Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Restaurants adjust to a Valentine's Day with capacity restrictions

February 10, 2021
<p>Design by Emily Maze.</p>

Design by Emily Maze.

Photo by Emily Maze | The State News

With romantic dinner celebrations met by decadent desserts, bottles of wine and roses atop a table for two, Valentine’s Day is often considered one of the busiest dine-in nights of the year. This year, as COVID-19 forces restaurants to reimagine their typical holiday traditions, the need for reservations to fit into packed restaurants and plans for the perfect night out aren’t the same.

According to the National Retail Foundation (NRF) and Proper Insights and Analytics 2021 Valentine’s Day spending survey, many consumers are swapping out the traditional romantic evening out for an at-home celebration this year. Just 24% of respondents said they will celebrate by dining out, down from 34% last year and the lowest in the survey’s history, according to the data.

Another 46% said they are actively avoiding in-person gatherings, translating to $1.5 billion less in spending on an evening out this year, the survey said.

“There is no question the pandemic has disrupted many aspects of Americans’ daily interactions and activities,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release. “However, there remains a special significance around Valentine’s Day, and consumers are committed to celebrating friends and loved ones, even if that means having to alter those traditional holiday celebrations.”

In East Lansing, as many restaurant owners have become accustomed to Valentine’s Day crowds, efforts have been made to make the 25% capacity limits feel less like a damper on a day to celebrate love.

Owner and General Manager of Crunchy’s Michael Krueger said he anticipates the establishment will likely be steady on the holiday this year. Though it’s difficult not to be on a wait when they can only seat 25%, Krueger said they will be turning over tables as quickly as people allow them.

“We have had numerous couples meet at Crunchy’s over the years and even come back here and do wedding photos, rehearsal dinners, etc., so we hope that people will continue to come out on Valentine’s Day and meet their partner!” Krueger said in an email. 

Black Cat Bistro will open on a first-come, first-served basis with no call-ahead seating or happy hour specials in place. According to their Facebook page, they will offer a take-out package for the weekend including two grilled filet mignons, boursin cheese red-skinned mashed potatoes, sautéed seasonal vegetables, mini red velvet cakes and a choice of wine. 

Packages may be picked up during available hours Friday-Sunday this week.

The State Room Restaurant at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center has closed for in-person dining but continues to offer curbside pick-up options. Since students have returned to campus, the hotel has offered quarantine and isolation housing for MSU students that cannot safely isolate in their residence halls.

“With the restaurant being located inside the hotel we’ve just kept our doors closed in order to focus on serving the students upstairs, so things are a little different, but we still wanted to be able to provide options for folks to enjoy a delicious State Room meal for Valentine’s Day from the safety of their own home,” Operations Manager Marianne Bacon said.

This Valentine’s Day, patrons can enjoy their “Cupid Curbside” service, offering packages for the perfect date night or family brunch. Bacon said customers can place their orders online, choose a time for pick-up and a member of their staff will safely place the package in the trunk of their vehicle.

Though the date night packages sold out within 10 days of being announced, Bacon said the family Valentine’s Day packages are still available. This includes a red velvet pancake mix, cupcake decorating, craft paper and goodies to make handmade Valentine’s cards and build your own s’mores quesadilla supplies with a link to a video tutorial by Executive Chef Matt Wilson.

“Something that we had heard from the MSU community and the East Lansing community was that they were looking for things to do with their kids while they’re at home, something to make the holiday special,” Bacon said. “… It’s a package that it’s certainly geared for families with younger children, but quite frankly, anyone who is looking to have a little fun could probably enjoy it.”

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