Consumer Trends

Valentine's Day: The second-busiest day of the year

While mothers continue to trump sweethearts when it comes to the most popular holiday to dine out, one-quarter of Americans will be sitting in restaurants on February 14, according to research from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). As Valentine's Day falls on a Thursday this year, the annual reservation survey from OpenTable also shows diners will be celebrating love well into the weekend. Results from both sources revealed a number of different dining trends and habits operators can use to sweeten the holiday for everyone.

According to the NRA:

  • Nearly one-third of American adults would like to receive a restaurant gift card as a Valentine’s Day gift. Men show a much stronger preference for restaurant gift cards as a Valentine’s Day gift than women do, at nearly half. 
  • 31% of adults favored restaurant gift cards as a Valentine's Day gift followed by jewelry, clothing/apparel, flowers, chocolate and perfume/cologne.
  • 46% of men favored restaurant gift cards over the other choices.
  • Women indicated that their preferred gifts are jewelry and flowers, with restaurant gift cards coming in third.
  • 42% of consumers say they pick their favorite restaurant or their companion’s favorite restaurant for their special meal.
  • 21% select a restaurant with a romantic atmosphere, followed by restaurants that offer special menus or promotions (13%), restaurants picked by their companion (12%) and a restaurant they haven’t been to before (11%).Click to expand

OpenTable diners indicated that they plan to celebrate love in a big way with a projected check average of $139, which is 63% more than the typical OpenTable check average of $85 per couple.  The survey results also showed:

  • 51% of respondents said they plan to dine out on Thursday, February 14, while 36% said they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day on Friday, February 15, or Saturday, February 16.
  • 5% of diners said they plan to celebrate on Wednesday, February 13.
  • 8% of respondents plan on dining out more than once for Valentine's Day.
  • Respondents indicated that the top three factors in selecting a restaurant for Valentine's Day are positive reviews (34%), romantic ambience (27 %) and service (16%).
  • Less important attributes included restaurant location (14%), special Valentine's Day menus (8%) and the quality of the wine list (1%).
  • When presented with menu options, diners said they prefer A la Carte (67%) over Prix Fixe (33%) menus.
  • Traditional menus came out on top with the majority of diners (56%) saying they would select a classic three-course meal (starter, entrée, and dessert).
  • Others preferred sharing several small plates (23%), feasting only on entrees (13%) or enjoying an extensive menu (8%).

The survey also shows diners expect their dates to mind their manners. 56% of women and 61% of men say talking and texting on cellphones at the table is the biggest dining faux pas a date can commit. The second? Being rude to wait staff.


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