Coffee Date Etiquette & Tips

by Alex DiBacco
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coffee date etiquette / coffee date tips / dating advice

Coffee dates are great for first meetings or when you don’t know the person that well.

I’ve always thought of them as pretty simple encounters, but while writing this post, I realized how much behind-the-scenes coffee date etiquette actually exists.

There’s a few reasons why I always prefer a coffee date over anything else for the first meeting.

If you plan a dinner date, you can get sucked into a full evening of sitting across from each other when you might realize it’s not going to work within the first 10 minutes. It definitely feels like a waste of a night for both people!

The point of a coffee date is to meet in a casual, public location and see if there’s any interest. A coffee date will gently ease both parties in, and if it goes well, you can plan for a dinner date next time.

In my opinion, it’s a great way to gauge how interested you actually are without investing a ton of time into meeting the other person. That probably sounds bad, but since online dating is so normal now, it’s nice to have a quick way to met someone in a public space!

There really aren’t hard and fast coffee date etiquette rules, but because it’s such a speedy date, you should do your best to act politely or the other person will definitely notice.

Here are 5 coffee date tips that should help you get through it, at least in my experience!

1. Choose a Local Shop With Lots of Seating

It’s always nice to pick a quaint, local coffeeshop with some character rather than Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks.

Try to choose a place that’s usually on the quieter side and has lots of seating so that you’re almost guaranteed to get a table. Both of these things definitely help set the mood!

2. Show Up Early

This is super important to set the tone. Even though I’m a chronically late person (like sometimes hours late), I always arrived early to coffee dates in order to make sure I could get a table.

You never know when a coffee house will sporadically fill up, so the earlier the better. It’s pretty awkward if you don’t have anywhere to actually chat once you get a coffee.

Try to get a table off to the side or against the wall so that you can easily speak.

3. Offer to Pay

This is probably the least expensive date you could go on and the most two coffees will cost together is around $12. 

My personal preference (I’m traditional) is that the guy pays. This isn’t because I can’t pay for my own coffee (if I couldn’t buy the $2 iced tea that I always get then I’d be pretty worried) but because I feel like it’s a good indicator of generosity.

Of course this varies person to person and you should do what you’re comfortable with. 

If you stay more than a few hours, the other person will probably assume that the date is going well on your end. He/she might ask if you want to grab a bite to eat or a drink somewhere else.

In my experience that’s the natural progression of a coffee date, so if it isn’t actually going well on your end, then make sure you have a believable excuse as to why you’d have to bow out within the first hour or so.

While it isn’t great to lie, it also isn’t good etiquette to make the other person feel bad. Having a set excuse ahead of time that is true will make it easier to avoid any awkward moments. 

4. Make Small Talk and Ask Questions

coffee date etiquette / coffee date tips / dating advice

Similar to any date, you can ask the basic questions about where the person is from, his/her job, interests, siblings, etc. 

Try to keep the balance even between asking questions and talking about yourself. 

5. Don’t Spend Too Much Time On Your Phone

I asked some of my friends and family what they thought about each of these points, and being on your phone constantly was the worst in almost everyone’s opinion. Some people would actually get up and walk out.

We all know that it generally isn’t polite to be on your phone too much at any gathering, but we tend to do it anyways.

In this instance, the impoliteness of excessive phone use is super magnified. There’s only two of you sitting at one table, so if you’re on Instagram the whole time, the other person is basically left sitting to stare at you. 

If the other person is spending a ton of time on his/her phone, after a half hour you can definitely come up with an excuse to leave and get out of there. That’s not bad coffee date etiquette – it’s completely fair!

In my experience, answering one or two texts with a quick apology and explanation (“sorry I don’t mean to be rude, I just need to let my roommate know that I haven’t fed our dog yet”) is fine.

That’s the majority of the information that I have on coffee date etiquette. However, etiquette changes all the time and depends on the country/city/town you’re in, so take all of this with a grain of salt!

The importance of etiquette is always to be kind and treat others in a way that makes them feel good. Read my full blog post on the topic here.

Feel like I missed any important coffee date tips? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do some research for adding it in!

xo, Alex

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