Consumer Nation

This Valentine’s Day Love Is Served on a Silver Platter

February 14 is not only a big day for Cupid, it’s also a big day for restaurateurs.

As the romantic dinner tradition continues this year on Valentine’s Day, two out of three lovebirds said they are planning to spend more than $100 to dine with their special someone, and about 10 percent will fork over $200 or more for the occasion, according to a recent Valentine's Day dining survey conductedby online restaurant reservation giant OpenTable.

“Sharing a meal is inherently romantic,” said Caroline Potter, OpenTable's chief dining officer. “After all, it’s natural to splurge a bit on Valentine’s Day by ordering a nice bottle of wine or champagne and not skipping dessert.”

Valentine's Day ranks along with Mother's Day and New Year's as one of the three holidays with the largest numbers of restaurant reservations, making it “special for couples and great for the local economy,” says Andrew Rigie, executive vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association’s New York City Chapter.

The economy doesn't seem to be a factor for some love-struck foodies. Ninety- three percent of the survey respondents said they are looking to enjoy an evening out and planning to match last year's tab or to step up the spending, according to OpenTable. That’s about 3 percent higher than what they spent in 2011.

All in all, for the occasion is expected to add up to about $3.6 billion in spending, according to the National Retail Federation.

“It is the one day I don’t want to look cheap and let the girl think I am pinching pennies,” said Sam Reid, a 26-year-old New York law student. “I obviously want to impress my date.”

While demographics are likely to play a role in spending patterns, many people tend to eat at more upscale restaurants for Valentine’s dates. Additionally, spending is not the thing that is increasing, so are special prix fixe menu prices, said Geoff Luebkemann, vice president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

For example, Cleo, a Mediterranean restaurant in Hollywood, Calif., is offering a $95-per-person special prix-fixe menu, which includes a bottle of Champagne. The Melting Potrestaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is offering an extravagant four-course dinner in a curtain-enclosed booth adorned with one dozen roses, starting at $209 per couple.

“The consumers are making a purchasing decision. People will pay for quality, but they won’t be back if they feel you took advantage of a special evening and didn’t give good value,” said Luebkemann. He adds that “quality and sexy ingredients” such as oysters, caviar and chocolates, are opportunities to lure customers who haven’t been to that restaurant and get them to come back.

The most likely places for high rollers to spend the big bucks on a Valentine's dinner: Las Vegas, Miami and New York. While Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Seattle survey respondents said they a plan to spend less on those romantic Valentine's Day meals.

More than half of the OpenTable respondents said they plan to make reservations more than a week before Feb. 14. And with this Valentine's Day falling on a Tuesday, “about a quarter of the diners we surveyed plan to celebrate by dining out on Saturday this year,” said Potter. “So couples should expect that the Saturday prior may be a bit busier than usual at their restaurant of choice, so they shouldn’t procrastinate on booking their reservation simply because it’s not the actual day of the Valentine’s holiday.”

Once you score a reservation, make sure you don’t stumble into other Valentine’s Day disasters.

A new survey conducted by coupon site CouponCabin.comreveals the biggest dating deal breakers, with poor hygiene, (e.g. body odor, bad teeth, and dirty hair) topping the list.

Poor hygiene is a bigger no-no than splitting the check — even on Valentine’s Day.

“Many modern daters often offer to at least pay part of their share, and if not, are cognizant and order moderately priced items. No matter what the situation, though, daters should strive for politeness and tact, especially when making that critical first impression,” said Jackie Warrick, president and chief savings officer at, in a press release.

Questions? Comments? Email us at Follow Jessica Naziri on Twitter @jessicanaziri.