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4-plus tips from Gainesville servers on how to pull off that first-date dinner
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Photo illustration with Seth Cordell. - photo by Austin Steele

Let’s be honest: First dates are the worst. They’re nerve-wracking and often downright scary. While we can’t help you with all the specifics, we can at least offer some tips from the people who have seen it all.

We asked a few servers in Gainesville how to pull off that first-date dinner, and they offered a few tips.

Put down the phone

Phones don’t belong at the dinner table — not to mention on a first date.

Eric Cain has been a server for 15 years, the last third of that being at Olive Garden in Gainesville.

Serving guests that are on a first date is sometimes sweet but usually awkward.

The easiest, quickest way to ruin a date is by ignoring who’s across the table.

“Put down the phone. It is seriously sad to see people with their face down in their phones, not talking,” Cain said. 

With your phone stowed securely in your pocket or purse, Cain also wants people to get back to other dinner-table basics.

“Be considerate to them. Don’t talk over your date. Listen and ask questions,” he said.

Bring cash or have a backup

You’ve hit it off with your date: She’s laughing; you’re making plans in your head for the second date — and then disaster strikes.

Your card gets declined.

If you want to avoid that sinking feeling in your stomach, that rush of red to your face, bring cash or have a backup payment plan, said Shelby Garrett.

Garrett, another server at the Gainesville Olive Garden, has been the bearer of this particular kind of bad news on too many dates in her time as a server.

She also said people need to square up on who’s paying for dinner earlier rather than later.

“It’s very awkward when the server asks, ‘One check or two?’ and the guests just look at each other. If you plan on paying, make it clear and speak up,” Garrett said. 

These tips might seem a little obvious, but they’re worth saying.

Be cool and brush your teeth

Longhorn Steakhouse server Guillermo Casas has seen too many first dates go wrong when someone tries too hard or shows up looking too sloppy.

Casas has been a server for roughly eight years, and just moved to Longhorn from Chili’s in Gainesville. 

Putting on airs or trying to impress are the biggest ways people ruin first dates. When on a first date be sure to relax, breathe and be in the moment. 

“Just have fun and enjoy the company,” Casas said. 

Be sure to check yourself before you go in, he said, or you’ll regret it. Teeth, hair, nose, face and deodorant checks are crucial and can help you relax if you’re not worried about it. 

Here's a tough one: Be nice

Don’t just be nice to your date — if you’re rude to the wait staff, your date will notice.

The servers will too, believe it or not.

This piece of advice may seem apparent, but it seems to be forgotten on many first dates.

“Being able to joke and make conversation with your server shows how your date interacts with other people,” Garrett said. 

Once you’ve been a server, you watch how others treat people, specifically those in service positions. Being nice and showing you can treat others with decency and kindness goes a long way, Garrett said. 

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