The world of dining and drinking is an obstacle course wrapped in a labyrinth wrapped in a logic puzzle — it’s full of pitfalls, gray areas, and bewildering questions that really shouldn’t even be questions (How do I find the bathroom?) and yet, somehow, are. Fortunately, your friends at Eater are here to help: Life Coach is a series of simple guides to the arcane rituals of modern dining. Have a question or a quandary you’d like us to tackle? Drop Life Coach a line.
Breakups are the absolute worst. There’s crying, hyperventilating, questioning, yelling, and wailing — which is why you never want to share this experience with the public. That especially goes for restaurants where people are trying to enjoy a meal.
There’s an urban legend going around Twitter that a couple went out to a fancy restaurant one evening, and the woman thought she would leave with an engagement ring on her finger, but the man had another idea. He broke up with her, and the dining room mistook her distraught crying for tears of joy and erupted in applause. This story also happens to be a plot twist in Legally Blonde, so who knows the validity of the tale.
It’s really shitty to break up with someone in a public dining space. But sometimes, you might feel like it’s the only real option. If you insist, there are a few things you can do to lessen your soon-to-be moniker as “that asshole who broke up with me in my favorite restaurant, and now I can never go back.”
1. Sit at the bar
Beyond ruining your partner’s evening/week/month/life, there are innocent bystanders involved in this situation — namely, your server. As you break the bad news before the entree arrives, there could be tears and tension. It’s already awkward for you, the deliverer, to navigate, but your server is just trying to take your order and clear your plates.
Not only is it uncomfortable for staff and everyone around you, but when you plunk down at a two-top, you are renting space in someone else’s place of work. When I was a server, I once witnessed a breakup between the appetizers and entrees, and the couple proceeded to cry it out for two hours, not only making it tense for everyone around the table, but losing me a much-needed profitable turn on the seats. A seat at the bar allows your date to make a quick exit and save face or a chance to stay and drink the memory of you away with less disruption to the flow of the dining room.
2. Earlier is better
There’s never really a good time to deliver this sort of news, but if one must pick an opportune moment to end a relationship in restaurant, do it during the drinks portion of the meal before any orders are taken. Your date can decide to throw that martini at you and leave or suggest you take the discussion elsewhere. It’s difficult to fathom anyone being so well adjusted that they would willingly stay and have a meal after having their heart broken.
3. Avoid high-end restaurants and bars
It would be terrible to allow your date to get dressed up and leave their home thinking they’re about to have a nice evening out, when in actuality they’re about to get dumped. If it’s the sort of place where normal people would go to get engaged (think: romantic, white tablecloth spots), then you really don’t want to break bad news over bread there.
Fast-casual at a slow time of the day could work. You don’t want to go when it’s busy and risk your date screaming obscenities loud enough for the children to hear. Buffets would be awkward. Sushi is too easy to hurl at your head. Italian is too romantic. Don’t even think about French. Soul food will be of no comfort. Pretty much, you’re left with fast food. At least if you broke up over Shake Shack, your partner could take their burger with them.
4. Go to their neighborhood
Don’t make your date go out of their way to get to you, if you’re just going to dump them. If you make your partner schlep it downtown, when they live uptown, then you better have a car waiting when they storm out on you. Pay for their Uber. It’s the classy move.
5. Bring cash
The best way to ensure a quick exit is to settle up in cash. There’s nothing more awkward than waiting around for a card to get swiped. Bring enough money in the right sized bills to close out your tab quickly and get the hell out. If your date decides to stay, you can leave them money for the tab or taxi.
6. Leave a large tip
Spontaneous breakups happen. Sometimes we can control the specific venue. But no matter where you sit, no matter which restaurant you visit, remember to tip BIG. After all, you just made the evening weird for everyone. No, really, even the dishwasher heard that you are a jerk.
7. Never go to that restaurant again
Sorry, you’re banned. The staff remembers what you did. And especially don’t bring your new date. That’s just tacky.
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