Blow To Restaurants: Valentine's Day On Saturday

Valentine's Day this year falls on a Saturday, bad news for restaurant owners for whom Saturday is already the busiest day of the week. Bruce Moffett, the owner of Barrington's restaurant in Charlotte, N.C., says it's tough for those who rely on it as a big revenue day.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

While the effects of the economic recession for some people are dire, for many, the implications are more subtle. Consider this: Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and restaurants are expecting a full house. But Saturday night is a gimme in the restaurant business - the busiest night of the week anyway. So along with lost business because of the bad economy, restaurants can't count on an extra Valentine's boost. We reached Bruce Moffett at his restaurant, Barrington's, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's the chef and owner. And he figures a Saturday Valentine's Day is the worst-case scenario.

Mr. BRUCE MOFFETT (Barrington's Restaurant Owner): Yeah. I mean, best-case scenario would be in the middle of the week and that way, your Mondays and Tuesdays fill up and also, your weekend fills up because everyone says, let's celebrate Valentine's, you know, after the big rush. So, if it's on a Wednesday, you get a really busy week.

BLOCK: Mr. Moffett, given what's going on with the economy, what's business been like for you lately?

Mr. MOFFETT: It has been pretty good. In Charlotte, it seems like the restaurants that are 60 seats and below seem to be doing very well. And some of the big, monstrous, 200-seaters are the ones that seem to be struggling in this economy.

BLOCK: And I assume you're full tomorrow?

Mr. MOFFETT: We've been booked for Valentine's Day since before Christmas.

BLOCK: Since before Christmas, wow.

Mr. MOFFETT: Yeah.

BLOCK: And you're a pretty small restaurant, so it fills up fast?

Mr. MOFFETT: Yeah, we're only 40 seats. So, we have about 90 reservations for tomorrow night.

BLOCK: And how make people do you figure you've turned away?

Mr. MOFFETT: Oh, somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000 to 2,000.

BLOCK: You're, I'm sure, doing mostly tables for two tomorrow?

Mr. MOFFETT: Yeah. And that's kind of the other problem with Valentine's Day is, any table that you have that's bigger than two people, you only half fill it. So you're only generating half the revenue that you usually generate off one table.

BLOCK: Did you offer any, you know, Valentine's specials through the week to try to lure business a little earlier on?

Mr. MOFFETT: Well, no, we've never had to do that. But what I did to help kind of make it financially profitable, and to help make it more of a special night, I offer a five course prix-fixe menu. And that comes with a split of champagne. It comes with an amuse of a roasted beet salad. And I cut the beets out into little hearts, which is kind of what I was doing right when you called. And then, it's five courses. You get your choice of first course, the sorbet course, then you get a choice of main course. And then we do a big, kind of grand tasting for a dessert.

BLOCK: For the folks who can't get in tomorrow night on Valentine's Day, can they just wait a day? Can they come in on Sunday, would that work?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOFFETT: I thought about that on Monday of this week. And I thought how stupid, I should've been open seven days this week, and then offered the Sunday as well.

BLOCK: Oh, you're closed on Sundays.

Mr. MOFFETT: Yeah, we're closed on Sundays.

BLOCK: Well, I did notice that next year, Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday.

Mr. MOFFETT: Next year, we will be open on Sunday.

BLOCK: Safe to say.

Mr. MOFFETT: Yeah and then, I'll probably close that Monday.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Moffett, Happy Valentine's Day.

Mr. MOFFETT: Happy Valentine's to you.

BLOCK: That's Bruce Moffett, the chef and owner of Barrington's Restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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