Coffee dates are one of the most popular first dates. Why? Well, they’re inexpensive, can be as long or short as you want, happen in a public place, and did we mention that coffee is awesome?! But with such a simple date and not a lot else going on, how do you ensure the coffee date is a success?
In this guide, we’re going to get to the bottom of that one. Grab your favorite latte and take a seat as we share our favorite coffee date tips
1. Size Matters – Order Appropriately
At the risk of overwhelming you, yes, the size of your coffee you order does make a difference. And no, we’re not talking about looking silly at Starbucks trying to order a medium instead of a Grande.
If it’s a first date, we recommend shying away from the larger sizes, even if that’s your norm. Why? Well, larger coffees take longer to drink. And if the date doesn’t work out and you want to bail, finishing your drink is the most natural way to do that. If you bail half way through your coffee, it might be a bit more awkward.
Ideally, the medium (or grande) is the best sized coffee for a first date. If you order the small, it looks like you’re trying to get out of their fast, but the large locks you in without an awkward exit in the case things go poorly.
If it’s someone you’ve been out with before and know you like, order any size you want! The odds you’ll need a quick exit are a lot lower in this situation, so just get what you enjoy the most.
2. Make It Clear It’s a Date
Coffee is casual. You can literally grab coffee with just about anyone—family, friends, coworkers, random people, etc. So, how do you go about ensuring the person you’re on a date with knows it’s a date?
One option is to make things a little more special by picking an upscale or unique location Think something outside of a generic Starbucks filled with Millennials typing away on their laptops. If you aren’t sure of where to go, ask your friends or ask Google for unique coffee spots in your city.
Second, you should mention that it’s a date. Ideally, this should be done when you ask them to coffee, but if you didn’t, you’re going to want to get that out somehow, even if it’s awkward. Otherwise, expect to spend hours and days after the “date” trying to figure out if it was actually a date.
Third, be sure to bring your flirting game with you. This is how you can set the tone for the entire experience and make it about more than just grabbing coffee. Don’t go over the top here especially on a first date, but do your best to make it clear you’re here for romantic reasons.
3.Select a Neutral and Safe Location
Picking out the coffee shop you want to take your date too is a bit more than just looking for the funkiest or coolest thing out there. You obviously want to pick a location in a non-conspicuous place that’s well-lit and has plenty of people around. Don’t choose a coffee shop that has to be accessed through a back alley, even if you’re meeting up during the daytime. Select something as normal and non-sketchy as possible. It’s going to make your date feel a lot more comfortable.
Additionally, think about logistics and convenience. Make sure the location of the coffee shop is an equal distance between where your date and you will be traveling from. If you don’t mind traveling further than your date, then perhaps suggest a coffee shop closer to where your date will be traveling from. This is a great option if you know your date is meeting up with you directly after work, so they don’t have to rush to try and get across town.
4. Scout Out the Location
Wow, such an important step! You’ve heard of try it before you buy it, right? Well, you need to go to the location and check it out before your date if at all possible. Don’t just look at pictures online from the latest Yelp review or the coffee shops website gallery; go in person.
What are you looking for? Well…
- What is the atmosphere like?
- Will you be able to talk to each other?
- Do they play obnoxiously loud music in the background?
- Is the place cluttered with people on their laptops?
- Is it so busy you’ll never get a table?
- Do they have live events happening at their coffee shop during the hours you plan to meet up with your date? Maybe they have slam poetry night scheduled, or even karaoke, these could be total deal breakers for your date.
- And most important…Test the coffee. If it’s bad and you suggested it, not good.
Whatever the situation, you’ll want to check it out first to make sure it’s the right setting for your date. After all, it should only be a backdrop to your evening, not the main event. Scope it out.
5. Be on Time
We can’t stress this enough—be on time. Your date is in those beginning stages of getting to know you, and you don’t want to give them a bad impression of who you are. Make sure you arrive a few minutes early to ensure you’re on time.
If you happen to get there really early, don’t make them feel like they need to rush. Even if you arrive 10-15 minutes before them, wait to text them you that you’ve arrived to the coffee shop until about 5 minutes before your scheduled meeting time. Remember, they are on their way to meet you. They could be riding their bike, driving through traffic, on the train, parking a car, tipping a cab driver, etc.
Why is this so important? Arriving on time for a meeting with someone is a sign of respect. It is your way of showing that person you not only take them seriously, but you respect them and know their time (like yours) is valuable. Rarely do people who arrive late for a first date receive a second date, unless they did their due diligence to communicate proactively with their date they would be late.
6. Know Your Order Ahead of Time
Knowing your order ahead of time is not only a great way to save time, but it helps you to appear more confident and decisive. You don’t want to spend a ton of time reading the menu and after several minutes still not knowing what you want to drink. If you have never been to the coffee shop you are meeting at, then use your Googler and look at the coffee shop’s menu online beforehand. This also makes you a great resource if your coffee date is struggling to make a selection.
Don’t default to the “I’ll just have whatever they’re having” mindset. Most people find this sort of ordering extremely unattractive in a date. Be prepared and know your order in advance so you can show your confident side.
7. Be Aware of Your Reaction
If your coffee order is wrong… do not get upset or freak out about it on the server or barista. Unless the issue has something to do with an allergy (like, say you are allergic to dairy and you asked specifically for coconut milk), then you should absolutely let them know as nicely as possible about the issue. And even if it is an allergy issue, you can still be cordial about that.
If it’s only a slight error in your coffee order, it may be best to just roll with it even if that is not your natural inclination or what you would normally do. Mistakes happen; it’s what makes us all human. As an added bonus, your date may find it refreshing and attractive to know that although your coffee order was wrong you are a person of empathy and understanding willing to let it go.
You don’t want to scare off someone you are just beginning to get to know because they were turned off with how mad you got about your coffee order being incorrect. Although, if you are the type to get seriously upset over “spilt milk” then maybe it’s time for some self-reflection and change.
8. Don’t Revisit the Same Location
If you already took a date to a particular coffee shop, don’t do a repeat anytime soon. The chances are high you could potentially run into your former date, especially if they loved the spot. This would be awkward to say the least. There are a lot of different coffee shop locations and options out there, so mix it up if you are a bit of a serial coffee shop dater.
Also, remember not to bring your date to your favorite coffee hangout if you are in the beginning stages of dating. Look, we are protecting you here… Say the two of you split up; we don’t want you to lose your favorite coffee hangout in the process. If you end up dating for a while it’s totally okay to introduce your new beau to your favorite cup of joe.
9. It’s Coffee, Not Filet Mignon
Dress casually and comfortably; you’re going for coffee not filet mignon. It’s totally okay to dress up a little and look nice, but it’s ideally best to match the casual nature of the date. Just make sure you don’t interpret dressing casually as don’t dressing like a slob. First impressions are everything in the early stages of dating, so put effort into your appearance and dress, just don’t go overboard.
10. Stay Focused
Coffee shops are busy places with lots of people coming and going. Be sure to stay focused on your date, and remember to make eye contact. You don’t want to be looking at every single person who walks by. You also don’t want your date to think you might be checking out everyone else walking by, or that you are some sort of creeper. It is important to be in the moment, so don’t worry about people walking around behind you or in your peripheral vision.
Some people are more easily distracted than others, and they may find it incredibly difficult to stay focused on their date. For these people, we recommend picking a point somewhere in the middle of the table between you and your date, and whenever you know someone is going to pass by look at this spot on the table and then immediately look back up into your dates eyes It will force your brain to refocus on the task at hand.
Just ensure you do this as casually and naturally as possible so your date isn’t trying to figure out what it is you’ve been staring at on the table, lol! This is also a great trick to utilize if you’re nervous.
Put your phone (and smartwatch if you have one) on do not disturb mode because you want your date to know you are completely focused on them and nothing else. Additionally, put your phone in your pocket and don’t bring it out until the date is over. The “on the table” or “on the table and flipped over” look doesn’t really convey that this person is important to you.
And even if they aren’t the best with this one, you should still do it. This isn’t the time to jump into the “well if they can do it, so can I” mentality. Be the respectful one, and earn those brownie points.
12. Share Something Sweet
We’re not talking about telling your date about how you like to volunteer on the weekends at the local animal shelter or elderly retirement home, we’re literally talking about sharing something sweet, like a slice of cake. Although, sharing your fun stories about washing the dogs at the local shelter will certainly earn you brownie points with your date (pun intended).
Sharing a sweet treat with someone is not only a great way to bond, but research shows that individuals are more open to situations and conversation while they are eating. Also, sugar releases those happy chemicals in our brains making us more relaxed and comfortable in the situation.
Whether you want to be more intimate with your date and share the same slice of indulgence, or you’re a bit of a germaphobe and prefer your own plate, either way, having something sweet involved in the equation is like the cherry on top of the sundae. 🙂
13. Remember F.O.R.E.
This is super important! Coffee shops are ideal date locations for getting to know someone through conversation, but you don’t need to think too hard about what to talk about beforehand. Just try to remember F.O.R.E. People love to talk about themselves because it’s the thing they are more knowledgeable about, and F.O.R.E. will help you to engage with them.
What is F.O.R.E.? Glad you asked!
F.O.R.E. stands for family, occupation, recreation and education. You don’t need to create conversation about these topics in that same order, but it does give you the main topics you should cover when trying to create conversation with someone. You don’t need to get every detail of their life regarding these areas, after all it’s just coffee.
Steer clear of asking super in-depth questions such as “how many students were in your organic chemistry class?” That would just be strange. Just be cool and relax… you’ve got this.
Use these topics to help start the conversation, and if you hit a weird moment of silence then revert to the F.O.R.E. acronym to see if there is an area you haven’t yet spoken about. You date will think you are a great communicator, and they will also think you are truly interested in getting to know them.
We recommend starting with questions surrounding family first. These questions would include where they are from, where they live now, how many siblings they have, etc. Next, we recommend asking them about their education background, although remember this is not a job interview
14. Have the Next Step Ready
Okay—so let’s say it goes very well at the coffee shop, then what? Be sure to have the next step ready. Your date may not have planned much after your coffee date in the hopes it would go well and the two of you might want to venture onto something else afterwards. Have a game plan ready if things go well, and “coincidentally” neither of you have plans after coffee.
Think of several options of things you could do in the area near the coffee shop, maybe there is a great secondhand book store and your date loves to read, or maybe there is an antiques show or farmer’s market happening nearby. Or if you want to keep it really easy, based on the timing of the date, you might want to have a few restaurants in mind.
If things go well and you get that vibe that they don’t want to leave, you can always say, “Hey I don’t know if you’re busy, but I’m having a blast getting to know you and was planning on grabbing dinner after this. Want to join me?”
It’s that easy.
The Bottom Line
There is no need to ever have a boring coffee date again. The concept of coffee may not be anything super spectacular (although we think it is), but it is an inexpensive way to have a great time getting to know someone.
Its surprisingly much easier to make conversation over coffee than trying to time your conversation over restaurant food courses and your server constantly butting in to ask your table the obligatory “how’s everything tasting” question.
With these helpful coffee date tips, you can prepare yourself for an amazing coffee date that you’ll remember for years to
Written By: Matthew J. Seymour, MSF
Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.
Reviewed By: Grady Shumway, LCSW
Grady Shumway, LCSW is a licensed social worker with specialized training in the mental health areas of depression, anxiety, trauma, psychotic disorders, and various other diagnoses. Trained in cognitive behavioral interventions, motivational interviewing, and moral recognition therapy, and holding a Masters of Social Work from Arizona State University, Grady has extensive experience working with individuals and families through various life challenges. At Healthy Framework, Grady serves as a mental health and counseling expert assisting the editorial team in ensuring that dating advice articles, dating app recommendations, and other resources are inline with best practices and provide information in the most helpful manner possible to readers.