Why Valentine's Day Tasting Menus Can Be A Red Flag For Chefs

Why Valentine's Day tasting menus can be a red flag for chefs

Whether it is that iconic escargot scene from "Pretty Woman" or the more perplexing one from "The Menu," a multi-course, tasting menu can be difficult to navigate for some. Although high-end, celebrated restaurants might plate these impeccable courses nightly, Valentine's Day can see some other restaurants turn to the prix fixe menu for the holiday. As Touch Bistro commented, this type of menu can increase efficiency during a busy dining night. While that can be helpful for the front and back of the house, the diner may not get a true sense of the restaurant's culinary ability based on just a few options.

According to Square Up, a prix fixe menu features a set amount of courses, with limited choices, at a predetermined price. Restaurants can choose to feature signature dishes from their main menu, a specially curated option for a holiday, or some other concept that the chef prefers to showcase. Although there can be value in this concept for the restaurant, some diners might find the food choices limiting. But, the offering should be some type of representation of the restaurant's style. After all, no one goes to a steak restaurant for a vegetarian meal. While the benefits can be debated, the price might be the only incentive for the Valentine's Day menu.

Prix fixe menus aren't great for customers

A prix fixe is supposed to make things easier for the restaurant — fewer menu items means a faster, more efficiently functioning kitchen — but it definitely doesn't make things better from the customer's perspective. While better for the restaurant, it gives the customer fewer options in terms of both price and food choice. "The growing trend in not only the restaurant business is companies really taking advantage of customers on holidays and creating a negative experience for customers," said Anthony and Teresa Scotto of Luogo and Pelato in Nashville.

If a customer is locked into a dollar amount, it's fair for them to feel like they've been railroaded. A better option for a lot of restaurants is simply offering themed Valentine's Day specials along with the regular menu, according to Luca and Giorgia Fadda of Epistrophy in New York City's NOLITA neighborhood: "We want people to be able to choose from our regular menu or our Valentine's special dishes."

It gives customers the option for something special but a nice fallback if they just want to stick with what they know and love. In the long run, this is also good for the restaurant because customers who had a great time on Valentine's Day will likely return for the next one (not to mention for other special occasions).

Tips to remember when booking Valentine's Day restaurant reservations

From candlelit tables to melodic music, many diners long for a romantic night out with that special someone. While not every event can fit into a Hallmark movie, a few tips can help you step it up from the White Castle tablecloth dinner. Per a 2020 press release, OpenTable suggests that reservations for Valentine's Day should be made by February 4. Although the statement might be blunt, the snooze or you lose idea could leave some people going down to the bottom of the preference sheet.

More importantly, diners should know the type of meal being served for the special occasion. Restaurant Business reports that while chefs are turning to prix fixe menus to combat costs, labor shortages, and other challenges, these offerings may or may not appeal to some diners. From limited options for certain lifestyle choices to not satisfying a craving for a signature dish, the curated menu can have some people feeling a little empty. But, as long as diners know the menu plan ahead of time, everyone can be on the same page. Even though the ambiance and flavor might be on point, a happily-ever-after fairy tale may require a little extra spark after leaving the table.