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Jan 20, 2008 10:03 AM

Why do many people still think going out on Valentine's Day is a good idea?

Or any other "special occasion" day like Thanksgiving and Christmas. You get the worst service since restaurants get much busier than what the staff is normally used to, boring prix-fixe inferior to what the restaurant is capable of serving (especially for better restaurants) and strange atmosphere provided by dining rooms full of couples trying to be romantic.

Maybe I'm cynical, but the only benefit would be not having to do the dishes. And maybe I'm a cynic because I've always worked on such holidays being in the industry.

I'm seeing "Suggestions for Valentine's Day in ______ (insert city)" on so many boards here. I think the best suggestion is to stay at home, make a simple and tasty dinner and enjoy the company of your sweetheart without dealing with the fuss of going out on one of the busiest days in restaurant business.

What do you think?

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  1. I always hated working on Valentines day, as customers were extremely demanding, stressed and usually didn't tip well. It should come as no surprise that some of the worse service I have ever had in a restaurant has been on 2-3 days on either side of St.Valentines day.

    I am just as cynical as you are, and I prefer to cook at home than in a restaurant 95% of the time.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kelli2006

      Not everyone is "home" on Valentine's Day. DH and I always plan our annual Caribbean getaway for that week ;-)
      I'm guessing the reason Valentine's Day is such a popular "eating out" night is the same for most any other holiday. Usually the person doing the inviting is NOT a cook. Like Mothers' Day---Mom is often the best (and most experienced) cook in the family, but it's considered a gift to give her the night off.
      Just a thought...but maybe the tips are so bad because the servers who have to work on "special days" let their cynicism show in their attitude. I HATE the "poor me, I HAVE to work today" attitude. Due to circumstances beyond my control , we eat every Thanksgiving in a restaurant with my in-laws. If the server is friendly and gives good service without the "poor me" attitude, we tip VERY generously. If we get attitude, we let my father-in-law do the tipping :-)

      1. re: Anne

        That's funny - I have had wonderful service on the few Thanksgivings we ate in restaurants. Never a "poor me" - I was probably lucky!

        And I never let DH take me out for dinner on holidays other than the aforementioned Thanksgivings (only 3 out of 18). I'd so much rather stay home and cook a wonderful meal without having to dress up!

      2. re: Kelli2006

        Yep, you get people who only go out to dinner on that day each year or something and they don't know how to act in public, apparently!

      3. I completely agree.

        It is the same as New Year's Eve, which is party time for the amateurs. Last year I was going to meet my husband in LV for Valentine's day and we had dinner res at 10:00 pm, I was flying in at 9:00. It didn't work out, plane had a break problem; therefore Valentine dinner was Del Taco. What can I say, I have denial issues.

        2 Replies
        1. re: septocaine_queen

          yes new yrs eve the busiest night for chinese food
          put your order in 10-48 hrs in advance the food is not as fresh , the fried rice is either dry or burnt,only select item avail. missing items in bag, wrong items in bag

          1. re: septocaine_queen

            "which is party time for the amateurs". You said it! I'll never forget the night my wife and I (from DC) went to the Four Seasons in NYC. Forgot it was the Saturday closest to Valentines Day. White stretch limos with Jersey plates around the block. Clientele - "ba-da-bing"! And lots of stuff coming out of the kitchen well request.

          2. I agree that going out to nice restaurants on Valentines Day, Father's Day, Mother's Day, etc. is always disappointing.

            If I don't feel like eating at home on Valentines Day, we go to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant, which has good Margarita's, decent food, and it's no different on Valentines than on any other day.

            1. Valentine's Day is a special occasion in our house since it's also our anniversary. We both cook well and often, so for us, going out to a nice restaurant where neither of us has to cook or clean up is a treat. We generally plan ahead, make a reservation, and let them know we're celebrating an extra-special day, and we've always had good service.

              That being said, I've seen many, many patrons be absolutely ridiculous about dining out on any holiday - demanding a table without a reservation, bitching about their table's location in the restaurant, or trying to be something they're not to impress a date. We always do our best to be low maintenance and behave as we normally do when we dine out, and assuming our server doesn't cop the "woe is me" attitude, it's a pleasant experience all around.

              1. Let's just say that as a sommelier in an upscale restaurant, we stock Beringer White Zinfandel EXTRA heavily around Valentine's Day...

                13 Replies
                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  And heart-shaped ice cubes for that wine?

                  Wow... that's just got to be discouraging for a wine pro. The owner might not care though... it's all money and it would appear, first-time customers who don't get out much to better places. So maybe the next time they're in they'll be receptive to some other suggestions?

                  1. re: Panini Guy

                    It would be wonderful if you, as the sommelier, are making suggestions in an effort to help educate novice diners. I always appreciate recommendations and even if I have an idea of what I want, I usually always ask for a recommended pairing.

                    Keep in mind, though, that people can choose to take your advice or not - after all, isn't their money as good as anyone else's, no matter what they choose to order?

                    1. re: Suzy Q

                      SQ - not to answer for invino, but that's the difference between the owner and the sommelier. The owner might not care as it's all money. A good sommelier will care, as it's about much more than tips, it's about sharing knowledge.

                      V-Day is probably the least likely day to try "education". Sadly, at least as far as many "dating" couples go, hubris doesn't allow for many guys to be open minded to suggestions as they fear lack of control or looking ill-informed, so they pick names they know (and they might only know two or three) even if the wine is inappropriate.

                      On another day a sommelier might challenge a choice and make another suggestion, but not V-Day as the dynamic is very different and for inexperienced wine drinkers on a rare night of fine dining, it may all be too threatening - the goal is often simply to get through the dinner with enough lubrication to make getting into the "afters" easier. Thus my sympathies for invino and his bottles of dreck.

                      Is that cynical? You bet. It's also, unfortunately, quite common. So best to not say anything unless asked to make a suggestion. Otherwise, it's "Yes sir, we have the white zinfadel. A fine choice I'm sure you'll enjoy."

                      1. re: Panini Guy

                        PG, you hit the nail on the head. As much as most people in the industry really like to educate others about food and wine, VDay really isn't the time to do it. Unfortunately, it's really a turn and burn kind of evening. In fact, I frequently help manage the restaurant on Valentine's Day instead of assisting people choose wine simply because there's usually no need. It's all Rodney Strong Merlot and BWZ.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          So if you're not going to try to offer another suggestion, why be snarky about people ordering Rodney Strong and Beringer? You may find drinking such wine beneath your educated palate, but given the popularity of those wines, others obviously don't have a problem with it.

                            1. re: Suzy Q

                              actually, suzy, i think that was his point. It would be improper to tell people they've chosen a wine that the sommelier or server feels is less-than-excellent. if they ask for Beringer white zin, the only response is, "right away."

                              1. re: nc213

                                And I agree with that. I just think it's wrong to make fun of someone because they order what you consider to be an "inferior" wine.

                                1. re: Suzy Q

                                  Where did you get the idea that he's making fun of them in the restaurant? I saw nothing to indicate that. As I read it, he's simply sharing an opinion about something that happens on V-day in his restaurant here with the CH community.

                                  And folks that are ordering those wines to accompany their expensive V-day meal aren't the type one would expect to find on CH.

                                  Or if they are on CH, they're on the chains forum ;-)

                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                    Thanks, PG; you really seem to get where I'm coming from. It was simply an observation, and a frustrating one at that, but also "said" tongue in cheek.

                                    Also, I'm a chick. :)

                      2. re: Panini Guy

                        I may have to suggest the cubes to the owners. :)

                        And yes, the owners love selling that schwill, as it has the highest percentage mark up on our list. Purchased for $4.49 a bottle net, sold for $24. Good God.

                      3. re: invinotheresverde

                        Oy...white zin! A long long time ago, I had a date with a (younger) guy who wanted me to pick our wine. When the bottle of old vine zinfandel arrived, he thought the waiter had brought the wrong wine..."Isn't zinfandel supposed to be PINK?" he asked. Needless to say, that was our first and last date!

                        1. re: Morticia

                          I'd like to share that it was our number one seller again this year!