Valentine’s Diners Don’t Plan Ahead, Survey Says

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Restaurants can expect romantics in droves Feb. 14 and must plan ahead to accommodate crowds.

Nearly 25 percent of American adults dined out Valentine’s Day 2013, making it one of the most trafficked days of the year in the industry. But according to a survey conducted by NoWait, a mobile wait-listing app for casual-dining restaurants, diners don’t do much planning of their own to prepare for Valentine’s Day.

“It’s the biggest night of the year for restaurants, and we wanted to find out why that is the case,” says NoWait CEO Ware Sykes. “And what we found out is wow—Americans procrastinate.”

Eighty-seven percent of diners make dinner plans last minute—one week or a few days before Valentine’s Day, the day of, or not at all. About half of diners don’t believe a reservation is essential.

After deciding on a restaurant, guests are not willing to wait for service. Long lines to be seated top the list of Valentine’s Day pet peeves, and just 22 percent are willing to wait longer than 30 minutes for a table.

NoWait aims to reach the procrastination-prone by providing a wait-list service for restaurants that don’t take reservations, Sykes says. Customers can compare wait times at nearby restaurants, add themselves to a list, and arrive in time to be seated.

Some may see fine dining as a must on Valentine’s Day. However, Sykes says diners are more likely to stick with what they already know and love on Valentine’s Day with 45.9 percent most likely to visit a favorite restaurant.

“They eat at the places they know best and as such, don’t make plans ahead of time,” he says.

Most diners plan to spend between $50 and $100 on a romantic meal for two, with only 23.6 percent planning to spend more than $100.

Not surprisingly, diners prefer an intimate, quiet Valentine’s meal. But, 40.9 percent say ambiance does not matter if the food is good.

Italian restaurants are most attractive to guests, followed by steakhouses. Asian and Mexican cuisines fall at the bottom of the list for Valentine’s plans.

By Sarah Niss

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