Back in the days of my restaurant, Goldie’s by the Bridge, we used to brand some holidays as “dummies’ day-out”. Valentine’s Day was the queen of them all. These are occasions when people who don’t usually dine out, do. These folks go out perhaps 3 or 4 times a year, and are less acquainted with restaurant rituals than regular diners. Restaurant staffs prepare for these days, both physically and mentally. Here’s some insight to ensure your salute to romance is inspiring, not infuriating.
- Food not up to par with restaurant standards
- Slower service
- Tardy seating
- Higher prices
- Prix fixe menus
Why these realities occur:
- Restaurants need to maximize business on these holidays, so they overbook and will even cram extra tables into the dining room. Of course, everyone wants to dine between 7:00pm– 8:30pm so unless a restaurant strategically books reservations, the lion’s share of tables are sat at 7:30pm, swamping a server’s station as well as flooding the kitchen with orders at the same time.
- Folks who make very early reservations, because they call last minute and can only get a 5:00pm table, typically arrive late, are seated late, take their time, and hold seating up for the next turn of tables.
- In an effort to manage increased traffic for the evening, many restaurants create streamlined, special menus for the holiday. Another reason for holiday menus: prices of raw ingredients often rise the week of a holiday. The increase is passed on to the guest.
How To Navigate This:
- If you are committed to dining out, go early or late, but avoid prime time seating. At the beginning of the night, or after the rush, the kitchen can actually pay attention to each plate. During ‘the rush’, standards quickly become compromised.
- Celebrate at your favorite restaurant either the night before or the night after the holiday.
- Cook a romantic meal at home: it doesn’t have to be elaborate to be delicious. A simple, elegant and seasonal meal could be comprised of avocado, arugula & orange salad, roast chicken & potatoes, and chocolate-dipped mangos and pears.