Eating out on Valentine’s Day: Which restaurants do Americans love most for a romantic night out?

When you think of eating out on Valentine’s Day, your first thought might be of making early reservations and fighting crowds. But does this expectation line up with reality? Is Valentine’s Day, indeed, one of the biggest days of the year for local restaurants? Or are people deciding to avoid the crowds and stay in?

We analyzed the data at over 36,000 local restaurants across the country to find out just how big Valentine’s Day is for local restaurants and which types of restaurants were busiest on the most romantic night of the year.

Looking for help driving business to your restaurant on big holidays? Email marketing software for small businesses can help keep your restaurant on the top of your customer’s mind, regardless off the day of the year. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

The top five days of the year at local restaurants by total revenue

As we discovered in our state of local restaurants report, the biggest dining holiday of the year in terms of total revenue at restaurants wasn’t Valentine’s Day, but Mother’s Day.

When measured by total revenue, Mother’s Day weekend was responsible for the top two days of the year for local restaurants. Father’s Day, meanwhile, was the third biggest day of the year.

As we analyzed the numbers, it became clear that weekends were huge for local restaurants. The average given Saturday saw restaurants earn more revenue than any major holiday. Including Valentine’s Day.

Here’s a chart to put things into perspective:

Restaurants averaged $1,608 in revenue on Valentine’s Day last year—which is significantly more than restaurants typically earn on a Thursday—but is still less than an average Sunday. (Mother’s Day, as you can see, blows both the average Sunday and Valentine’s Day out of the water).

How big is Valentine’s Day at the average restaurant?

Even though Valentine’s Day was easily the biggest Thursday of the year, it was only the 94th biggest day of the year overall in terms of total revenue. Again, as we outlined above, a lot of this is because weekends (particularly Saturdays) are just that much bigger than just about any other day of the year.

Here’s a closer look at how the average restaurant performs on Valentine’s Day:

Valentine’s Day saw restaurants earn far more than the typical Thursday, but still less than the average Saturday (the biggest day of the week).

Same goes for average transactions (7 more than on a typical Thursday, but 3 less than a typical Saturday) and average ticket size ($4.75 more than a typical Thursday, but $1.90 less than a typical Saturday).

So one thing is clear: Valentine’s Day clearly drives more business than restaurants would otherwise expect on that day. But it’s still surprising to see a run-of-the-mill Saturday outperforming a holiday so closely associated with dining out.

Listen to “Brad Plothow (Womply, Valentines Day Restaurant Sales)” on Spreaker.

Additionally, you’ve likely experienced a long wait or trouble booking reservations on Valentine’s Day. So all this got us wondering—what types of restaurants do best on Valentine’s Day, and which ones struggle to make the connection to romance?

We took an even closer look at our data and made some fascinating discoveries.

The busiest restaurants on Valentine’s Day—international flair and finer dining

While Valentine’s Day might only be the 94th day for all local restaurants, several types of restaurants indeed saw their biggest days of the year on February 14th.

Here’s a list of some of the types of restaurants that did particularly well on Valentine’s Day:

Sushi restaurants are often thought of as perfect for date night, something our figures confirmed. Valentine’s Day saw more total revenue come in the doors at Sushi restaurants than any other day of the year.

Here’s a closer look at how the average Sushi restaurant performed on Valentine’s Day:

Perhaps surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is also huge for Thai food restaurants, as it was the #2 day of the year overall. (The Friday before Mother’s Day was the only day with more revenue was #1).

Italian, and Japanese restaurants both had Valentine’s Day as their third biggest day of the year in terms of total revenue.

Mother’s Day weekend was good for the #1 and #2 spots for Italian food restaurants, while March 9th and April 12th claimed the top 2 days for Japanese food restaurants.

Traditionally “upscale” restaurant categories like French restaurants (#5 day of the year), new American, and steak houses also did big business on Valentine’s Day.

This shows us, though, that it’s not just the super upscale establishments that benefit most from Valentine’s Day. It seems that couples today are far more likely to seek out reliable quality options that don’t break the bank.

The slowest restaurants on Valentine’s Day—Not a big day for burgers and fries

Outside of the high performers above, most restaurants see slightly above-average revenue come in on Valentine’s Day. The good news for the lower performing restaurants is that Valentine’s Day isn’t really a “bust,” but it’s clear that some restaurants struggle more than others to attract patrons looking to celebrate love.

Burgers and fries may be an American staple on many days of the year, but on Valentine’s Day burger joints bring in 3% less revenue than the average Thursday, making it their 214th biggest day of the year.

Other types of restaurants that struggle to attract customers on Valentine’s Day include diners, bars and grills, and barbecue restaurants.

Get the most out of Valentine’s Day (and every day) with reputation management software

If you own or manage a small, local restaurant, you likely already know how big or small Valentine’s Day is for you and your business. And it’s crucial to approach those big days with a sound marketing strategy.

For example, if Valentine’s Day is sure to draw a big crowd to your restaurant every year, you can use that increased foot traffic to get more reviews for your restaurant.

If, however, your restaurant isn’t exactly a romantic hotspot, think of creative ways to draw entice customers in your doors anyway—perhaps by offering free delivery or discounts for diners who don’t have a date on Valentine’s Day. Check out our post on 4 key elements of an effective marketing strategy for your restaurant for even more ideas and suggestions.

Check out a few of our helpful guides for restaurant owners:

Finally, check out how Womply’s reputation management software helps make all this easier while saving you time and money. Womply has helped businesses like yours increase revenue by 20%, see 22% more repeat customers, and save 10 hours of time per week. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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