Most of us were left at home or sheltering-in-place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t stop singles in their quest for love. In fact, in March 2020, online dating saw a huge spike in user activity when cities across the USA began shutting down. Apps like Bumble recorded a near 25% increase in sent messages and Tinder reported their highest swipe day in history, with over 3 billion swipes at the end of the month. By April 2020, some dating apps were recording a record 70% increase in video calls.
Although online and video dating remains an active part of the getting-to-know-you process, many singles have said that by the second video chat, they’re ready to meet in-person. Daters have also experienced Zoom fatigue, noting that the virtual dating experience can be lonely.
How do you date and dine in-person safely during COVID? Here are five tips on how to incorporate safe dating into your trips to safe restaurants in the new normal.
1) Choose the right dining space
Most of the folks polled on our team said if they’re going to be meeting someone new in-person, they feel much more comfortable doing it outside. While many restaurants across the country have expanded their seating to provide outdoor dining options, some establishments are still only able to accommodate diners with indoor seating. While we recommend starting with outdoor seating for a first time meetup, start by checking with your date ahead of time to assess their comfort level.
2) Share the restaurant’s guidelines beforehand
Most restaurants are running on limited seating capacities, so reservations are a must right now. Along with booking ahead, many restaurants have new and updated safety guidelines and diner protocols. Before you fully confirm the time and place with your date and lock in your reservation, make sure your special someone is comfortable with the restaurant’s health and safety guidelines, such as temperature checks at the door, table time limits, or pre-ordering food items.
3) Give your date some space
When you first see that person you’ve been chatting with for days (or, weeks), your instinct might be to hug and get close as an expression of familiarity, but now is the time to give some added space (see the NYT post on How to Hug During a Pandemic if air-hugs aren’t you or your dates thing). Try to keep your mask on until you’re seated, spaced apart, and you’re in the clear to take it off. If you’re sitting at a booth, stick to opposite sides of the table. At a four-person table? Sit across from your date and not next to them. Anything you can do to help maintain a comfortable distance is key right now and will likely make the experience that much more pleasant for both of you on a first-time meet up.
4) Approach shareable plates differently
Many first dates start as drinks only, but daters all know how that goes...You’re having a nice chat, things are going well, you’re up for one more round, but you need something to go along with that next cocktail. Splitting an appetizer or a dessert might be your usual go-to menu option, but now may not be the best time for you to be diving into the same dish. Ask the waitstaff to split any shared dishes for you onto separate plates. If that’s not really feasible for your cookie skillet, grab a set of separate serving utensils for you and your date.
5) Take it to go
For some singles, mustering up the courage to date in person during a pandemic is hard enough, let alone dining out at a restaurant. If your date just isn’t comfortable heading into a restaurant right now, be respectful. There are other ways to share a drink or a meal to get to know someone that doesn’t involve sitting at a restaurant. Grab a to-go margarita and tacos to share with your special someone at the park. Order to-go smoothies or lattes and head out for a stroll to get to know your date in familiar surroundings. With almost all restaurants offering creative and multiple takeaway options right now, the possibilities are endless.
Will hand sanitizer become the new breath mint that you offer up to your date? Only time will tell. In the meantime, date and dine safely in the new normal, and continue to be a Trust20 model diner whenever you (and your date) visit restaurants.