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Do restaurants get less love on Valentine's Day?

It may or may not be too late to land a reservation at your favorite dining establishment for Valentine's Day, with studies offering mixed views on how big a boon the holiday devoted to romance really is for U.S. restaurants.

February 14 falling on a Friday this year increases the likelihood of restaurants filling up, according to the National Restaurant Association. The NRA cites findings from online reservation service OpenTable showing that the holiday is the most heavily booked day of the year, both in the U.S. and globally. In the U.S., Italian food is among the most popular cuisines, while Canadians largely opt for steakhouses in booking their Valentine's meals, OpenTable said. 

Bookings for upscale dinner reservations in the U.S. surge 228% on Valentine's Day, OpenTable found. Even so, some Americans, or 18%, find going out for Valentine's Day to be cheesy, according to the survey. 

Reservations aside, birthdays are the biggest reason listed by consumers to celebrate at a restaurant, followed by Mother's Day, according to the NRA.

"According to our research, consumers rank Valentine's Day as the third most important holiday in their lives to celebrate at a restaurant," Hudson Riehle, the NRA's senior vice president of research and knowledge, relayed in an email. 

When the holiday falls on a weekday, the boost may be more muted. Valentine's Day last year fell on a Thursday, with the date placing it only 94th for consumer spending, according to a study of 36,000 independently owned dining spots with less than $7.5 million in annual revenue. 

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The heart-laden holiday came in just behind Cinco de Mayo's (No. 93) on the list of highest revenue-generating days for restaurants compiled by Womply, a provider of customer relationship management software. The best 50 days of 2019 for customer spending at local eateries all came on a Friday or a Saturday, with Mother's Day the sole exception and top-grossing day of the year, the data showed.

That's not to say Valentine's Day is a heartbreaker for restaurant owners, who still reap about 20% more in sales than on the average day, Womply found.

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