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Valentine’s Series #13(?!): Restaurants are Decidedly Not Romantic (that day)

13 Feb

Before we get to the meat (pun!) of my Valentine’s topic–will somebody please help me?  I used to edit and edit (I know!  Can you believe it?  I know you couldn’t tell) each post as a draft.  And now I’m not sure how I can start writing, leave, come back–however many times, then publish it later.  Help!

My topic this year is a favorite Valentine’s activity–dining out–and how it’s actually horrible because of this contrived day.

Restaurants are fun.  You can try new and exciting food, eat something you don’t know how to make, avoid grocery shopping, spend time chatting with your loved one rather than minding the stove.  AND the cleaning is up to someone else.  All good things.  Yet, dining out on Valentine’s Day isn’t.  good.

Why?

Everyone else had the same idea.  And that sucks.  According to ideas-time.com, “53 percent of couples planning to celebrate the holiday with dinner this year will be doing so in a restaurant” (1).  It requires planning and a competitive spirit to capture seats at a restaurant on V-Day.  Sometimes the thinking ahead has to be months and months ahead.  Often, you have to settle for something, whether it be the time you get to eat, or worse, the place itself.  “Valentine’s Day is the busiest day of the year for reservation-taking restaurants,” reports OpenTable.com (1).

As such, there can be no spontaneity because restaurants are booked.  And what is more romantic than being spontaneous?  Sometimes the stars just align and you end up somewhere, and it captures the perfect moment or creates the best memory.  Valentine’s on the contrary has to be PLANNED.  There is no room for error here.  As a matter of fact, you better get that reservation on the books early, because “25% of people eat out (making it the 2nd most popular day at restaurants after Mother’s Day)” (4)!

If you get into the dinner at all, the parking will suck.  It may or not be at a time that you and your date like.  The time may or may not work nicely with any other events or activities planned that evening.  Maybe you don’t get to see a movie, star-gaze, or have a moment at the park.  The point is–the restaurant is the WHOLE thing.  And already it’s kind of a bummer. . .

And there WILL be waiting.  “An increased number of tables means more orders for waiters to manage, which spells trouble even for veteran teams,” popsugar/food.com asserts (5).  If you’re lucky enough to be seated right away, you’ll still end up waiting for the drinks, the food, or the check (at least one of those things-if not all three).  A reasonable explanation for the waiting problem:

Instead of the typical two special orders he [your chef] might get an entire night, he’ll get no less than 50 on Valentine’s Day, whether it’s requests for sauce on the side or a steak well-done instead of medium rare. “We always try to make guests happy, but it does affect the flow,” says Symon. Considering that the kitchen crew is seeing 50 tickets for two people at one time instead of the usual 25 for four, it’s no wonder the kitchen’s a veritable pressure cooker (1).

The quiet, romantic little place will be crowded and loud.  And was that anybody’s idea of romance?  I mean, there will be no whispering of sweet nothings and no privacy.  You and your date will be just another one of the many, many love-birds taking over the place.  NOT special.  Your favorite restaurant will also be different than usual.  But WHY?!, you ask, and popsugar/food.com explains:

You won’t get a true taste for what the restaurant has to offer. With a high demand for reservations, many restaurants choose to serve a prix-fixe menu in lieu of the establishment’s greatest hits. Not because it makes for a better meal, but because a prix-fixe menu reduces cost and complication. The problem: it can be unfamiliar to both the cooks and wait staff, inviting more opportunity for mistakes (5).

I read a survey of restaurant owners and how they feel about Valentine’s Day:  “Many restaurateurs including Carter say overcrowded dining rooms combined with overpriced prix fixe menus can lead to a high-pressure experience for both restaurants and diners” (3).  Your favorite entrée may not be included on the prix-fix menu–or worse, not cooked as well as usual.  And that’s the WORST.  So the reason you came to this location in the first place is ruined!  With Valentine’s Day hype and numbers, comes your restaurant staff in survival mode.

The restaurant will be crowded with people who have made these reservations waaay ahead of time, on a romantic day of expectations.  They have dressed up, and even have to forego other plans because of weird reservation times or a late seating.  Therefore, those lovey couples want to savor the moment.  It’s a circular problem, the menu is prix fixe, service slow, and bill expensive because everyone is crammed in on one day, and the people are over-staying and being high-maintenance.  Causing the prices to have to be increased for the restaurant to be profitable.  As grubstreet.com writes:

One part of the equation is that diners tend to linger longer than they might on typical nights, making it difficult to turn tables quickly. “You don’t want to rush people out,” Hough says. “You want people to enjoy their experiences.” He says that Il Buco handles about 200 diners on a typical Saturday, but on Valentine’s Day, the restaurant will only see 150. “But,” he adds, “you make that up with the prix fixe.” (7).

The menu will probably be pared down and both your wait-staff and the cooks will be run, run running to try to accommodate a larger than usual set of diners.  And the composition of this crowd?  Couples.  With high expectations and reservations.  Who might not have been to a restaurant in a long time, and may not be familiar with this particular restaurant.  For some, this might be the one time they eat out in the year.  AKA–they will struggle.  They don’t know how to order quickly, what the new dining trends are, or they may have tons of questions.  And that contributes to more snags:  “Too many rookies at any one restaurant can disrupt the flow and feel of a place” (3).

Eating out on Valentine’s Day will be expensive!  Maybe even more than usual.  Ideas-time.com says “the average bill on V-Day will be $142.11” (1)! It’s like this:  Either the restaurant is diabolical and knows you’re in a tricky spot and HAVE to have that romantic dinner out on this sexist day of spending so they hold you hostage (reason 2 coming up after this).  As LAmag.com’s article agrees,

“Restaurants are a challenging business. You have to fight for every butt in a seat, for every cover, for every dollar. But then you have a day when there’s a captive audience. They’re obligated to go out and to do something more extravagant than they would normally would. So—and this is the sort of sinister part—the idea was always, ‘Let’s give them something more extravagant and bind them by making it the only choice.’ I mean it makes business sense right?” (6). 

OR the restaurant is simply economical (with much the same expensive result).  You’re going to pay for any fancy, romantic menu items.  A restaurantier interviewed for grubstreet.com speaks of the dilemma facing owners on V-Day:

The problem is that it’s tough to force people into a menu full of special foods while also pricing it accordingly: “You can never mark up truffles what you’d need it to cost,” Bissell points out. “People would say, ‘I’m not gonna pay that much for a black rock from the ground, no matter how much I love it.” But he also points out you can’t put together a Valentine’s menu and not offer something like truffles, so he has to face up to the reduced profitability: “I absorb some of that.” (7). 

So the pricing isn’t entirely due to greed.  Here is another contributing factor to higher prices on Valentine’s–the tables themselves.  Think of a restaurant.  Most of the seating is booths.  Or the bar.  On such a couple’s-centric day–neither are getting utilized as they normally would.  Ideastime.com breaks it down:

The reservation list is packed with “two tops,” industry-speak for tables of two. As a result, the tables for four or more — usually the most lucrative on any other day — go empty. So, for many restaurants, the heat is on to pack in and turn over as many two tops as possible to make up for the loss. “Basically what’s going through the manager’s mind — besides taking care of the guests — is, ‘How am I going to maximize seating?  They need customers to eat quickly, spend a lot, or both. Trouble is, this is also the time of the year when customers are feeling poor (1).

You are going to pay for the overcrowding of small tables, and lack of filled booths.  You are going to be charged for the restaurant’s trouble.

My main point = if you eat out on Valentine’s Day you are probably going to leave disappointed.  FoodWolf.com sums it up nicely:

The diner that books a holiday reservation—regardless of whether or not they are aware of it—have an elevated expectations that are nearly impossible to obtain.  More than anything, the diner imagines, the dining experience on this night should elevate this special moment.  It’s not wrong for diners to expect a great experience. But a restaurant—even the best ones—can not be all things to all people (2).

So there it is, folks.  How Valentine’s Day manages to ruin even a seemingly joyous, wonderful experience-eating out.   My solution, forgo Valentine’s Day, and go to a restaurant any other day of the year to truly celebrate your love.  It’ll be TONS better of an experience!

 

 

 

1st link (1):

Why Restaurants and Valentine’s Day Don’t Mix

2nd article (2):

 

http://www.foodwoolf.com/2010/02/service-restaurant-recommendation-valentines-day.html

3rd link (3):

 

http://www.pennlive.com/food/index.ssf/2018/01/oreo_subscription_box_amazon.html

link 4 (4):

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelle-pruett/valentines-day-dining-by-the-numbers_b_9178768.html

link 5 (5):

https://www.popsugar.com/food/Why-You-Shouldnt-Eat-Out-Valentine-Day-39904265

link 6 (6):

 

http://www.lamag.com/digestblog/the-truth-behind-why-restaurants-suck-on-valentines-day/

link 7 (7):

http://www.grubstreet.com/2015/02/surprising-economics-of-valentines-day.html

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