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Singles Scene News
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Lunch date “how-to’s” for improving your social life
by Janet Jacobsen
Mar/Apr 2003

by Janet L. Jacobsen

So you’ve met someone interesting you’d like to ask out, but you’re awfully busy these days and are having trouble finding time to keep your social life going. There’s one date that solves the time problem, and is the kind of first date people are most likely to accept.

Sooner or later, everybody’s got to eat, and lunch is a useful meal. It works well as a date because normally you meet at the location, so there’s no hassle about getting picked up; the time commitment is short, so you only have to be on your best behavior for a little while; expense is minimal - it’s fairly easy to “go Dutch,” for that matter - so no one feels “obligated” (no worry about what they might expect in return); and if it’s terribly boring, you have to go back to work soon anyway.
And all the advantages of a lunch date apply whether you’re interested in romance, or just looking to make a new friend.

Since most of us will be coming to a lunch date from work, there are some qualities to look for in a lunch location, to guarantee the best possible date results (meaning that at least the place doesn’t ruin it for you).

1. Getting there should mean a minimum of hassle for the person you invite. Either it’s close to where they work, or in some way convenient for them (they’re going to be in the area that day anyway, for instance). If you insist on the maximum convenience for yourself, your guest may still agree to go, but you’ll have already lost some points. This also means you should be able to give very good directions on how to find the place.
(Yes, you should have a location in mind before you ask. The best course is to suggest a couple of possible places and then let the other person make the final choice.)

2. The food should be at least edible. You don’t have to dazzle them with the incredible cuisine, but you don’t want them seriously gagged, either. If the menu is clever, or some items unusual, that gives you something to talk about, but you don’t want your date to take one look and say, “I wouldn’t eat any of this.” (That’s what’s called “getting off to a bad start.”)
This means that if you’re going to a place that specializes in anything other than standard American, be sure the other person knows. I recently talked my brothers into meeting me for dinner at a placed called the American Grill, a semi-posh seafood/Americana place. They expected a burger joint. It was touch and go for a minute, but they’re still speaking to me.

3. The service needs to be fast. No doubt at least one of you will have to be back to work soon, which, allowing for travel time, may mean you only have a half hour for the whole experience. It’s best to mention to the server that you are somewhat pressed for time; most places will be conscientious if you give them a nudge.
Salad bars, Chinese restaurants, and any place with a buffet make for quicker meals. And most places have lunch specials, which will generally also be quick. Or get chicken-to-go and have a picnic.

4. The atmosphere should be conducive to conversation. This means the noise level is not unbearable, the help doesn’t behave like you’re holding up the line, and you are not packed in like boxed tea bags. If the surroundings are in some way quaint, charming, unusual, or anything else that would inspire a little conversation, so much the better. Clean is also very important.

5. The price is moderate. One special advantage of a lunch date is that many of the high price restaurants have a much more moderately priced lunch, so you get to make a ritzy impression at a middle-class price. (If you’re not sure it’s in your price range, call ahead and ask the cost of the restaurant’s average lunch. While you’re at it, if the restaurant will take them, it’s a good idea to make reservations.)

Of course, fast - and cheaper - food is ok if you know the other person likes it. But especially for a first date, a regular restaurant is probably better. You don’t risk making a “cheap” impression.

It may be that neither of you have control of your allotted lunch time (and if your lunch hours aren’t in sync, forget it), but if possible, schedule your date for either side of the normal noon-to-one madness. Try 11:45 or 1:15. You’ll feel less rushed, and the service will probably be better.
No matter when you go, be con-scious of the time. It’s fine if neither of you have to hurry back, but if you don’t and your date does, show your concern for their needs. Saying, “Oh, you can be a little late” essentially means that you’re not much concerned about the consequences for them.

Of course, week days aren’t the only days people eat lunch. In fact, if you’re inclined to spend the money a din-ner would cost, then consider a Sunday brunch, usually offered at hotels and resorts. They’re generally more expensive than the typical lunch, but about the same as a moderate-to-expensive dinner, de-pending on where you go. And for that you get an absolutely staggering choice of food, usually of high quality, and you can take hours to eat it. (Most are buffet style and run from about 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Again, best to make reservations.

Women who haven’t had a lot of practice asking a man out should find a lunch date relatively easy to handle. “Let’s get together for lunch one of these days. How about Tuesday?” seems less threatening than “Would you like to go out to dinner with me Tuesday?” (And remember, who asketh, payeth.)

In fact a lunch date is less threatening, less time, less money, less demanding, but just as good an opportunity to get acquainted, which, after all, is what dating is all about.