Looking to take your lady love or handsome paramour for a romantic meal this Valentine's Day? White Castle is there for you.
Harold and Kumar's favorite burger joint plans to offer candlelit dinners with table service Tuesday. It's 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 price sensitive, fast-food eateries are betting that they can siphon some of the prix-fixe crowd.
Papa Murphy's will sell a heart-shaped pizza called the Heartbaker. Some Chick-fil-A restaurants will bust out the mood lighting.
Dunkin' Donuts has two types of heart-shaped doughnuts, but the closest shops are in Las Vegas. Likewise, you'll have to go out of state if you want to make reservations at Waffle House, which will have white tablecloths, candles and a special Valentine's Day menu waiting for you.
Pizza Hut is offering a proposal package for $10,010 each for up to 10 couples who are planning to get engaged. The extravagant cost covers 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.
The effort by limited-service restaurants, made up of fast-food and fast-causal eateries, is aimed at capitalizing on Valentine's Day to help the sector continue its pace of growth. Last year, sales for the limited-service segment rose 6.1% over the previous year; sales at full-service restaurants climbed only 3.2%, according to financial information company Sageworks Inc.
Some upper-echelon restaurants may try to spike sales by tempting 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 a pair.
At Katana in West Hollywood, lovers used to shell out $150 for a Valentine's dinner for two. Now, guests will pay $30 for an amuse bouche 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 to $55 to $69 for four or five courses, from a range of $80 to $90. Diners looking to save money also have asked about complimentary corkage, managers said. The menu — including lobster medallions and sturgeon in sea urchin sauce — will be available all week to capitalize on customers who can't go in Tuesday.
For the same reason, the $52, four-course menu at LA Market and the $175, eight-course extravaganza at WP24, both in downtown Los Angeles, will be extended through the week.
But some analysts worry that offering such deals could result in lower ratings and less favorable 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?"
Although one-quarter of U.S. adults plan to celebrate Valentine's Day by dining in a restaurant, the same number plan to eat at home, and nearly half will mark the holiday with other activities or ignore it entirely, according to the National Restaurant Assn.