9 Tips for Dining Out on Valentine’s Day
You can see it now—a cozy restaurant, candles, good wine. Here are some tips to navigate dining out on the busiest night of the year.
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Expect a Crowd
According to an Open Table survey, 71% of Americans plan to go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day—an enormous number! Restaurants are notoriously packed during dinner. Even the bar may be busy, so be patient and don’t show up famished, in case food arrives slower than usual.
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Expect Things to Be Cozy
On an ordinary night, groups of all sizes go to restaurants. But on Valentine’s Day, it’s just couples. To fill the tables, your host may seat two different couples at a four-top table, so be ready to go with the flow. Follow our food etiquette guide to impress your date—and those strangers.
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Make a Reservation
Many restaurants book up weeks or months before Valentine’s Day. Plan to make a reservation five to six weeks ahead of time. Set a calendar reminder so it doesn’t get lost in the flow. If you forgot all about it, call around to see whether any restaurants can squeeze you in, or plan to make a romantic dinner at home.
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Consider Eating Early or Late
The busiest dinner hours fall between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. You can beat the crowds if you head to the restaurant early—plus your waiter will be fresher! Or, head out late, for a full dinner or maybe just a dessert. Find the best Italian restaurant in your state.
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Expect a Special Menu
Going to your favorite restaurant? Even if it’s your home away from home, the menu may be unrecognizable on V-Day. Many restaurants offer a prix fixe menu, which means you’re stuck eating a fixed series of courses. Offering a fixed menu helps the restaurant kitchen have food ready efficiently on the busy night.
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Higher Prices May Be Inevitable
That prix fixe menu? It’ll probably be more expensive than your usual order. Restaurants know crowds are going to descend on Valentine’s Day, and they take advantage to make extra revenue. Plus, the menu is often more “luxe” and romantic, which makes it pricier.
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Your Waiter Might Be Elusive
On top of being busy, many restaurants may be understaffed on Valentine’s Day. Waitstaff will be bustling around trying to keep up with extra tables, and helping diners who may not be regulars. See what waiters need you to know about eating out on a holiday.
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Consider a Different Meal
Who said Valentine’s Day has to be celebrated at night? Meet your date for breakfast or lunch, and you’ll probably escape all of these potential issues: no crowds, no limited menus, no need to plan ahead. Or, if you’re a good cook, try making a sweet Valentine’s Day breakfast at home.