The lovey-dovey holiday that falls on February 14 strikes many as pretentious and forced, or just as a bitter minder of a relationship gone wrong. Hence the rise of anti-Valentine’s events at restaurants and bars, and “romantic” promotions that appeal to consumers strictly for the sake of irony.
According to the National Retail Federation, fewer Americans are celebrating Valentine's Day in traditional fashion—with their loved ones—this year. In a recent survey, 54% of American adults said they’d be celebrating the holiday in 2014, down from 60% a year ago.
Among those who do celebrate Valentine’s Day, many do so mainly out of a feeling of obligation, researchers have found. Almost no one, it seems, names Valentine’s Day as the favorite holiday of the year, and yet due to tradition and the idea that doing nothing would be construed as an insult to one’s significant other, the majority of us still play along—to the joy of Hallmark, florists, candy makers, and restaurants everywhere. All of that spending seems to be overkill, especially if it’s done to put smiles on the faces of guys, the vast majority of whom would rather have sex than receive a Valentine’s gift, a new survey says.
Understandably, as more people have felt either forced into participating in Valentine’s Day or left out of the holiday because they weren’t in relationships at the time, something of an anti-Valentine’s Day movement has developed. The backlash has been embraced by Valentine’s haters, as well as the irony-loving masses looking to “celebrate” the holiday in air-quote fashion, essentially by mocking the supposedly most romantic of days in restaurant settings that aren’t remotely romantic.
Here are three categories of Valentine’s restaurant promotions that spoof rather than celebrate the holiday:
Despite Hooters’ marketing push to attract women to its restaurants, the scene—dominated by waitresses in short shorts and tight orange tops—is thought of more for ogling than romance. So Hooters’ two-for-one “Love the Wing” deal valid on February 14 is richly coated in irony. “Everyone has a valentine at Hooters this year,” the restaurant chain’s promotion states. “Fly solo or treat your sweetheart with two 10-piece Hooters wing orders for $14.”
Meanwhile, Tilted Kilt, one of Hooters’ emerging “breastaurant” competitors, where the waitresses wear skimpy plaid skirts, has been suggesting its “kilt gear” as a “lovely Valentine’s Day gift.” Locations are also hosting drink specials for the cynical, anti-romance crowd, with names like “Bitter Lemonade” and “Punch Passion (in the Face).”
Continuing irony-laced traditions years in the making, greasy low-end dining staples White Castle and Waffle House are yet again offering sit-down service Valentine’s dinners, with candlelight, tablecloths, and special upscale (relatively speaking) menu selections. At White Castle, the Valentine’s options include a “Surf and Turf” meal, which consists of a White Castle Double Hamburger and an Alaska Pollock fish patty. Cheesecake on a Stick is available for dessert.
“It’s a fun way for people to really enjoy an evening out without having to get a second mortgage on their home,” Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle, explained, via QSR Magazine. “Also, there is an element of not being so self-important that we can make fun of ourselves.”
And also: make fun of Valentine’s Day while they’re at it. Reservations are necessary to ensure a table this Friday at your nearest participating White Castle or Waffle House.
Food Beast also reported that at least one McDonald’s restaurant (in North Carolina) is hosting its third annual candlelit dinner on February 14. “All you have to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy your romantic evening with your date,” a sign inside the restaurant states. “Featuring musical selections by Ron.”
Valentine Hater Specials
Around the country, bars and restaurants are playing directly to the single, down-with-romance crowd. A range of anti-Valentine’s Day parties and happy hours take place this week in Washington, D.C., for instance, and select clubs and restaurants in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio are going the anti-Valentine’s route as well. In addition to the usual Valentine’s restaurant promotions in Boston, Area Four is hosting a very special “Cupid’s Stupid” party on Friday and Saturday, featuring “food that feels your pain, from Jerked Chicken and Angry Rice to Skewered Lamb Neck,” with voodoo doll cookies as dessert so that you can “bite your ex’s head off one last time.”