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 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 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 3:48PM
Valentine's Day is over rated.  Stay at home with your loved one and save your money.  Enjoying each other's company should be an every day event not once a year!
Feb 14, 2013 3:49PM
Have a light meal, and then spend the rest of the evening having sex. What can be better than that?????
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 3:18PM

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


Feb 14, 2013 4:35PM

I have a friend who just e-mailed me. Her husband asked her a week ago where she wanted to eat for Valentine’s Day and she told him Boston Market. He would have taken her anyplace she wanted but likes the food at Boston Market. She can have it to take out and bring home. She did not have to deal with the crowds or inflated restaurant prices.


I prefer to cook a romantic meal myself.  I enjoy cooking and I am good at it. I have to travel out of state to see my fiancé. She usually works Valentine’s Day. I stay at her place and prepare a nice meal for when she comes home. Last year I cooked two Cornish game hens which I had brined in a citrus bath.  I slow roasted the birds, and had some wild rice and sautéed vegetables as the sides. I also made miniature cheese cakes for dessert.


My fiancé came home. I had the candles lit, the flowers on the table, and soft music playing. The best thing about it was we were together and she loved the meal. What else could anyone want?



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 4:47PM

Valentines Dinner at the Elks on Saturday night.....Steak, Salmon, and dancing!!!   Whohoo.!!!


Feb 14, 2013 5:00PM
It's a Hallmark holiday and really doesn't deserve any celebration.  If you love your significant other every day should be a true holiday!
Feb 14, 2013 2:32PM
Cheap ****s and complainers should stay home or go to McDonalds.
Feb 14, 2013 4:30PM
I live by a funeral home -- used to dumpster dive for free VD flowers ... guess that's why I'm Single dad 533 !! 
Feb 14, 2013 3:11PM
And it's always the Canadians....and then no tip for the waiter
Feb 14, 2013 3:23PM
Valentine's day an opportunity to remind friends that you love them my talking with them or sending out a note letting them know you care for them.....if you have time for that I am sure someone will appreciate your thoughts.
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 6:15PM
Will never go out on Valentine's Day again; too expensive and too crowded.  Much more enjoyable staying in.
I'm staying home and spending it like any other night dinner family time and good-night. So peaceful so loving so comfortable at home why would I want to spend it any place else? Oh it's a week night too so I don't feel like going out at all. 
Just saying. 
Feb 15, 2013 10:55AM
My husband is a Chef and he always winds up working 14 hours straight on Valentine's Day. while me and my two sons celebrate without him. He comes home frustrated and annoyed from just the things talked about above. On top of catering two parties, and a wedding, he had to produce 30 dozen long stem chocolate cover strawberries with white chocolate drizzle and put up with three cooks calling in. Please everyone be more respectful to the people who make your meals when you eat out, because Chefs  work hard everyday, feet throbbing, back aching, and  making food for you and your own instead of their own families. 
Feb 14, 2013 6:37PM
Like most gimmicks...including Valentine's Day...there is always a dark side. Our solution: don't go out eat at home.
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