Matchmakers Reveal the Secrets of the Most Romantic Restaurants (Video)The recipe for romance involves cozy seating, warm lighting and a great back story.
Despite the ubiquity of online dating, some singles still crave a more personal touch when it comes to romance. Enter professional matchmakers, who not only introduce their clients to potential partners, but also plan their dates. They arrange the perfect activity, often dinner at a charming restaurant, to help the pair fall head over heels — or at least get to know each other a little better.
Since the venue can influence the success of a date, matchmakers carefully curate each spot they send their clients to, looking for the perfect combination of ambience, cuisine and character.
So what is the recipe for a romantic restaurant? We asked five matchmakers from Tawkify, a company that offers full-service matchmaking in major U.S. cities, about the secrets of romantic restaurants. Here’s what they look for when planning dinner dates for their clients.
Eager to impress, people are particularly vulnerable during a first date. They often worry they’re going to blurt out something awkward or catch unwanted attention from others nearby. Private tables are key to making these dates more seamless, said matchmaker Alyssa Bunn.
“Communal and bar seating is popular in trendy restaurants, but private tables with space create a comfortable setting to get to know each other,” she said.
If the date is going well, the couple might want to cozy up next to each other over dessert — hence why matchmaker Kimia Mansoor looks for shareable seating at restaurants for her clients.
“My secret for romantic restaurants? Side-by-side seating, as opposed to across the table. Sitting next to your date allows for those sultry side smiles and possibly even a little physical touch, perfect for making those sparks fly.”
A corner booth tucked toward the back might offer just the right level of intimacy for diners on dates.
The menu can make a big difference in how romantic a restaurant feels. It’s less about the type of cuisine served, and more about the size of the meals, said matchmaker Tania Abramova.
“While it’s difficult to account for people’s varying culinary tastes, a restaurant with a wide selection of appetizers or small plates is ideal. Committing to a full meal can make the date feel too formal or set financial expectations that might be uncomfortable for some.”
The experience of sharing the same foods during a meal creates a sense of closeness between people, she added. It gives the couple something to discuss while learning about each other.
“Sharing an appetizer or tapas is more intimate, easier on the wallet and a fun, collaborative activity,” she said.
The right volume
The most romantic restaurants strike a perfect balance in background noise. Matchmakers look for spots that use audio elements to enhance the experience, rather than distract from it, said Bunn.
“Music impacts our emotions, which in turn impacts our mood and impression of the date. If the date is inside, I chose an atmosphere that has melodic tunes. Perhaps most importantly, a venue should never be too quiet, as you can feel like others’ are eavesdropping, or too loud, as you cannot hear one another, and more often than not, your date will not tell you, but just nod and agree.”
If your restaurant offers al fresco dining, use your landscaping to create a natural audio backdrop, said Bunn. Hang a bird feeder nearby to draw the chirps of feathered friends, or introduce a small waterfall or fountain to share the soothing sounds of running water. Or, stream nature sounds through your speakers — if the date’s going well, they won’t even be able to tell the difference.
Warm, flattering lighting
Lighting sets the mood for a romantic date. Use soft, warm lighting to cast a flattering glow on your diners, said matchmaker Candice Cain.
“I browse photos of the restaurant online. If it looks either too bright or too dark, it’s a no-go for a date. Restaurants with a light source on the table, such as a candle or a tiny lamp, are wonderful and really set the mood.”
During the daytime, make use of sunlight pouring in through your windows, added Bunn. The natural glow will help both your restaurant and the diners look their very best.
A great story
More than anything, a restaurant with a compelling story can create a genuine sense of intrigue and romance. Sharing the reasons you created your restaurant and why you poured your heart into it will appeal to people in budding relationships, said matchmaker Jennifer Magana.
“I always read the ‘About’ section of websites and news articles on potential venues to uncover the restaurant’s origin story,” she said. “Who are the owners? Where do they come from and what were they doing before making their restaurant dreams come true?”
What qualities make a restaurant’s story compelling? “Pride, passion, heart and community collaboration,” said Magana.
For example, she likes that the story of Sandrino Pizza & Vino in Sausalito, California, features a husband-and-wife team from Italy, who live just five blocks away from their restaurant and “treat their patrons like guests in their home.” Magana also appreciates that Wine Down in San Francisco is run by women and supports women-owned businesses whenever possible.
Your origin story should help your restaurant evolve from just a place to eat into a heartfelt destination in its own right.
“These are real people with real dreams who believe in the labor of love. What better way to nurture true connections between people than to choose a venue that incorporates these elements?” asked Magana.
Set the mood for romance at your restaurant. If you help couples connect on their first date, you can bet they’ll be back for anniversary celebrations to come.