It's a debate as old as time: where is the best place to go on a first date? Whether you opt for swanky restaurants or prefer a low-key affair at your local pub, choosing where to take your new squeeze is a hotly contested topic right now.
This week, a list detailing the places 'women refuse to go on a first date' has sparked a lively debate online, after it heavily featured chain restaurants. According to the list, which was compiled by multiple women in the US, ‘Any Fast Food Chain’ is off limits, as is Starbucks and Chipotle. Sports events, family functions, coffee dates and the cinema are all also off limits, as is ‘Somewhere That Requires A Long Drive’ and, put simply, ‘Your Place.’
Ok, some of the places on the list do make sense (it takes a brave person to sweat out a first date at the gym). But lots of the other suggestions enraged Instagram users, who took to the comments section to share their thoughts. Some suggested that the women who made the list are picky, with one user writing ‘Just don’t date at this point.’ Others leapt to the defence of their favourite chain restaurants. One user wrote ‘Wait, what’s wrong with Starbucks?’ while another added ‘What’s wrong with Chipotle, ice cream and coffee?’ A third wrote ‘Our first date was Wingstop and sitting on a lake… it don’t take much (we’re engaged now)’
The debate about dating at chain restaurants is nothing new though. Last week, a video of a woman refusing to get out of the car because her date had taken her to Cheesecake Factory, a popular chain restaurant in the US, went viral. In the clip, she tells her date, ‘This is a chain restaurant. Who takes someone who looks like this to a chain restaurant? A woman should be cared for and cherished.’ The man responded by saying, ‘I went into this date with the expectations for myself to keep you safe, to respect you, to pay for your food, of course.’
After the video went viral, Sunny Hostin, a US lawyer and host of daytime talk show The View, defended the Cheesecake Factory. ‘I want to stand up for the Cheesecake Factory ‘cause I go there every week,’ she said. She shared that she has a ‘very nice time’ at the chain and revealed her go-to order - Tex Mex egg rolls and chicken dumplings. ‘I'm very surprised because there's also a debate online about places you should never take a first date,’ she continued. ‘I must be a very cheap date because I like Chili's, I like Chipotle.’
In the UK, chain restaurants have a long-standing relationship with dating. Popping for a 'cheeky Nando's' is basically a dictionary term now, and earlier this year the chain even made a new dating show, which featured Munya Chawawa solving people’s love dilemmas. Jack Whitehall famously took his ex-girlfriend Gemma Chan to Nando’s for their first date and Prince Harry has even been spotted at the chain.
It's easy to see the appeal. Firstly, you always know what you're going to get, which could be helpful in easing those first date nerves. Perusing the menu at Pizza Express is more of a habit than a necessity, because you're probably going to get the same order as always, and you know it's going to be good. You rarely have to queue to get a table and they tend to be reasonably priced. On the other hand, the lighting is often unflattering and they can be noisy. You win some, you lose some.
If in doubt, stick to the pub, which feels like a middle ground between a fancy restaurant and your local chain. If the date goes well, you could always pop by Nando's to sober up on your way home...