Small restaurants not in love with Valentine’s Day
Despite the crowds, holiday does not rake in the big profits that one might expect.
Love will be in the air as couples across the nation share romantic Valentine’s Day dinners at their favorite intimate restaurants.
But don’t expect the affection to be shared by many small restaurant owners, who find they aren’t raking in the big profits that one might expect on a traditional dine-out occasion sometimes requiring reservations to be made weeks in advance.
This Valentine’s Day, Americans are expected to spend $3.7 billion on an evening out, according to the National Retail Federation. But Valentine’s Day is only the 107th-best sales day of the year, falling behind St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, according to Womply, a San Francisco-based software company that analyzed credit-card data from 26,000 restaurants last year.
Local restaurateurs see only a
4% increase in the number of checks they’ll hand out compared with a normal night, but the dinner tabs will collectively run 18% higher,
That might sound great but not when considered against the extra costs that restaurants incur on the most romantic dining night of the year:
❚ Less table turnover. Patrons will linger longer, which means fewer tables available over the course of the evening.
❚ Tables for two. Tables normally used to seat four people are now only booked for two.
❚ Labor costs. They are higher due to the extra manpower needed to handle the crowd.
❚ Prix-fixe menus. To speed service, many eateries serve only a fixed-price menu, which means wait staff can’t as easily up-sell diners on higher-priced, and more profitable, menu choices. ❚ Higher food costs. Some suppliers jack up prices on items they know chefs will want to serve, such as lobster. ❚ Decorations. Owners have to spend extra on festive extras to give away to customers, such as glasses of champagne or roses.
“While some types of restaurants, like fine French restaurants, might see a boost, for those more casual in nature it’s a subpar day, and what we’re seeing is an averaging out,” said Nick Gaylord, senior data scientist for Womply, adding that even fine-dining restaurants “don’t see an overall spike.”
Chris Staples, the spokesman for Eat Restaurant Partners with eight restaurants in Richmond, Va., said he understands why restaurant operators “dread” Valentine’s Day.
There are things eateries can do to try to make the day better for them. They can rent smaller tables to squeeze in more customers. They can encourage waiters to turn over tables more quickly.
“It’s the day everyone has high expectations but low patience thresholds. It’s the day people who don’t go out and don’t understand the restaurant scene come out and want unreasonable things,” he said.