I grew up in a restaurant, spending my teenage years and early twenties waitressing. And my favorite day out of all 365 was Valentine's Day.
Why? Because of money.
Yes, it may sound depressing that a woman in the prime of her youth looked forward to spending her Valentine's Day waiting on lovestruck couples. But think about it: a restaurant packed with couples, ordering only the finest things on the menu. That means small parties (which is less work) with larger-than-usual bills, equaling larger tips. And the absolute worst day of the year to go stingy on tipping is on the day you're trying to impress your significant other. I easily walked away with double what I normally made in tips on a typical busy, weekend night.
There's plenty of grumbling from those who advise forsaking a restaurant dining experience because of pricey, fixed menus. But not all restaurants have fixed menus on this day, and people still drop a lot of money. The average diner plans to spend $74.19 eating out on Valentine's Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
New York diners expect to spend an average of $158.43 on a dinner for two tonight, according to Zagat's 2014 survey. That's quite a bit higher than the average New Yorker spends on a typical meal out, at $48.56 per person.
Valentine's Day is the second busiest night of the year for restaurants, second only to Mother's Day, according to the National Restaurant Association. But for many servers, Mother's Day isn't as attractive of a workday; it typically consists of large parties with demanding requests who often dine during lunch hours, when meals tend to be cheaper.
And many couples go to their favorite restaurants to eat, says the restaurant organization. Sure, there are bad, regular tippers out there, but diners have more of an incentive to tip servers well when they will face them again.
No matter where you stand on whether the federal minimum wage—particularly for tipped workers—should be increased, do your local servers a solid tonight: eat out and tip well. It's the Valentine's Day gift they are counting on.
Catherine Hollander contributed to this article.