Valentine's Day Specials: You're Paying 25% More for Dinner

If you’re looking for a nice restaurant to go to this Valentine’s Day, you might want to think twice about picking a restaurant with a special menu.
Updated 4 February 2022
Valentine's Day Specials: You're Paying 25% More for Dinner

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Sections on this page
  1. You're Paying 25% More on Valentine's Day
  2. Valentine's Day Specials Won't Change
  3. It's Not All Bad News
  4. Other Dinner Options for Valentine's Day
  5. Our Method

It's no surprise that Valentine's Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants (along with Mother's Day and Father's Day). On this day, many restaurants offer a prix fixe menu at a set price on this most romantic occasion, labeling it a "Valentine's Day Special." But, just how special are these menus?

We looked at some of the most popular restaurants for Valentine's Day in the 20 most populated cities and compared their regular menu to their Valentine's Day prix fixe options to see what kind of deal we're really getting. 

What is a Prix Fixe Menu?

"Prix fixe" is French for "fixed price." When talking about meals, it means you have a fixed menu of several courses (usually three to six) at a fixed price. You'll usually get to choose from a few different options from each course. 

You're Paying 25% More on Valentine's Day

Of the restaurants we looked at, the average cost of a Valentine's Day dinner special (prix fixe menu) was around $89, ranging from $50 to $135 per person. Compare that to the average cost of the same or similar multi-course meal on a regular day, which averages $65-$85 total per person. 

(NOTE: Some restaurants offered dishes that were not available on the regular menu.)

Valentine's Day dinner special rip off

Some restaurants marked up their Valentine's Day specials by up to a whopping 69%! Although, there were some that did seem to have a cheaper menu offered to Valentine's Day patrons.

If you were to choose the cheapest options on the Valentine's Day prix fixe menus, you're likely to pay around 25% more (on average) than what you would on a typical day, ordering off the regular menu. 

On the flip side, if you choose the most expensive items from the prix fixe menu, you're paying only about 1.4% higher on average. So, your best bet is to order what you think might be the more expensive dish (think lobster versus chicken). 

Valentine's Day Specials Won't Change

Restaurants generally offer special menus on days like Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve, and Mother's Day for a few reasons:

  • These are the busiest days/nights to eat out, so having a set menu makes things easier for the kitchen.
  • They can make more money by controlling the minimum amount spent by patrons, knowing that people are still going to eat out, regardless of the price.
  • They can disguise how much the set menu actually costs (sometimes making it seem like you're getting a great deal when you aren't).
  • People aren't going to stop going out to eat on Valentine's Day.

It's Not All Bad News

Although it's more likely than not that you're going to be paying premium prices on Valentine's Day, it isn't all bad news. 

For starters, some restaurants don't rip you off. Their prix fixe menu on the day still comes to about the same price as you would pay on a typical day. 

Not All Valentine's Day Specials Are More Expensive

There were some restaurants that didn't mark up their Valentine's Day menu by much or at all.

Secondly, some restaurants offer entirely different items on their Valentine's Day special menus, so you're getting food that you usually wouldn't be able to order. Some even offer more expensive dishes than what they offer on a normal night. This is especially great if you have a favorite restaurant and chef, but want to try something new. 

Other Dinner Options for Valentine's Day

Although we may never stop going out to eat on Valentine's Day, there are some ways around paying exorbitant prices for dinner. 

Choose a Restaurant that Offers their Regular Menu

When looking for a restaurant, choose one that offers the regular menu—some will offer a special prix fixe menu but also give you the option to order off the regular menu, while some won't even offer a special V Day menu. 

Cook Your Own Dinner

What better way to surprise your date than to make them a homecooked Valentine's Day meal? Of course, this probably isn't the best option if you're not a good cook. If you're looking for some help with cooking, try one of the home chef plans, such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. They give you all of the ingredients (most already measure out for you) and a pretty easy recipe to follow. 

Put Together a Romantic Picnic

If you don't have faith in your cooking skills, a picnic might be the way to go. Not only is it easy enough (and cheaper) to buy food that doesn't need much (or any) preparation, but it also shows you put in more effort than just making a reservation. The only downside? Depending on where you live, it might be a little chilly out! 

Our Method

Here's how we came up with our data. 

  1. We picked the 20 most populated cities in the U.S. 
  2. We looked at the top-recommended restaurants in those cities that offer a Valentine's Day prix fixe menu. (We used local restaurant-review websites.)
  3. We looked at each item included on the dinner prix fixe menu (including appetizers, main course, drinks, and desserts) and found the same or comparable item on the regular menu. 
  4. We added up the cost of these items to get a minimum and maximum price if you were to order on a regular night. 

It's important to note that some restaurants offered completely different items on their Valentine's Day menu, so we picked the closest thing to them on the regular menu. If items varied too much and comparable dishes were not found, we did not use those restaurants in this analysis. 

Some restaurants did offer a Valentine's Day menu comparable in price to a regular night. Our results are based on an average of the restaurants from these top 20 cities. 

Cities Included

  • New York City, NY
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • San Antonio, TX
  • San Diego, CA
  • Dallas, TX
  • San Jose, CA
  • Austin, TX
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Columbus, OH
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Seattle, WA
  • Denver, CO
  • El Paso, TX

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