Why chefs hate Valentine's Day

It's one of the biggest days of the year for restaurants, but it's also full of pain for people serving the love-besotted.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 14, 2013 10:47AM

Image: Couple toasting champagne glasses at restaurant table (Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images)What do the following have in common: A mother who demands to stand in a restaurant's kitchen and watch her meal being cooked. A request for 18 mini-cakes that spell "I love you, honeybuns!" And an order for a cake that resembles Engelbert Humperdinck?

They're all requests that actually happened on Valentine's Day, which is apparently dreaded by chefs as the day when the crazies come out to eat. 

"Working on Valentine's Day means to see the kind of people one doesn't see the rest of the year," writes chef Jonas Luster on Quora. "It means that the smell of flowers wafts into the kitchens and makes even the most hardened cooks want to kill someone."

The bottom line, though, is that restaurants can't afford to shut down on what's one of the busiest days for dining out. Average diners will spend $147 on their romantic dinners Thursday -- more than triple the typical cost of a New York restaurant dinner on any other day, according to Zagat

No matter what type of restaurant -- from doughnut shops to high-end bistros -- everyone wants to get in on the Valentine's game. 

Krispy Kreme (KKD) is selling heart-shaped doughnuts via grocery stores, for example. Denny's (DENN) is trying to lure customers by getting them to send Valentine's e-cards, which include a coupon for a free sundae

The romantic gestures often go awry, Luster reports. His favorite horror stories from 2011 include a man who faked a heart attack after realizing he couldn't afford the check for himself and his girlfriend. This was after he ordered an $800 bottle of wine on top of a $250 prix fixe menu. 

Another woman drank too much and then vomited at the entrance to Luster's restaurant. Her timing was impeccable: She barfed at 8 p.m., just as the rush began. 

And then there are the meals returned because they aren't "romantic enough." Luster notes one couple sent back his tapioca pearls and salted dark chocolate fondue. Why? The "pearls remind us of diamond slavery in Nigeria and we can't eat this," they said.

Folks on the other side of the kitchen door have some complaints, too. 

According to Zagat's first-ever Valentine's Day survey, diners complained about added fees, cheap dates and a mother-in-law who decided to join a couple. 

Given all the drama, maybe more people should stay at home and order in. 

More on moneyNOW

Feb 14, 2013 3:18PM
We celebrated it last night...not crazy/ don't have to wait forever. Tonight we just relax & check what we have in our DVR. The Valentine Day will be over & it's another day.
Feb 14, 2013 3:18PM

just stay home and cook it means more than spending a ton of money. your time and love cant be bought


I hear they have heart shaped chicken mcnuggets @ Mc  D's. Not Really LOL
Feb 14, 2013 3:11PM
And it's always the Canadians....and then no tip for the waiter
Feb 14, 2013 2:32PM
Cheap ****s and complainers should stay home or go to McDonalds.
Feb 14, 2013 2:17PM

V-day dinner at a restaurant is a joke. Noisy, crowded, slow service, and pricey as well for a plate of good food but that still leaves you hungry going out the door.

We now do ours at home, a couple ribeyes, couple pounds of shrimp, couple lobster tails and a bottle of wine makes for a great feast done just the way we like it at less than 1/2 price.

Feb 14, 2013 2:10PM

I guess being a chef wouldn't be such a bad job if they didn't have to cook all that food.

Feb 14, 2013 1:11PM
To the chefs that complain about price gouging on their busiest day of the year - EFF YOU!
Feb 14, 2013 12:52PM

I have no problem with the idea of celebrating the person (or people) you love however spending this kind of money is ludicrous!  My boyfriend & I will be celebrating Sunday night (2/17) after we get 1/2 price flowers and candy and can get a fantastic reservation at a 4 star restaurant and can actually hear one another over the table.  We've convinced all of our friends to make this their annual tradition as well.  Count us out for the Valentine's Day con!

Feb 14, 2013 12:33PM
Only for our first Valentine's Day together did my boyfriend and I go out to dinner. Every year since, we've done a date night in - sushi take-out, a rented movie, a bottle of wine and chocolate fondue.
Feb 14, 2013 12:20PM

O gosh on the Diamond slavery in Nigeria . There are no Diamonds in Nigeria "sigh"  another underinformed westerner trying to be globally concious .


 if you truly want to help Nigeria stop driving your car ....Nigeria's major export is crude oil #misinformed#

Feb 14, 2013 12:16PM
well he is a chef for a reason; he wanted to be one! Get a life if you don't like the current one.
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