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Candlelit Valentine's Day at White Castle, Waffle House, Pizza Hut

February 13, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • Could this be what diners see on Valentine's Day at fast food chains? Candlelit options at eateries such as Chick-fil-A and White Castle are jostling with fine dining establishments for customers on the romantic holiday.
Could this be what diners see on Valentine's Day at fast food chains?… (Los Angeles Times )

Looking to take your lady love or handsome paramour for a romantic meal this Valentine’s Day? White Castle is here for you.

Harold and Kumar’s favorite burger joint plans to offer a candlelit dinner with table service on Tuesday, just one of many quick service chains angling for a piece of the estimated $3.4 billion that will be spent on holiday dining.

Most of that money usually goes to fine-dining establishments. But with many consumers still sensitive to price, fast food eateries are betting that they can siphon away some of the prix-fixe crowd.

Waffle House will be taking reservations for tables, which will be equipped with white tablecloths, candles and a special Valentine’s Day menu. Some Chick-fil-A restaurants will also bust out the sexy lighting.

Papa Murphy’s will sell a heart-shaped pizza called the Heartbaker. Heart-shaped doughnuts? Dunkin’s got two types.

Pizza Hut is offering a proposal package for $10,010 each for up to ten couples who are planning to get engaged. The whopping cost includes a $10 Pizza Hut dinner box – a medium pizza with breadsticks and cinnamon sticks – along with a ruby ring, limo service, flowers, a fireworks show, a photographer and a videographer.

Limited-service restaurants have had better growth in past years than full-service eateries, according to financial information company Sageworks. The food sector that includes McDonald’s saw sales increase 6.1% last year, compared with 3.2% for sit-down establishments.

Upper-echelon restaurants try to spike sales by luring patrons on Valentine’s Day with coupon specials and lower-priced meals.

In years past, Sushi Roku in Pasadena offered Valentine’s Day dinners for $125 per couple. The restaurant is now serving up a four-course menu, including filet mignon-wrapped asparagus, for $85 per pair.

In West Hollywood, lovers used to have to shell out $150 for Valentine’s dinner for two. Now, guests will pay $30 for an Amuse Bouch Trio, featuring two glasses of Champagne as well as sashimi, caviar and other treats.

Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica lowered its Valentine’s Day prix-fixe prices from $80 to $90 for four or five courses to $55 to $69 for the same fare. Diners looking to save money have also asked about complimentary corkage, managers said.  The menu – featuring lobster medallions, sturgeon in sea urchin sauce and more, will be available all week to capitalize on customers who can’t come in on Tuesday.

For the same reason, the $52, four-course menu at LA Market and the $175, eight-course extravaganza at WP24 will be extended through the week.

But some analysts worried that offering such deals could result in lower ratings and reviews for fancy eateries.

“After all, Valentine’s Day is the one day to splurge,” said Sageworks analyst Sam Zippin. “Patrons may flock to the upper-echelon restaurants anyway; why cannibalize the market by offering discounted options?”

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