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A Chef's Recommendation for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest days of the year for restaurants.

February 13, 2018
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Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest days of the year for restaurants. Even if the weather says, “binge-watch 'The Crown'” and the calendar says, “Wait, it’s Wednesday,” restaurant owners can count on a dining room packed with lovers trying to impress their dates.

“Behind the scenes, there are definitely a few reasons to avoid it,” says Michelin-starred chef Ben Roche, who worked at the top-rated restaurants Moto and Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and is now director of product development at Just, Inc.

1. IT’S OVERPRICED. 

Call it surge pricing. It’s a night when lower-value foods can command higher prices. “Instead of serving a filet they’ll use a flat-iron steak, or instead of sea bass or Dover sole they might use something like salmon,” says chef Lance Corralez. 

2. IT'S NOT ROMANTIC

Forget about intimacy. In a loud, crowded restaurant it’s tough to find the romantic ambiance you’re after. “It can overwhelm the kitchen and the front-of-the-house team when that many people hit the restaurant all at once, so it can be hard to get great service,” Roche says.

3. IT’S UNPREDICTABLE

On Valentine’s Day restaurants are filled with “deuces” — tables for two. “Deuces clog up the pipes,” Johnson says. Why? Servers do everything once per table — explain the specials, take the orders, bring out the food, etc. That means they’re doing nearly four times the work for four deuces, compared to one eight-top. 

4. IT’S OUT OF YOUR CONTROL

“There’s pressure to do something very special, and if the meal experience isn’t everything you thought it would be you can feel as though it’s your fault. That’s not a good feeling,” Roche says.

5. WHAT’S A LOVER TO DO?

“Making dinner at home is a really strong option,” Roche says. And who says you have to celebrate on the 14th? He recommends making reservations for the weekend before or after Valentine’s Day."