Dating in any big city is a struggle, especially in San Francisco. This is a place where people come and go and you don’t know when they’ll be back, or if ever. This is the center of a digital mecca, where bad experiences on all the dating apps are pretty much normalized.
But if you want to increase your odds of finding your next date AND actually meet with them face-to-face in a low-pressure setting (Delicious food included!), there’s a way.
Meet Piña Colada.
I first heard about Piña Colada when one of my professional connections liked a post from someone named Kati Schmidt on LinkedIn. Turned out Kati is the founder and CEO of Piña Colada, and she has a pretty awesome background as a female immigrant from Germany and an early employee of Airbnb. In the post, Kati talked about hosting her first group dinner date and how to get in on the next one. As someone who’s always willing to try anything once and wanted to expand her romantic prospects, I jumped right in (Even though she already had me at “dinner” and “date”)!
To be considered for a Piña Colada group dinner date, you first need to fill out a quick survey that asks for some basic information — where in the Bay Area you live, what gender you’re interested in — along with some questions about your personality and lifestyle (i.e. Are you a couch potato? An optimist/realist/pessimist?). There are also some fill-in-the-blank questions called Conversation Starters, and the answers are shared with your group (anonymously) on the evening of the dinner. Piña Colada curates your dinner group (six to eight singles in all) based on this survey.
It took a couple of weeks for me to receive an invitation for a dinner on the Wednesday evening on May 23rd. In order to reserve your spot, you must pay for the dinner pretty much within 24 hours of receiving the invite. The tag is about a $$$ on the Yelp pricing scale, but it’s inclusive of your full meal, a drink, gratuity, and the work put into matching. As Kati mentioned in an interview with Bob Cut Magazine, “Because of the financial and time commitment, it weeds out people who are just looking for a hookup.” Smart!
Piña Colada is officially partnered with The Perennial, a sophisticated yet down-to-earth sustainable restaurant right near the Twitter building. That’s where my group dinner date took place. There was not really a dress code, but I felt way overdressed compared to everyone else in my group. In fact, I felt so overdressed that I was embarrassed to take my coat off.
However, despite feeling out of place in my clothes, I was struck by how warm and friendly everyone in my group was. And the guys (for my own pursuits)? I thought “Wow, this is a pretty good-looking bunch” too. We all settled into the bar area with our cocktails and some avocado toast-like appetizer and cheers’d to making new friends.
It was only a matter of time that we were escorted to our table, where we were first served a salad, family-style. Then we all chowed down on our entrees. I believe I was one of the two folks who ordered the Full Tilt Farms roasted chicken with buttery morels, snap peas, pickled garlic scapes, hash browns, and strawberries — it was as filling and delicious as it sounds.
Our table had spent a good time talking as a group and to each other individually, but I was the one who wanted to take advantage of the Conversation Starters. I tried to guess who wrote each answer and I was half-successful on my picks. I was actually most embarrassed about not knowing the names my group mates wrote for their own dream dinner dates.
For dessert, I chose the How the Kernza Crumbles — chocolate mousse & sourdough crumble, date ice cream, and fig leaf meringue. Just like all the other dishes I had that night, I loved how all the distinct flavors complemented well together.
But enough about the food — what happened with me and the people in my group? Well, we actually got a text message from Piña Colada suggesting a bar to go to so we all could hang out more, but we all passed on that. Instead, we all simply hugged each other goodbye and went our separate ways.
Piña Colada followed up with us early the next morning and asked who we wanted to match with, but honestly, there really wasn’t a single standout. I loved the whole experience and I really enjoyed everyone’s company. I basically responded with “Give everyone my email address, they’re all welcome to reach out.”
Much like all the dating apps I’m on though, I never heard from anyone. Womp womp!
But this experiment wasn’t at all a failure to me. I treasure the human experience. I treasure being able to look someone in the eye, speak to them, and listen to them. Sometimes it goes nowhere after the fact, but in the moment, it can be a lovely feeling and that’s something a dating app can’t really provide. And when you throw in fancy yet sustainable food? How could anyone say no to that?
Also, I’d totally do it again, because food, drinks, and cool people.
There’s no better time to try out Piña Colada. It’s growing and the service prides itself on being inclusive. Ages of attendees range from the early 20s to late 60s and the service recently hosted same-sex group dinners. It’s also planning on expanding its restaurant partnerships with locations in San Francisco, the East Bay, and the South Bay.
My advice for my fellow Bay Area singles is:
- Try Piña Colada at least once. I think it’s a must-have experience when you’re living the single life on this part of the West Coast.
- Go in with an empty stomach. Duh.
- Talk about the Conversation Starters if no one else does. They’re fun!
- Don’t feel pressured to make romantic connections — but you may click with your next workout partner, travel buddy, mentor, etc. Being open to all types of connections is key, not just for dating.
- Enjoy the conversations, company, and food, and whatever happens after that will happen.
Ready to meet awesome local single folks and eat to your heart’s content? Check out the Piña Colada website for all the details you need to know and fill out their matching survey (If this is your first time hearing about Piña Colada, make sure you mention you heard about it through Karen Datangel’s blog post!). Then follow them on Facebook to stay updated on their calendar and also on Twitter and Instagram.
Here’s to not swiping for once!