Service 101: Valentine’s Day Tips

valentines day restaurant table

For any restaurant pro worth their salt, Valentine’s Day is one of the nights you want to work. We train for years for nights like this. During service we’ll see crazy stuff: over the top displays of public affection, cruel scorn, fights, marriage proposals, escorts, sloppy drunks, beautiful couples, angry single ladies, and bizarre match ups.  And that’s just in the dining room.

Valentine’s Day is full of challenges, but it’s a time that’s lucrative for restaurants and for staff. For this reason and and more, we suit up, show up, and get ready for war.

Unfortunately, this Valentine’s Day, I have the night off. And in case you’re wondering, no–I’m not going to go out. I’ll probably make myself some comfort food and watch a movie at home by myself (my husband is working at a restaurant across town). Or maybe I’ll re-read the article about Valentine’s Day I was interviewed for just for the thrill of seeing my name on the on Time Magazine’s website.

Either way, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be on lock down at my apartment. In the meantime, If you still haven’t figured out what you’ll be doing later tonight here are some words of advice:

Why you should make your own Valentine’s Day Dinner

  • Nothing says I love you more than taking the time to make a special meal for the person you love.
  • Have complete control. Shop at your favorite butcher shop or market, design your own floral arrangement, decorate your home in a seductive way. Because you can control every element of the dining experience you’ll be able to experience lighting, music, menu, and decorations that fit your liking perfectly.

If You Insist on Dining Out on Valentine’s Day:

  • Realize that if you haven’t made your reservations yet, you’ll probably be eating very late tonight. Make yourself a good snack!
  • Know your audience. Don’t take a vegetarian to a steak house.
  • Consider your budget. If you think $35 is too much to pay for an entrée, don’t book a reservation at a restaurant that serves $35 entrees. You’ll be disappointed.
  • Don’t double book. If you hedged your bets with more than one restaurant reservation, be sure to cancel your second reservation as early as possible. There are plenty of people that would love to take your reservation.
  • Show up on time.
  • Find out the seating policy. Does the restaurant expect you to leave after 2 or 3 hours? If so, be respectful of your reservation.  Don’t linger at the table for longer than allotted or you may end up experiencing late table karma later on down the road.
  • Say “Please” and “Thank You”.  Good manners go a long way to impress your date and will make for a more pleasant dining experience.

Hope you and your loved ones have a safe and stress-free Valentine’s Day. For recommendations on how best to enjoy your official night of romance, be sure to check out this earlier blog post.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

One Comment

  1. February 21

    Thanks for that super interesting behind-the-scenes look at restaurants on Valentine’s day. It sounds like preparing for a battle. At any rate, while I love eating out, I’m in complete agreement with you about cooking and celebrating at home on this day.
    One of the first decisions my husband and I made when we got married was not to go out for Valentine’s Day anymore, and no presents. Celebrate if we felt like it, no problem if we didn’t. The previous few years had taught us it just wasn’t worth it. The mania of all of it and the insistence on everyone wanting to have a good time at any cost bewildered us. The crazy crowds everywhere made us feel anything but romantic. We decided that we’d much rather share a chocolate cake while staying cozy and snuggled up at home.

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