The food we love on Valentine’s Day

The Food of Love

Every day is Valentine’s Day if you’re in love, obviously, but 14 February is the day to shout it from the rooftops.

While some might be inspired to pop the big question, most Brits like to mark the occasion with a romantic meal for two. From candlelit dinners out to cosy nights in, from delicious Italian dishes to exotic cuisine that adds extra spice to the occasion, there are a variety of ways to enjoy this special night. We asked the nation what their plans were – and discovered some surprising results.

Take a look at our top findings and make sure you check out our money-saving tips – they could help make your Valentine’s Day even rosier.

1. We prefer staying in to going out

The accepted wisdom is that Valentine’s Day marks an annual scramble for tables as couples desperately try to book a meal at their favourite restaurant. Yet while it’s true that the day is a bumper one for eatery owners up and down the country, the reality is that most of us end up staying in.
Our survey found that 41% of our respondents preferred to rustle up something romantic at home, with just 10% deciding to dine out. However, many of us may switch between the two options from year to year depending on how we feel, as a quarter didn’t have a preference.

2. In love, the steaks are high

“If steak be the food of love, tuck in” – as Shakespeare once (nearly) wrote. We found that more than 1 in 3 people sink their fork into a juicy steak on Valentine’s Day if they’re eating at home, with 39% saying a prime cut of beef was top of their shopping list.
But while beef was the most popular option, Italian food wasn’t too far behind with 30% identifying it as their go-to cuisine for a romantic evening in. It was followed by Indian food (15%), Chinese food (13%) and fast food (7%) which made up the rest of the top five.
For that last group, we just hope their meal of choice wasn’t a sign of their relationship’s shelf-life.

3. Dining out is an Italian job

They’ve always said Italian cuisine is the Food of Love – and our survey proved it to be true.
When we Brits opt to eat out on Valentine’s Day, our food of choice is wholeheartedly Italian, while steakhouses, pubs, Indian and Chinese restaurants are our other hotspots for heart-to-hearts.
More than a fifth of people choose to dine in Italian restaurants on Valentine’s Day, with steakhouses finishing second on 12%. Indian restaurants and Chinese restaurants were equally popular, both on 8%, while 6% of us plump for pub grub.

4. Going Dutch is a generation game.

So now to the question on everyone’s lips: who’s first to reach for their card when the bill arrives – men or women? For 18-24-year-olds, it could be either, as 58% of women within that age bracket don’t expect men to pay for the meal.
However, 47% of 45-54-year-old women assume men will cover the cost. If they don’t, 27% would accept their husband or boyfriend’s decision – but 20% would think they were a cheapskate, 14% would be offended, and 10% would even reconsider their relationship.
All of which explains why, across all age groups, it’s men who tend to foot the bill – with 46% paying for the meal, compared to 2% of women.

5. But some of us are just too busy to celebrate

Our survey revealed that we’re not exactly a nation of hopeless romantics. A whopping 44% of the people we surveyed said there just weren’t enough hours in the day to make Valentine’s Day plans (sniff). More than a quarter (27%) went one step further and told us they treated it as just another day of the week. And it’s not a gender thing either – 30% of women said they didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day compared to 24% of men.

All in all though, saving money is the most popular reason for not going out on Valentine’s Day. Half of us say it’s why we stay in – 58% of women, 41% of men.

But that’s not to say we Brits don’t treat ourselves. According to our credit card transaction data, it’s high-end supermarkets that reap the biggest benefits – with sales at Waitrose seeing a 30% spike and those at Marks & Spencer soaring by an incredible 54% during the Valentine’s period.
Our survey also showed that we spend an average of £45 on dining in on 14 February. Of the 10% of us who decide to go out for a Valentine’s Day meal, it’s young people aged 18-24 who are most likely to push the boat out – spending an average of £65 on their cosy dinner for two.

Phew, so romance isn’t dead after all.

Making the most of Valentine’s Day

Here’s how you can use our findings to strike the right balance between romancing your partner and reining it in this Valentine’s Day.

  • If you're going out for a meal and don't think you can afford a gift as well - why not go homemade? Use your own photos to make a canvas print or a scrapbook - it's a thoughtful, inexpensive gift that comes straight from the heart.
  • Shop around the high street and online to find the best offers and deals near you. It's the best way to save money on all the food and drink you'll need for your cosy Valentine's Day night in. Remember, you can always keep it in the freezer until the big night.
  • Consider going out for brunch rather than dinner. It's just as romantic, but quite a bit easier on the pocket - especially if you're able to go during the week rather than wait for the weekend rush.
  • Last-minute tickets to a show aren't only cheaper, they're a great spontaneous date. Take a look to see what arts events are happening in your area and you could bag a bargain.
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