Progressive Dinner group of people in a restaurant

Progressive Dinner

The progressive dinner is a lot of fun but can wind up being expensive, depending on where you go. By “progressive” no I am not referring to politics. The term progressive is used because the date builds upon each other with each place that you visit. I actually heard about this idea while in college. The main draw about this is the opportunity to visit different restaurants and sample something at each. You won’t have a whole meal at each place, which might seem odd, but it is actually pretty cool. This date is designed for a group, but can also be fun with just you and another person.

To prepare for this, you’ll need to think of several different restaurants you and your date might like to visit. Then you write them down on pieces of paper and put those little pieces in your hat, or a bowl, or whatever you want, really. In a group setting, you would all meet together first at someone’s house. Then one of you picks the first paper, and whatever that restaurant is will be the spot for appetizers. Head to that restaurant or location whatever it may be and eat. Afterward, someone else will pick, then head on over to that restaurant for the main course. Then pick one more time for the dessert.

To make it even more creative, you can think up a little riddle that disguises the name of the restaurant. For example, for The Olive Garden, you might write something like this: “Popeye’s girlfriend probably enjoys eating at this Italian Restaurant.” You don’t want to make it so abstract that people can’t figure it out, but you’ll also get points for creativity. Depending on the company, you can be as clever or as simple as you want. Pretty awesome idea right? Especially if you love food as much as I do.

What you need for this group date idea: 

You will need little pieces of paper and something to write down the restaurant names with, plus a container to put them in. You can plan it all out yourself or get help or input from the others that will be joining you. It might be more fun if you come up with all the ideas that way it will be a surprise for everyone. Ideally, you would pick a variety of locations that have menus with a variety of food that everyone in your group will enjoy.

My experience with a progressive dinner:

I have done this group date idea quite a bit both in groups and with just me and my date. I like it that much. One memory sticks out in my mind, in college, I planned a group date with my two best buddies, John and Tim. We wanted it to be creative, so we planned a progressive dinner. The girls didn’t know what we were going to do; all they knew was that we told them not to eat dinner beforehand. 


I went and picked up my date, Jackie, then met my roommates and their dates. We brought out the hat with the names of the restaurants and explained to the girls what we were going to do that evening. Intrigue and excitement filled their faces. The feeling of love bloomed in the air . . . okay, maybe I’m stretching the truth on that, but seriously, they were excited. They smiled and were eager to choose a place to go. The first we went to was a Mexican restaurant. The chips and salsa were really good, and appetizers just as tasty. We even had a guy come around with his guitar and play us music for some authentic ambiance. Can’t go wrong with that, almost like it was fate that brought us to that location.

Main Course

The next paper was chosen and we went to a barbecue joint. Now we are talking, I LOVE barbecue food. We got messy eating ribs and Jackie and I bonded over cornbread. Exactly what I imagined true love to be, of course. If it were a movie, Jackie would have turned and smiled at me, with a bit of barbecue sauce on the corner of her mouth. I would look at her and say,

You have a little barbecue sauce on the corner of your mouth.

What? Where?

Here let me get it for you.

I would lean in and gently wipe away the sauce with a napkin, all the while gazing into her deep blue eyes. Her warm smile would intensify and the chemistry would be electric. But of course, nothing like that happened.


The last place was an ice cream parlor. Nothing wrong with that, I like ice cream. My date and I shared a nice bowl of bubblegum ice cream, her choice not mine. I would have chosen something like pralines and cream or chocolate chip cookie dough, but being a date gotta do what you gotta do. Even though we didn’t work out in the long run, our progressive dinner was unique and memorable enough to stick with me forever.

Check out this video I made explaining the progressive dinner group date idea:

Do you have experience with this creative date idea? Let me know in the comments how it went. You can buy a copy of the book 101 Creative Dates: ideas, tips, and personal experiences from the life of a hopeless romantic here or visit the shop.

Here is of my all-time favorite group date ideas:

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