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Overnight Expert: How to Master the First Date

Ace a dinner date with these tips from a restaurant manager who’s spent years watching first dates flop or fly high.

Filled with awkward pauses, off-limits topics, and the pressure to impress someone you barely know, first dates are tricky. But there are a few shortcuts to success in this area, according to restaurant manager Talia Berman, whose profession has given her a front-row seat to watching first dates fall short and fly high for years. Want to learn from other guys' restaurant-date mistakes? Follow Talia's tips on how to secure an easy win the first time around.

The New Rules of Dating >>>

Do your homework

Meeting for the first time creates enough mystique on its own–make sure you are prepared in as many ways as possible. Think back to your prior conversations. Has she mentioned a food she wants to try or a neighborhood that she wants to check out? Once you’ve made your choice, make a restaurant reservation, and do some research. Does the place turn into a nightclub at 11 p.m.? Is the restaurant famous for margaritas? Know this, and share this information with her. It shows that you were thoughtful enough to spend more than the five minutes before you saw her to plan the date. Also do a little research on her. No, we don't condone stalking. But if you've spoken at all before the date, you should have noted any details she mentioned about herself; be sure to brush up on them before the date. If you ask her where she's from, even though she already told you on the phone, it might seem like you're dating too many women, or just aren't attentive. 

Don’t be afraid of chivalry! It’s not dead…

Pull out a chair, open a door, let her order first–these old-school moves go a long way. But more importantly, pay attention to her experience–this is what chivalry is all about these days. Before you order another round of drinks, make sure she wants the same thing that she's sipping now. If she isn’t drinking her wine, she might not like it, so ask her. Then you get to do the dirty work of asking the server for something else, and she gets to admire your assertiveness. You both win (but especially you).  

Make a good impression

Focusing on her is important, but don't forget that she is focusing on you. So be your best self: Tip well, fold your napkin, and be nice to the staff wherever you dine. Making friends with your server is an easy way to turn an OK meal into a fantastic one. Also important: wear something appropriate that makes sense for the location. Take off your coat or hat, otherwise it will look like you don't plan to stay very long. 

Forget about money

Don’t pick somewhere super pricey, thinking you will impress her. Fancy places are land mines for uncomfortable moments–she might feel underdressed, worry about ordering something too expensive or the tone may be too formal. Somehow the stakes immediately rise with the prices, so it's better to keep things relaxed in terms of mood and money.

Take the lead...

In most cases, your date wants you to be in charge, so don't waste time fumbling around to figure out who should take charge. If she is fidgeting, ask for the check, get it, pay it, and get out of there. If she seems unsure of what to order, offer to order a couple of things to share. Don’t worry if it’s the wrong call–she’ll be happy you were man enough to make a decision.

…and get it done

Independent women are happy to stick up for what they want–you should be too. If you want to continue the date elsewhere, do it. She’ll decline if she isn't into it. Then you'll be back at tip #1.

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