Millard February 8, 2008 at 7:41 am

An excellent article – in fact, an excellent web site.

A couple of minor additions to this piece…
If you are using a car for transportation, make sure it is clean. Dump the trash and wipe down the windows.
Really listen to your date and what she has to say. Agree with her when you can, and be silent when you can’t.
Show interest in her activities and hobbies. The more you listen, the more you will learn about her, and the more interesting you may appear.

be judgmental about her opinions and views. Shutting her down or dismissing her concerns will bring the evening to a quick and silent end.

2 Brett McKay February 8, 2008 at 6:46 pm

@Ian Millard:

A clean car is a must. That’s something you don’t think about. Being sincerely interested in your date will help your score another date.

3 tommi February 11, 2008 at 10:52 am

Clean your house, at least your bed and your bathroom, just in case it’s your lucky night ;)

4 johnny smart pants February 21, 2008 at 3:28 pm

One Do is wrong
You should not “pre-bus” your table. This is likely to make you look lower class. Your back waiter is being paid to properly service your table. anything you do to help takes away from the class of the dinner and just makes you look bad.

5 MissPrism March 19, 2008 at 1:22 am

“If you do the do’s, you’re guaranteed to impress your date and score a second one with her.”

Nonsense. She might think you’re boring or unpleasant, she might just not click with your sense of humour, or she might suddenly move to Outer Mongolia. She’s not a bloody vending machine.

And you might not like her, either. Surely a date should be about getting to know a person whose company you might enjoy, not following a set of rules and trying to “score” another date?

6 Mia April 9, 2008 at 3:43 am

Do: be a normal, thoughtful, polite human being.
Don’t: be an idiot.

7 knytfyre April 27, 2008 at 11:48 am

@ Johnny Smart Pants, the pre-bus of the table is a good idea. It shows that you are willing and able to share the work load, even when someone else is being paid to do the work for you. You never know, at one point she may have been a waitress and seeing you pre-bus a table will only increase her respect for you.

@ Miss Prism, you are right, there are no ways to guarantee a second date, and a date is about learning more about the person so that both parties can tell if this is someone we want to spend time with, and women are not vending machines. However following a good set of rules will not only help the fellow with his date, but in the long run these rules will become something he learns to live his life by and apply to new areas, thereby growing as a human, a man, and provider.

8 Deborah May 5, 2008 at 5:11 am

As a former waiter of twelve years, I cannot state strenuously enough that pre-bussing your table is rude, waiters hate it, and if your date was a waiter at any place more fancy than Denny’s, she’ll hate it too. It makes you look like at least one of the following:

1. an anal control freak who can’t just let the waiters do their job
2. an impatient creep who can’t wait for your date to stop eating (if you get busy stacking your plates while she’s still eating)
3. someone who’s never been in a nice restaurant before

This is the important thing to remember about being served: let it happen graciously. Don’t thank your waiter every single time he/she gives you something. Don’t do anything. Seriously, the most respectful and classiest things you can do in a fine dining situation involve allowing service to happen to you:

1. In general, don’t let your conversation or your body impede service. Don’t keep a waiter standing around while you finish your conversation. Don’t hunch over your empty plate. Allow the backwaiter to take it by sitting back in your chair. When it’s time for new silverware, take your hands off the table and allow the new course to be set for you. In fact, just sit back in your chair whenever someone comes to your table. That and a good tip are the single most respectful things you can do for a waiter.
2. Unless this is deep inside your personality, don’t try to befriend a waiter, and don’t go asking a waiter’s name and then using it all the time! This is one of those man-of-the-people tactics that backfire, big time! I
3. Say thank you twice, max. After orders are taken is a great time to say thank you. At the end of the meal, in addition to a tip is a great time to say thank you. Say thank you again if someone does something nice for you–gets you a coat, retrieves something that you dropped on the floor. But saying thank you every time you get your water topped off is a distraction from the actual date.
4. Have a really great time. Be there with your date. That’s what a restaurant is for. That’s what service is for. Fine dining is about allowing things to happen, about being given an experience. It’s not a time for showing people how well you get on with working folks (who, in a nice restaurant may be making more than you do…), it’s not a time to be helpful. You’re paying handsomely for a service and should just let the service happen.

9 Joe June 9, 2008 at 5:19 am

I was a waiter, and the pre-bussing is not a issue, as long as it’s done right. Putting dirty stuff together without stacking is fine. Don’t stack.

10 Novel June 25, 2008 at 5:57 am

Do: make sure the date isn’t perfect. Leave her thinking that something was missing, that there’s something else she needs to see.

11 Ray September 17, 2008 at 7:09 am

Do not pre-bus the table, in fact one should never move a plate or dish that is for wait staff.

12 Wall September 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm

RE: Open the door for your date

I was always under the impression that a man should enter a restauraunt before the lady. Thus ensuring the lady doesn’t have all of the gazes of the other diners directed onto her at once.

13 David October 3, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Not only should you avoid “obviously” checking out other women, DON’T check out other women at all. Give your date the courtesy of 100% of your attention.

14 D-Roc October 5, 2008 at 12:28 pm


my rule is when I pre-bus the table is to just reset the salt/pepper and other stuff on the table, put my silverware on my plate and gather up paper garbage (if there is any, such as empty sugar packets, napkins, napkin bolos, etc). This also is dependent on where we are going. If it is a casual date, I tend to pre-bus more than if we go to a nice steakhouse or something like that. The other trick is to pre-bus just before leaving.

15 Chris October 24, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Is it also customary to stand up whenever your date gets up to go to the restroom or wherever? I’ve heard about doing this but never see it happen except for formal situations.

16 David C. December 3, 2008 at 2:53 pm

@Chris – Once upon a time, standing when a lady entered or left your presence was a time-honored tradition. These days, I think many women see it as odd or a bit creepy (mainly because it’s so uncommon).

That said, James Bond does it in Casino Royale, so I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be part of our culture today. ;)

17 david April 17, 2009 at 12:36 am

Don’t pre-bus the table. You most likely aren’t going to do it right and it just makes it harder for the waitstaff who already have certain habits and techniques to carry out dirty plates that you’ll inevitably be messing with.

18 britton September 27, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Don’t talk on the phone or text other people while on the date!

19 Philippine girls November 20, 2009 at 5:44 am

hello everyone!
@Ian Millard: I agree with you that is really an excellent website.

That’s right! Presentable look must be given special attention before meeting your date. Plus, just always be yourself and be natural as you show care and respect to your date.

Best of luck daters!

20 JimJams April 6, 2010 at 1:03 am

To pre-bus your table is ok, just do it right and timely as well.
Your showing respect to people, it makes everyone’s job easier and if your date hates it she probably is a uptight snobby bitch.

Someone should write an article on how to best do this.

21 C# May 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm

@ Wall: I frequently do not open the door for my wife for that reason: she told me that she feels uncomfortable going into new places first.

22 Ash May 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Yeah C# has a point – all of these rules are instantly disregarded if your date outright says she prefers you not to do a “do” or to do a “don’t”. Not that any of you would be daft enough to date a girl with a penchant for open-mouthed chewing or a rule against interesting conversation.

23 Jason June 7, 2010 at 2:33 am

I think the best way to deal with the door opening without having her go in first is to walk in, use your back arm (left, assuming the door isn’t some sort of freak door that opens the other way) to hold the door open and allow her to walk in.

24 peter June 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I pre-bus only because im OCD and I can’t stand dirty things not being piled together, but I won’t help the waiter pick up or stack the dishes.

2. the chair and the napkin and the bread thing would come off as just .. creepy on a first date, DON’T touch her food or her silverware unless you ask first.

25 Jason July 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Pick a place where you can sit next to her, instead of across the table. You’ll be in her comfort zone. While there, try nothing, be a perfect gentleman. That way she gets comfortable with you being that close to her. You can’t achieve that sitting across the table from her.

Really thinking about it, I wouldn’t do dinner on a first date. The likely hood is that you will have to sit across from her, and there is a time constraint. Sure, you can stay as long as you want, but at some point it is time to go. Do a really nice and trendy lounge, some place dressy. Chances are you’ll get to sit on a couch, right next to her, and you can stay as long as you want. Women actually like this because they have the feeling that they can leave when they want to if the date isn’t going well. At dinner you kind of have to wait for the check. But your plan is to wow her with your conversational skills, so she’ll forget that you aced her out of dinner. lol

26 Kio October 18, 2013 at 12:58 am

@ peter
If you look closely, it doesn’t say touch her bread or her napkin or silverware. And I personally find it quite charming and gentlemanly when a guy pulls out my chair for me. It’s not creepy. It shows respect, chivalry, which is evidently a dying art which I find most depressing, and it shows that you actually have manners if you pull out the chair for the girl, put your napkin on your lap, put your silverware in the proper places and eat bread PROPERLY. Buttering a half of a piece of bread and stuffing that in your mouth is disgusting and if you find her attractive in any way, you will not ‘score’ another date with her. I promise you that if you understand and learn proper table/dinner etiquette, you will find that it attracts more women than you would think. :)

27 northeastoutdoorsman November 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm

As a former waiter I agree that prebussing the table is highly annoying. It’s annoying from a waiters viewpoint and even more so from that of the dishwasher. Nothing is more irritating that fishing napkins and paper straw covers from the bottom of glasses before washing them. Don’t be a slob but remember your not the waiter.

Good article with good advice other than that though. Great site!

28 James Abel December 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Wow….who would have though pre-bussing a table would get some much time in comparison with the subject of the article. The purpose of mentioning pre-bussing was to show that you, as a man, don’t mind helping out and don’t consider cleaning a table beneath you. Whether or not it irritates the wait staff is kind of irrelevant to the situation. You aren’t trying to date the waiter/waitress. You are trying to show your date that you are thoughtful of other people. As a former busboy (long ago) I didn’t care one wit whether someone prebussed the table or not. I would have recognized it as the thoughtful gesture that it was instead of being mad about it, especially with the lack of polite customers in the service industry. As far as any comments about making you look low class if you pick up your dirty dishes, well, that is elitist snobbery and if I was dating a woman that felt that way, I would burn the tread off of my tires to get away from her. C’mon folks, prebussing the table isn’t the end of the world, even if it makes your server so mad they spit nails. It’s not like you are intentionally trying to be a difficult customer.

As far as the meat of the article, I agree with it. I think you could follow this list as a general guide and adjust to the situation as needed. Most people appreciate polite, clean, thoughtful dates and that just keeps you from being dismissed up front.

29 Perry December 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I always clean up my table.

But I don’t over do it, obviously.

Anyone who has a problem with it has issues.

It’s called being “nice.”

Maybe that would be great way to weed out the wrong kind of women. . . .

30 Renee Marchol January 30, 2014 at 12:58 am

I agree that a table topics volley makes a date fun!

31 John Kazoo April 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Another important couple of don’t’ s: 1) Don’t belch or cart in front of your date. That’s bad form. 2) Don’t scratch your crotch. Let her do that later for you. 3) Never spit food by talking. No woman wants to feel lime a paint ball target. 4) DO NOT PICK YOUR NOSE! Go to the shitter and harvest your nose fruit! Master these, and you’ll go far, young man.

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