Valentine’s Day Is One of the Best Days for Restaurant Servers

Tip well, lovers.

National Journal
Elahe Izadi
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Elahe Izadi
Feb. 14, 2014, 9:06 a.m.

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.
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